Fresh Ideas for Your Diet

Interesting New Foods

Interesting New Foods

Ohio State University put up a nice article about fresh ideas for your diet. Whether you are trying ot lose weight or just want to put a new spin on dinner, here are some great ideas.

A few of the posts here on the All About Food Preservation site have highlighted things like pickling for variation on eating raw veggies or adding new, healthful foods like yellow squash to your diet.

Try these ideas: Spice up your salads by adding a handful of arugula which has a nice, peppery flavor. The spiciness of arugula is interesting because when arugula is cooked (like spinach), the spiciness almost disappears. If you want to get really adventurous with your salads, try adding flowers such as nasturium leaves and flowers, pansy blossoms or even rose petals. I wouldn’t advise eating the rose leaves but the petals are quite delicious.

Try some new proteins, instead of chicken, try a duck breast. I think you will be very surprised at the depth of flavor and unctiousness of duck. Also, if your grocery carries it, try rabbit or even goose.

Just an article or two back, we did a post on adding yellow squash to your diet. Since it is now autumn, this is the perfect time to explore the world of squash. Squash has a nice, rich creamy texture. And besides using it as a side dish, think about squash soup.

Start with a good chicken or beef stock and add leeks or shallots. Slice yellow squash into the broth and cook it until it is soft. Using an immersion blender or your countertop blender, blend everything together to create a uniform texture. Add a little heavy cream or half and half to bring it all together. It is wonderful comfort food, filling and gives you a nice warm up when the weather is cold and nasty.

Many groceries carry some alternative meats in the frozen section. You may find emu, ostrich, buffaloe, elk and even venison. Although these meats sound rather exotic, they are all produced domestically and are generally no pricier than a nice beef steak. So instead of beef, try some elk that is an excellent red meat that has less cholesterol than beef and puts a new flavor profile in your diet.

And speaking of meats, try a flavor change-up by adding sauces or jellies to your meat. Great combinations are the classic applesauce with pork, but also try frying apples and onions and serve over pork. Try plum jam or even better, fresh plums or a plum sauce on lamb. Try a chutney of diced peaches, shallot, yellow pear tomatoes and tomatillo on pork. Dice everything together, heat through and serve. For beef, use prunes, apples and onions.

None of these ideas are difficult. It just takes a little change of actvity to put some new, fresh flavors onto your table.

Make a plan to try something new every day for a week. It will be fun and you may discover your next new favorite food.

How to Cook Squash

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash from the garden

I have found that one of the reasons that people don’t eat more hard squash is that they don’t kow how to cook squash. And that’s a shame because there is a huge variety of squash that you can either grow in your backyard or buy from the grocery or farmer’s markets.

There are two kinds of squash: summer or soft-skinned squash like zucchini, cocozelle or crookneck and winter or hard-shelled squash like butternut, acorn or pumpkin. Soft skinned squashes don’t keep very well but hard-shelled squash keep very well all winter long just by storing them in a cool, dry space.These squashes will keep even better if the storage area doesn’t get any light.

When I talk to people about cooking squash, most tell me that they either boil it or bake it. In my opinion, boiling squash simply cooks all the flavor and goodness out of it. Baking squash is better but takes quite a long time to get it fully cooked. My favorite way of cooking acorn or other small, round squashes is to cut them in half, clean out the seeds (which are very edible, by the way) and putting the squash cut side down on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for about forty minutes or until sticking a fork into the squash is easy. Serve the whole half or cut into smaller pieces. Add a little butter for more flavor.

My favorite way of cooking butternut, pumpkin, hubbard and other large, orange squashes, is to fry them. Use either a little butter or a healthy oil like olive oil or safflower oil. You don’t need much. Just a little. Peel the squash, take out the seeds and slice the squash into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. Then fry until the squash is soft which will only take about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and if you like, add a little allspice or clove. Very tiny amounts of those spices.

Pumpkin is overlooked as a dinner side dish because it is so closely identified with pumpkin pie. But without all the sweetening added, pumpkin is a very delicious and healthful vegetable. Also it is very inexpensive primarily because it is marketed almost soley for jack-o-lanterns. When fried as described above, it is a flavorful side dish to pork or lamb which benefits from the natural sweetness of pumpkin.

I personally don’t care to can pumpkin because it comes out pulpy just like the Libby’s canned pumpkin used for pumpkin pies. It does, however, freeze pretty well but either method is kind of pointless because it keeps on the shelf extremely well. However, once it is cut, it needs to be refrigerated or frozen. And truthfully, eating a whole pumpkin even in a large family, is a big job. So if you have friends or family, cut the raw pumpkin into halves or quarters and share.

Yellow-fleshsed squashes are so overlooked as good food. The contain tons of vitamins A (almost as much as carrots), beta carotene, fiber, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Lots of good stuff.

And don’t overlook the seeds. I think everyone knows about pumpkin seeds but the seed from any squash is edible and tasty. The bigger the squash, the bigger the seed and the bigger the seed, the easier it is to eat.

Remove the seeds from your squash and wash them under cold running water removing all the fleshy bits. At this point, if you like, salt the seeds and let them sit overnight. Pat the seeds dry with a towel. Heat your oven broiler to 350 F. Spread the seeds on a cookie sheet. If there are more seeds, you will simply have to stir them every 5 minutes or so as they roast. The seeds are done when they are browned and you can smell the nutty flavor. Let them cool before eating.

One cup of squash/pumpkin seeds have 12 grams of protein, provide 48% of your daily fiber and 42% of your daily magnesium. They have with 12 grams of mostly monounsaturated fat. Good fat. And have more potassium than a banana. Plus they don’t spoil and can be stuffed in a purse or pocket for a satisfying, nutritious snack.

Because squash seeds are so nutritious and the flesh is so tasty, you get a double bang for your buck when you eat squash.

So this fall when yellow squashes are at their best, treat yourself and your family to the deliciousness of squash. It will become your new comfort food.

Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini Pickles

I am one of those rare people who could eat zucchini pretty much every day. I love the stuff. But this year, our garden overfloweth with everything, including zucchini. We probably had about twenty plants if that gives you a good idea of the scope of how much zucchini we had.

A whole lot of it went into the freezer and our freezer is so full I don’t think we could squeeze another single green bean in there. I think even our chickens are sick of zucchini.

We had a fair crop of cucumbers but they all got eaten as soon as they came off the vine even though I had planned to make a bunch of pickles. So no cucumbers for pickles. So sad. But what about zucchini?

So a big batch of zucchini wound up in jars as pickles. They are pretty tasty, too. Here’s my basic pickling recipe for pickling cucumbers, green tomatoes, onions, carrots, green beans and any other fruit or vegetable that doesn’t go mushy when pickled.

The pickling solution:

1/2 cup white vinegar

Please note here that you can also use apple cider vinegar which gives a tinge of sweetness to the solution. I used that on the zucchini and is was really good. Otherwise, use the white vinegar. The taste has a much sharper, vingary flavor.

1/2 cup water

1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (because it is pure salt with no additives or anything in it)

2 teaspoons dill seed or a handful of fresh dill. For a stronger dill flavor, use the fresh dill.

4 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns

2 large bay leaves, whole

I like to garnish each pint jar with 1/2 dill, 1 garlic clove, 4 or 5 whole peppercorns, about 1/4 of a bay leaf. These flavors then augment through the water bath and being canned with the jar contents. You can also add spices like oregano or marjoram to perk up the natural flavors of the veggies being pickled. Try some caraway in your pickled carrots or onions. Pickle some okra and add a little filé.

Combine all the solution ingredients and bring to a boil. When the solution hits a hearty boil, take it off the heat. Let it cool enough to handle. Pack your jars tightly. Pour the pickling solution into each packed jar with 1/2 to 1/4 inch of headroom. Process the jars in a water bath for at least ten minutes. Remove from the water bath and let cool. Store in a cool, dry cupboard.

These pickles will keep for years but once the jar is opened, be sure to refrigerate.

Pickles are a great snack because they abound with minerals like zinc, aluminium and magnesium plus they are low in calories but still have all the health benefits of the veggies.

Putting pickles on a sandwich is common enough but when those pickles are picked onions or pickled green tomato slices, it really catapults that sandwich into gourmet land.


Green Peach Pickles

Green Peach Pickles

Green Peach Pickles

Green peach (or other unripe fruit) pickles have never been on my to-do list. In fact, I didn’t even know about them until quite recently.

I had a friend whose small peach tree just overran itself with peaches and we had to thin them dramatically. I just couldn’t bring myself to toss out two five-gallon buckets of little peaches. So I got on the internet and found that sweet pickling this small fruit is a very common practice especially in Mediterranean areas. It is usually done with almonds, apricots and plums but peaches seemed not so far off the radar.

And oh my golly Miss Molly!  They are wonderful. This recipe will work with just about any small, immature fruit. It works with nuts as long as the shell and nut are still young enough to be soft and pliable. It would work with little apples or crab apples, too. The peaches I used were about two inches in diameter so had already formed the pit and had to be pitted before pickling. Not a big deal but smaller would have been a little less work to prepare.

Here’s the recipe.

Prepare your fruit by washing, stemming — getting all the inedible stuff off of it.

The pickling solution:

  • 1 quart apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 1-3/4 cups of white wine (I used chardonnay)
  • 2 teaspoons of whole peppercorns
  • Zest of 1 orange, tangerine, tangelo or similar.
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger or fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon whole corriander
  • 4 whole sticks of cinnamon
  • 6 cups white sugar
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 1 t vanilla or 1 whole vanilla bean

Compbine all pickling solution ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Take off of heat and let stand until cooled to warm. Pack the jars. Pour solution over fruit to 1/4 inch of head. Water process the jars for fifteen minutes. Remove from water bath and let cool. Store in a cool, dry cupboard.

These are great for gifts because they are so unusual. And because of their spicy, warm, fruity flavor, even people who don’t like pickles will probably enjoy them, too.



Eliminate Freezer Burn

Eliminate Freezer Burn

Freezing food is a great way to preserve it. Buying food in bulk or taking advantage of great sales really reduces our food bill and increases the quality of our food. But opening the freezer and finding that the foods you worked so hard at getting into the freezer is freezer burned is a real downer.

Freezer burn is caused by moisture migrating out of the food. It can happen to meat, vegetables and pretty much anything you put into the freezer. When food is frozen at or below zero degrees F., the molecular movement in the food is almost nothing. Freezing does not stop decay of food but it slows it way, way down right at the molecular level. When freezer temps go above zero, the water molecules start migrating out of the food. That’s when we get freezer burn.

The second thing we can do to eliminate freezer burn is to limit the food’s access to the air. If the water molecules have very limited access to air, they have no vehicle for migration out of the food. This is where vacuum sealing comes into play.

By vacuuming as much air as possible out of the package, the water vapor has nowhere to go. It has to stay in the food. Freezing any food also freezes the free water within the food, too. That water will expand from 9 to 10% creating a small pocket in the food. If freezer temperatures fluctuate above and below zero degrees F, these little pockets formed by water freezing and re-freezing get bigger and bigger. The result is food that is soggy and limp after it has been defrosted. Foods with a higher water content like vegetables will suffer more than foods like meat that have less water content.

The third factor that contributes to freezer burn is time. The longer a food is in the freezer, the more likely it is to become freezer burned.

Vacuum sealing foods prior to freezing severely limits the food’s access to air which removes the vehicle by which the water in the food can migrate. Making sure the food is a dry as possible before freezing also helps.

Vacuum sealing works so well, in fact, that the time a food can be frozen is greatly extended. Most foods in a standard wrapper of freezer paper or plastic containers need to be used within a matter of three to eight weeks before damage from freezing will occur. If the food has been vacuum sealed, it will last anywhere from one to three years depending upon the fragility of the food.

A side benefit of using vacuum sealing when freezing food is marinating and tenderizing meat in the freezing process. Simply add acidic tenderizers such as flavored vinegarsor fruit juices or enzymatic tenderizers such as onion, shallot, papaya, leek or garlic to the food prior to freezing. The vacuum will help the flavors and the tenderizing process to permeate the meat. Once defrosted, you have a beautifully tenderized and flavorful meat for your table.

One of the most important factors in successfully vacuum sealing food is the quality of the packaging used in the process.

When performing the sealing process, always make sure that the seal is complete. If the top of the plastic bag is not completely smooth and without a wrinkle, it will seal properly. Sometimes it is somewhat of a challenge to keep the bag completely flat in the vacuum machine. Bulky foods, foods of an odd shape and bags that are too full are generally the biggest problems.  If you have any doubt whether a bag is completely or correctly sealed, just run it through the sealing process again.

This is the one I purchased and I’m very happy with it.

Be sure when purchasing replacement bag rolls that they will work in this product. Most of them will.

The only other thing to keep an eye on with this sealer is the moisture level in the bag. There are a few things that I had to put into a zip-lock type bag and then into the vacuum bag before sealing because they were just too sloppy. In the vacuuming process, the moisture is squished out of the bag. This will be the case when adding marinade of any kind to meat. Fruit, too, when it’s really ripe may need to be double bagged as well.

I think you will be very pleased with your vacuum sealer. It will virtually eliminate freezer burn and will keep your food in really great shape for a very long time.




Sunchokes and Jerusalem artichokes are the same thing. You probably already know that. Everything I am reading about sunchokes says that “sunchokes” is a more correct name for the tuber, so I’ll go with that.

My daughter gave me a handful of these tubers a year ago last fall and I planted them. They grew. Boy, did they grow! From that one pound or so of chokes, I dug up over fifty pounds of tubers this winter.

And they are so delicious. However there are a couple of problems with them but they are fairly easy to overcome.

The first problem is that they cause flatulence. Gas. The windy city. If beans cause you a problem, sunchokes will cause you a serious problem. To get over this, just eat a little bit every day. Start with only a teaspoon or so. Increase the amount daily until they don’t bother you any more. It takes about ten day to two weeks.

The chokes store carbohydrates differently that most other vegetables. They create inulin (not insulin which is a hormone) which converts very easily to fructose. In fact, sunchokes are grown commercially just for the fructose content. Most people don’t eat a diet high in inulin (artichoke hearts, asparagus, burdock, chicory, garlic, leeks, etc.) so they don’t have the intestinal flora and fauna needed to digest it. That makes sunchoke a serious pre-biotic which is hot in the news these days. And helps keep your digestive tract happy and healthy.

The effects of the inulin can be minimized by adding vinegar, lime or lemon juice to the cooking water and cooking them a little longer. However, the inulin is a lot of the value of the sunchoke so it kind of defeats the purpose.

The second problem is that they don’t keep very well. After I dug the first batch, I left them outside and they wilted fairly quickly. Quickly meaning that at the end of day two laying outside, they were limp. If you put them in water in the refrigerator at less than forty degrees F, they will keep for about three weeks.

Like some fruit and avocados, chokes oxidize rather quickly and turn black. It does not affect their flavor nor their nutrition but it is not a particularly good appearance. If you put just a little bit of lime or lemon juice in with the water, they will stay nice and pale. You cannot undo the oxidation once it happens.

To keep them fresh, I tried burying them. I had an old onion bag that I put them in and dug a hole about a foot deep and put the bag in the hole. That worked pretty well but if you don’t have a yard that you can dig holes in willy-nilly it would be a difficult technique to perform.

After some experimentation, I found that grating or slicing them and dehydrating them works great. I dried them to the snap stage and stored them in air tight glass jars. Just put a handful of the gratings or slices into a kettle and cook them for about half an hour. They rehydrate just beautifully. Or you can just munch on the dried pieces which is a pretty good snack.

I have not yet discovered a way to cook the chokes that isn’t good. We have had them boiled, boiled and mashed like potatoes, boiled and mashed with potatoes and sauteed in butter or olive oil. They are great baked, too. Cut them into chunks, cover with a thin coating of your favorite oil and bake in a 350 degree oven for twenty-five to thirty minutes. Dust with a little garlic, salt and pepper. Nummy!!

A few days ago, we did a crock pot chuck roast with potatoes, onions, carrots and chokes. It turned out just awesome.

What I haven’t tried yet is pickling them.

Will you like sunchokes? If you like artichoke hearts, you will probably love them. That particular flavor is a little more enhanced with cooking. Eating them fresh is good because they are on the sweet side and crunchy. If you’re like me and constantly on a diet, they are really good because they don’t taste like a carrot but have a lot of fiber so they are filling. And crunchy. I already said that, didn’t I? Most diabetics can eat them without getting a sugar spike because they have fructose and not glucose. Both are sugars, of course, but are metabolized very differently.

Will your kids like them? Probably because they are sweet and not green. They will probably love them if you slice them fairly thin and bake them with a little salt until they are crisp. A healthy chip.

But beware. These little tubers are addictive. They are so easy to grow and so good to eat. I find myself filching them out of the frig and munching on them all day long. That’s okay though because they are really good for you!


How to Can Tomatoes

How to Can Tomatoes

Canning your fresh tomatoes is fun, inexpensive and produces a tasty product with no BPA (See what has to say about BPA), monosodium glutamate, extra salt or sugar. These things alone are enough to make it worth your time for your health and for your family’s health.

Tomatoes are technically a high acid fruit. Canning tomatoes at home is safe because of the high acid content. Things with high acid or high sugar contents are safer to can at home than something like green beans or meat because the acid and/or the sugar helps to control bacterial growth. Canning anything in a pressure cooker is safer than using a water bath because the pressure cooker uses a higher temperature. But canning tomatoes in a water bath is fine. I do it all the time and we are at 4,000 feet elevation where water boils at 208 degrees instead of the 212 degrees at which it boils at sea level.

It is surprising how many tomatoes can fit into a pint jar. It is amazing how many tomatoes fit into a quart jar. Weigh your tomatoes to find out how many jars you will need. 16 ounces (one pound) of tomatoes will fit into a pint jar and 32 ounces (two pounds) will fit into a quart jar.

What you will need

A canning kettle

Canning Kettle with Rack

Canning Kettle with Rack


Pint Canning Jars

Pint Canning Jars


Canning Lids

Canning Lids

Screw on rings

Canning Bands (and lids)

Canning Bands (and lids)

Jar Lifter

Canning Jar Lifter

Canning Jar Lifter

Kitchen Towels

Kitchen Towels

Kitchen Towels


Large Kitchen Bowls

Large Kitchen Bowls

Paring knife for coring

Paring Knife

Paring Knife

There are some very good kits available, too.

Decide whether you want to use pint jars (16 ounces) or quart jars (32 ounces). I prefer the pint jars because I can always open two jars if I need more canned tomatoes for something. If you have a big family, using quart jars makes more sense. I only use pint or quart jars but half pint, and half gallon jars are available, too. The half pint, pint and quart jars come in wide mouth options so make sure you buy the correct size lids and rings to fit the jars you use.

Put the jars that you are going to use into the dishwasher and set the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle. When the jars are cleaned and now sanitized, take them out and let them cool down a little by placing them on a dish towel on the counter mouth side down. Have rings and lids ready to go. The screw rings can be reused. The lids cannot. A new lid needs to be used for each jar.

Get the canning kettle on the stove, put about 2 inches of water in it and get it heating even before you start processing the tomatoes. That way, when the jars are ready they can go immediately into the canning kettle.

The tomatoes need to be blanched to get the skins to come off easily.

To blanch tomatoes, get a pot of water boiling at a rapid boil. Put as many tomatoes into the pot that will loosely fit. Wait for the water to come back to a boil. At that point, start timing 30 seconds. Then dip out the tomatoes with a slotted spoon into a bowl. The skins will now slip off, usually in one piece. Clean the core out of the tomato and it is ready to go into the jar.

I like to add dried onion, oregano, salt and pepper to my jars before the tomatoes go in. Other things you might want to add are a pinch of sugar, a teaspoon of vinegar, garlic, basil (fresh or dried) or any other herb or spice can be included in the jar.

Fill each jar to the middle of the shoulder of the jar. The shoulder is where the jar curves to reduce the size to the mouth. Using a clean, lint-free cloth, wipe the edge of the mouth of the jar to make sure it is absolutely clean. Put on the lid and loosely screw the ring on.

Most water bath canning kettles will hold six or seven jars. Pint jars and quart jars are the same size on the bottom. It’s just that quart jars are taller.

When you have enough jars filled to fill a canner, use your jar lifter to gently put each jar into the canner. If your kettle does not have a rack (mine does not), I use an old, thin dishtowel on the bottom of the canner as a cushion for the jars. The boiling water rattles the jars around pretty good. I don’t want a jar to break. I have had it happen and it is a mess.

Wait for the canner water to get boiling rapidly, then set your timer for fifteen minutes. Have a dry towel on the counter ready to receive the hot jars as they come out of the canner.

When the timer goes off, gently lift each jar out of the water bath and onto the towel on the counter. Leave about a jar’s width of space between each jar so each jar can cool off as quickly as possible. When all the jars are out of the water bath, tighten the screw rings until just nicely tight. Don’t crank them down or you will have a lot of difficulty unscrewing them when you need to use some tomatoes.

Leave the jars alone until they are cooled to room temperature. Store the jars in a cool cupboard until you need some wonderful home-canned tomatoes.


Time to Can Tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes

The garden is producing like crazy so it’s time to can tomatoes. There are lots and lots of tomatoes. If you visit the Queen D Ranch Gardening website you will see that we have ten varieties of tomatoes: Rutgers, Principe Borghese, Pantano Romaneso, Cuor di Bue, Delicous and several others. The Cuor di Bue are absolutely wonderful. Very little core, much meat and small juice cells, and a taste that is very impressive.

Tomatoes are very easy to can. Everything must be as clean as possible. Pay special attention to the rim of the jar. It must be completely smooth so that the lid will seal perfectly.

You can add seasonings to the tomatoes or not. I prefer to add dried herbs and spices. I add dried onion, a little kosher salt, a tiny pinch of black pepper, oregano or basil (never both) and if I have it, dried celery. Put those into the bottom of the jar.

A quart sauce pan with about 2 inches of water in it is a good size to use to blanch the tomatoes when only one person is canning. Get the water boiling then add tomatoes. For tomatoes that are 2 inches in diameter or larger, blanch for three minutes. For smaller tomatoes, blanch for two minutes. Start timing when the tomatoes go into the water.

About to be Canned

About to be Canned

When the timer dings, dip the tomatoes out into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Just slip the skins off. If you want to cut the tomatoes up, do it now, or just stuff the whole tomato into a jar. Leave one half inch of head room (that’s a little space to allow for expansion of the liquid when it gets hot).

When the jar is full, use a table knife to run down the inside of the jar. This will release any air pockets that have accumulated in the jar. Add a little liquid or tomato to the jar to adjust the head space.

Wipe the rim of the jar carefully with a dry, lintless cloth. Then put the jar lid on. Put the ring on but don’t tighten it down. Leave it fairly loose.

Put the jars that are ready into a canner with enough water in it to bring the water level to half the height of the jars when the jars are in the kettle. If you don’t have a bona fide canning kettle, use a large pot and put a dish towel on the bottom. When the water starts to boil, it will jostle the jars pretty well. The cloth will help to keep the jars from breaking.

Put a towel on a counter where the jars can sit for at least three or four hours undisturbed.

One word of caution. Handle the jars coming out of the canner very carefully and gently. Not only are you dealing with scalding water, but the glass is really fragile when it is over 200 degrees F. Many years ago, I accidentally tapped one hot jar against another and the jar I was holding exploded. Fortunately it was still mostly in the canner, but it could have been really bad. Just be careful with the hot jars.

Put the jars in the canner in tepid water. Turn on the heat and get the water up to a rolling boil. Turn the temp down just a little. Start your timer and process the jars for 15 – 20 minutes. The jars are ready to take out of the canner when you can see that the contents of the jar is boiling. Little bubbles will be coming up from the bottom of the jar.

Lift the jars one by one out of the canner and place on the towel on the counter. After all the jars are out, tighten down the jar rings as tightly as you can. Be sure, of course to use pot holders or dish towels to protect your hands. These jars are over 200 degrees F and will burn you in a heartbeat.

Store the jars in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks to let all the flavors in the herbs, spices and tomato blend together.

These make wonderful and well received gifts for holidays and family get-togethers.





Sun Dry Food for Preservation

I got an email from WikiHow this morning that I thought was pretty cool.

We wanted to let you know that the article Sun Dry Food for Preservation that you started on wikiHow has been read more than 500 times. Having your article read by so many people is a great accomplishment. Congratulations!

Thanks again!

If you haven’t read it yet, now is your chance. And I got the local grocery store flyers this morning. White and yellow onions are on sale for 3 pounds for a dollar. Guess who’s going to be drying a ton of onions tomorrow!

Using Tough Meat

This is just a quick note about using tough meat. We had an eye of rib steak last night that was so tough, it was hard to eat. There is more in the freezer and I’m debating what to do with it. I was thinking of slicing it thinly and cooking it until it yelled “uncle”.  These steaks are probably an inch thick but even so, they are going to be difficult to slice up. So I though you’d like to know my trick for slicing meat like this.

Using Tough Steak

Using Tough Steak

Partially freeze the steak — maybe an hour in the freezer — until it’s pretty firm. Get a good sharp knife and cut it up. Being partially frozen gives it more body and makes it easy to slice it even paper thin.

Of course marinating meat helps to tenderize it, too. Using vinegar, fruits or fruit juices (such as papaya, lemon, lime), onion or garlic contains acids that help to break down the colligen in the meat. A flavored vinegar adds quite a lot of flavor to the meat, too. The lactic acid in milk products — buttermilk, sour cream and yogurt — also tenderize meat.

Marinate any meat for at least one half hour before cooking. Better yet, put the meat and its marinade into a plastic bag and freeze for a fewdays to a few weeks. The marinade will permeate the meat completely.

For beef, vinegars are hearty and do a good job of tenderizing. Consider red wine vinegar or even a good red wine for the marinade. Add spices such as garlic, oregano and onion.

A good marinade for a beef roast:

3 to 5 pounds of roast
3/4 cup of hearty, dry red wine (cabernet sauvignon, burgundy, etc)
1 cup sliced onion
3 cloves garlic, smashed or sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon dried cumin

Put everything into a baking pan, cover with foil and cook at 275° for 3 to 4 hours. Thicken the juice for a dynamite sauce.

For pork, a fruity vinegar like apricot vinegar adds a sweetness that favors pork. Even apple cider vinegar will do the trick.

Try this recipe:

Use 3 to 5 pounds of  pork roast, chops or steak
3 to 4 tablespoons of red cider vinegar
1 cup of apple juice (fresh is best but use what you have)
1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 cup sliced onion
1 clove smashed or sliced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or rosemary (If you have fresh rosemary, one small sprig will do)
1 tablesppon dried parsley
1/2 large apple sliced over the meat

When using a fruity vinegar, adding pieces of the actual fruit adds even more flavor.

Roast the same way as the beef at a lower temperature for a longer time. The longer cooking time also improves the tenderness of the meat.

For chicken or turkey, try a marinade with sour cream or buttermilk. Add spices such as parsley, onion, garlic and paprika.

My favorite recipe for marinatng chicken is

3 to 4 pounds of chicken or one whole chicken cut up
1/2 cup sour cream, buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 tablespoon ground paprika
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried, granulated onion
1 teaspoon dried, granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried sage

Bake uncovered at 350° for one hour, turning every 15 minutes. Or, if you prefer, bake covered with foil for about 40 minutes and then deep fry at 350° until it is a deep, golden brown.

Happy cooking.

Photo courtesy Stock.xchng

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