Dried Bananas

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My mom and I have been having a wonderful time with our dehydrators. I never knew the satisfaction you could get out simply drying food. It is just so wonderful to know that you are preserving food that would otherwise go to waste and you are going to be able to store it and keep it and eat it in the future instead of throwing it away. When you see a good deal you can snatch up a lot and not have to worry about eating it before it goes bad.

Last week my mom ended up at a grocery store that was having a huge produce sale so she brought me bananas, oranges, and limes. I immediately dehydrated all of the bananas.

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They are freaking delicious. My mother and FIL hated them, but I have been snacking on them regularly and really wish I had more bananas to dry!

I am still working my way through all of the apples we have, I load up the dehydrator almost every night before bed and let it run for about 12 hours, then all I do is take the contents out and put them in bags. It is so easy! and this food is good for, like, ever.

I would definitely say a dehydrator is worth the money, although we didn’t have to pay for ours, it was given to us by Wonderful Husbands parents. Even if we had paid for it ourselves it has more than paid for itself already because I use it almost every night and have saved a ton of money on fruits that otherwise would have been in the trash.

What are some of your favorite dried foods?

 

 

Cinnamon Sugar Apple Peels

Since I have been spending my life in the kitchen surrounded by apples lately. I have been feeling really guilty about how many apple peels are going in the trash. I was throwing them out in the back yard for the birds to eat, but apparently I have stupid birds and they are refusing to eat them so now I have approximately 30 apple cores and peels in my back yard that Pixie keeps trying to play with and it is just weird. Like some apple grave yard or something.

So I started looking on pinterest for things to do with apple peels, I mean surely some crazy lady has a recipe or a craft or something that will keep these things out of the garbage right?

Well lo and behold I found this.

So I saved all of my apple peels from the next batch going into the dehydrator and laid them out carefully on my foil lined cookie sheet. I sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar. Then I scrunched them all into a bowl and added more cinnamon and sugar because it really didn’t look like enough to begin with. I tossed them around a little bit and then put them back on the cookie sheet. I put them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

They were not too impressive at first. They were soggy and weird. So I left them on top of the stove and went to watch tv for a while. I wasn’t about to get worked up about something that would have been in the trash anyway.

When I came back a few hours later and went to throw them in the trash, I picked up an apple peel and popped it in my mouth.

Holy. Shit.

It was good.

Like really really good!

Even after all the apple schnitz that I had already slammed down my throat that day I started slamming down apple peels too! They are sort of caramelized from the sugar and the heat and crunchy like a chip.

Well big shock. I ate them all.

So tonight I saved all my skins again and tried the same recipe as the first time.

No luck. They stayed soggy regardless, and the ones on the edge got burned pretty bad. I will continue trying, its not like I am really losing out on anything, I really hope I can get a few more good batches because they are so easy and otherwise the peels just end up in the trash or in the apple graveyard. They deserve better.

Citrus Salts

Always on the look out for something extra to add to my gifts during the holidays and throughout the year, I spend a ton of time on Pinterest in the DIY tab. I love finding cute and easy gifts to make, bonus if they are edible.

This week I found Citrus salts. The original post is here.

The original post calls for equal parts citrus zest and coarse salt.

I would not recommend that at all. I used a whole container of coarse kosher sea salt, about 6 or 8 cups, and only used the zest from 6 lemons. It isn’t completely dry yet, so I may add some more zest if I need but total that would be about 1 cup of zest for 8 cups of salt. It would be waayy too lemony if you used equal parts.

So easy. Put the salt in a container, zest the lemons into the container. Put a lid on the container or use a spoon and mix it all together until it is evenly mixed.

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Zesty lemons!

Let it air dry and then store in a cool dry place.

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I ordered little tubes to put mine in so I can put them in my christmas gifts this year.

I also, obviously, made enough so I can keep some for myself. I am already thinking garnishes on cocktails, and seasoning soups and yummy dishes. The possibilities are endless! I would also love to try grapefruit or lime salt too.

Stepford and the Apple Schnitz

It has been quite a month here in the Stepford house.

With the holidays approaching- Halloween, Little Darling’s birthday, Christmas, New Years- I have been trying to stay on top of all the extras I know will be coming so I won’t feel so overwhelmed closer to the actual dates.

I managed to get our costumes figured out months ago- Little Darling will be Minnie Mouse, a costume handed down to us from a friend. I will be a scarecrow because I already own plaid, cowboy boots, and can easily draw a scarecrow face on myself. Wonderful Husband was supposed to be away for Halloween but now he may be home, so he has been put in charge of his own costume.. something tells me he will be appearing as one of the following: a dad, a husband, a bored person. Possibly a cowboy if I can make him put his cowboy boots on and wear a hat. He isn’t what we will call “holiday friendly”, also known as: The Grinch of every season.

I have been working on all of our Christmas gifts, all of which are homemade presents put into gift baskets. While some people are like *scoff* a homemade gift is a cop out because they didn’t have to actually think about it, they just made the same thing for everybody. No- Listen- it is the thought that counts. And you can be DAMN sure that I thought of every single persons name that is getting gifts from me while I was cursing over my grape jelly that didn’t set up and has to be completely redone. Along with jelly, there was a candle making night, several bread days, a popcorn night still to come, and countless hours in the kitchen making sure everything is pretty enough to go out and tastes good enough to be attached to my name. It is a labor of love and I really truly enjoy dropping off these baskets at Christmas time. It may not be expensive or come from a department store, but its the best of me and I give it gladly.

Everything has been going great! I am excited to have Christmas almost all taken care of so I can focus on family and food for the holiday, and with Wonderful Husband away it wasn’t much of a chore to spend extra time in the kitchen after Little Darling went to bed.

Then came the apples.

Last weekend my Mother in Law was planning to come down so we could go find her a Halloween costume, My FIL asked if I wanted her to bring down some apples. I say sure. Why? Because we don’t say no to free food in the Stepford house. My MIL showed up with a milk crate full of apples and a dehydrator.

I was a slightly nervous, but I had already committed. Since I wasn’t sure what else to do with apples besides eat them fresh, I decided to try out the apple schnitz my SIL has been raving about since the day I met her. Anytime anyone mentions apples she is all over it- gonna make apple schnitz? Is there gonna be schnitz? Send me some if you make some!- being that I am not from their part of the state, I had no idea what schnitz was.

Hint: its dried apples

Of course, I looked on pinterest to find a good recipe.

I found this one.

I have an apple peeler, also a gift from the in-laws, so it was short work peeling my apple and getting it ready for my mandolin. Then it was total hell slicing that sucker on the mandolin. the core and seeds were mangling my little friend. The blade is now bent and I am disheartened. I wasn’t real sure what to do with the apples after that so I just put them in the dehydrator and left them for a few hours.

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Ta da! Pretty apples. Not really worth the effort though so I decided in the future I would peel them, slice them with my handy apple slicer, and then just put the slices in the dehydrator. Not as pretty, but way easier on everyone involved. Any by everyone, I mean me.

Everything went pretty well with my first round of unpretty apples. Sliced and diced. Sprinkled with some lime juice and some cinnamon. 10 hours later and I had some really nice unpretty apples. I figured since I had a butt load of apples I would make a bunch of these apple chips and stick them in my gift baskets for christmas. A win-win! Then I made the mistake of tasting one. I mean, its an apple chip, how good could it be? Let me tell you how good it can be. There are almost none left. Almost every apple chip that has come out of the dehydrator has gone into my mouth. I am unstoppable.

I texted my in-laws today asking if there is Appleholics anonymous because if so, I need it.

Tonight I started my fourth batch of apples.

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I swear, these ones will get bagged and put away for Christmas. They are just so delicious and festive. Not to mention free.

I texted my FIL and asked if I could have more apples because I have eaten all the apple schnitz I have made. FIL replied that you are supposed to eat the fresh apples now and save the dried ones for the long cold winter. Well- Note to everyone out there- never put me in charge of food storage for winter, we will all be dead by November.

While it is tedious work, it really isn’t that bad. The peeler is exceptionally fun to use, and it doesn’t take incredibly long to load up the dehydrator. And look at how self sufficient we are being!

So, go buy yourself a dehydrator and find an apple tree. I would offer to do it for you, but I am not to be trusted when it comes to the apple schnitz. You probably won’t be either once you try them.

Homemade Lasagna

It has probably been two years since I made a real lasagna. It is always either in the crock pot or the lasagna roll ups, because that is so much easier. This week, however, Wonderful Husband was begging for lasagna. I really don’t know why, other than he found a box of lasagna noodles in the cupboard while he was raiding them one day. He seriously asked four times in one day if we could have lasagna the next day. Who am I to deny lasagna to the hard working husband?

As with most of my recipes, I am constantly on the look out for the best one available. I am normally not satisfied with lasagna because I don’t really like beef and there is never enough cheese for me. Enter the Kraft Better-than-ever cheesy meat lasagna. Can you hear the angels singing? Because I can. I am still sneaking to the fridge to stuff forkfuls of cold, leftover lasagna in my mouth. This will definitely be a repeat in our household. I served it with toasted french bread and homemade bruschetta. It was divine.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb. extra-lean ground beef (I used 1lb bc thats how mine is packaged)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 1 jar (24 oz.) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 container (16 oz.) cottage cheese (I used a mixture of cottage cheese and ricotta and it was WAY more than 16oz)
  • 1/4 cup KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 9 lasagna noodles, cooked
  • 1 pkg. (7 oz.) shredded Mozzarella 

Directions:

  • Brown meat with garlic and oregano in large saucepan. Stir in spaghetti sauce; simmer 5 min., stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in tomatoes. Mix egg, cottage cheese and Parmesan until blended.
  • Spread 1/2 cup meat sauce onto bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Top with layers of 3 noodles, half the cottage cheese mixture, 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1 cup sauce; repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles and sauce; cover.
  • Bake 30 min. or until heated through. Top with remaining mozzarella; bake, uncovered, 5 min. or until melted. Let stand 5 min. before serving.

I will admit that I used more like 24oz of the ricotta/cottage cheese mixture, and I used freshly grated Parmesan instead of the shaker cheese stuff. Really, you can vary this however you want depending on your personal preferences, but it delicious! I would love to try this out with zucchini noodles instead of lasagna noodles, or with ground turkey instead of beef. Oh the healthy options! It almost makes up for the insane amount of cheese.

Enjoy!

Banana Bread

Who doesn’t love a good banana bread? I remember my mom always stashing over ripe bananas in the freezer and then on a baking day she would make banana bread that was to die for. I still stick my over ripe bananas in the freezer, but more often than not they get shoved to the back and forgotten.

Leave it to Wonderful Husband to go digging around the freezer and pull out 7 bananas, demanding an explanation on why I am keeping rotten fruit. Then, begging for some homemade banana bread. Who am I to say no?

I let all the bananas thaw out and then plopped them into a bowl (defrosted bananas are disgusting and remind me of lovely smelling slugs) while I looked up a good recipe. For the last few years I had been using my Mother In Laws recipe, but Wonderful Husband finally told me that I am never going to be able to reproduce her perfect bread so I have decided on a new tactic of using a different recipe so he doesn’t have to compare.

I found this one and decided it looked pretty good. Most of the recipes are very similar, there are only so many ways to mix bananas, flour, and sugar.
Ingredients

2 cups MINUS 2 tablespoons Flour
1 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
½ teaspoon Salt
½ cup Oil (I used Corn Oil which is Heart Healthy)
2 Eggs
3 very ripe Bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon Vanilla
½ cup Fisher Walnuts, chopped

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a bread pan with non-stick cooking spray
In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients; flour, sugar, baking soda and salt
Add oil and eggs, one at a time. Beat after each addition
Add mashed banana and vanilla, beat well
Fold in nuts
Pour into pan ( recipe makes 1 regular loaf (9×5) or 3-4 mini loaves)
Bake at 350 degrees – regular loaf 50-60 minutes or mini loaves 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean

We had to adjust the baking time a little bit because our oven is going wonky. After it had been in for about 20 minutes, the outside was burning but the inside was liquid so WH turned it down to about 250 and we let it go for another 50 minutes or so. The result was perfect. This bread is delicious! I spread some homemade butter on it and had two slices for breakfast this morning. Wonderful Husband agreed it was quite good, so perhaps this will be my new banana bread recipe.

Garlic Alfredo Sauce

I have perfected the most amazing, delicious, and addicting Alfredo sauce. And what’s even better, is that I did it on accident.

Last night, Wonderful Husband was digging through the freezer looking for something to make for dinner, and pulled out some shrimp. He wanted shrimp cocktail. I tried explaining that shrimp cocktail is not a meal, besides, I don’t even like shrimp. So we settled with I would make pasta and sauce and he would make shrimp and Brussels sprouts and we would have a full dinner. Winning.

So here is how this happy accident occurred:

Wonderful Husband was using all the nice pots, so I dug out a little sauce pan and put a few spoonfuls of garlic in it. While that was browning up, I mixed up three chicken bouillon cubes in a mason jar of hot water and poured it into the pot. When that started to bubble, I stirred in several shakes of Parmesan cheese. Then I added about 1/3 of a block of cream cheese. While that was all mixing together into delicious-ness, I squirted in some lemon juice. It seemed a little too thin for our liking so I whisked in several pinches of flour. Then I let it simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often. I added Italian seasoning and some Onion Onion seasoning from Tastefully Simple.

When Wonderful Husband taste tested it, he thought it needed more citrus, I had used the last of the lemon juice so we squirted in some lime juice. We let it simmer a bit longer to thicken and then spooned it onto our penne pasta. It was divine. I ate two platefuls and then had another plate as a snack later. Even Wonderful Husband ate a bunch of it, and he was dead set on having shrimp cocktail for dinner.

This will definitely be my go-to recipe in the future when I need a good sauce. I think it would even be delicious served as a dip with a big loaf of crusty bread. Yummmy!