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Homemade Sour Cream (Updated Version)

Homemade Sour Cream (Updated Version)

I was looking at my 2011 post on Homemade Sour Cream and realized that I haven’t posted about any of the tips and tricks I’ve learned for making it better. So, here we are. The updated version…

Sour cream is very easy to make at home. It takes about one minute of hands-on time, unless you count the time that you wait for your water to boil. Then, you have to let it sit for 12-24 hours. When it’s done, you just give it a stir and put it in the fridge. It’s a good idea to label it with the date, too.

What You Need to Know.

Sour cream is supposed to have live, active cultures, like yogurt. When you make your own you know that it does (if it doesn’t, it won’t turn into sour cream). This makes it good for your digestion, which is a great thing in any food item. If you’re the kind of person that wants to know exactly what is in their food, making your own will put your mind at ease, too. Not to mention, it’s very easy to make, it’s delicious, and it will impress your friends.

What You Need.

  • 2 glass jars with lids
  • A cooler
  • Buttermilk
  • Heavy cream
  • Water – to sterilize your jar and heat the cooler

I use:

  • About ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 24oz freezer jar for the sour cream
  • 1 large jar for the hot water

 

How It’s Done

Prep work:

  • Boil some water. I fill the kettle so I’ll have plenty.
  • Put your jars and the lid for the sour cream jar in the sink.
  • Pour boiling water into the jar, swish it around, and dump it out.
  • Clean the lid in a similar fashion.
  • Fill the larger jar with boiling water and put the lid on.
  • You’ll need to wear oven mitts.

Putting it together:

  • Pour the buttermilk and cream into the jar.
  • Put the lid on and shake it up.
  • Take the lid off and leave it off. It needs to breath.
  • Put both jars in the cooler and close it.
  • Leave it alone for 12 to 24 hours.
  • Take out your sour cream and stir.
  • Put the lid on and put it in the fridge. It will thicken some more when it cools.

You’re done!

Do You Have to Use a Cooler?

No. You don’t have to, but I find I get better results this way. It keeps it warm, so the cultures can really do their thing and you get thicker sour cream.

If you don’t want to use a cooler, you can just set it on top of your refrigerator and cover it with a cloth to keep the light out and keep stuff from falling in. If you do it that way you should use cheesecloth held on with the lid ring, or twine or a rubber band. And then, put a dishtowel over the whole thing.

If you want the cooler effect, but don’t have one you can use for this, improvise. You can use any container and something to provide insulation. A cardboard or plastic box filled with towels would be better than nothing. I don’t recommend using actual fiberglass insulation, for obvious reasons.

Do You Have to Use Heavy Cream?

No, but it yields the best results. Milk works, too, but it will not get nearly as thick. It will still taste good, and the consistency is fine for some recipes, like Ranch dressing or cheese sauce. But, it will be a runny mess on a baked potato or burrito.

Can I Make It Thicker?

Adding powdered milk to your cream or milk will make it thicker. Make sure you mix it in really well. If heavy cream is too pricey for you, try whole milk with added powdered milk.

What if I Don’t Have Buttermilk?

What you need are the live active cultures. You can buy packets of sour cream starter culture online. If you happen to have sour cream with live active cultures, you could use that in place of buttermilk.

The old trick of adding lemon juice or vinegar to milk to make “buttermilk” doesn’t work for this. No cultures.

Why Use a Freezer Jar?

You don’t have to. Freezer jars are straight. Since it doesn’t have a shoulder, it’s easier to get all the sour cream out. Less waste and easier cleanup. But, any kind of jar you have around will work.

 

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What I’m Making This Weekend – July 2017 Week 4

What I’m Making This Weekend – July 2017 Week 4

Life is so much easier when I can do a bunch of cooking at once and not need to go through the process every day. Not to mention, having some stuff on-hand for snacks. Real food, homemade snacks, not crap packed into snack-like shapes and not the overpriced store-bought stuff. I also like to have homemade ingredients in the house that only take a few minutes of hands-on time, but can take days to do their thing before they’re ready to use. So, here’s the list of what I’m making this weekend.

If any of this stuff interests you, keep checking back on this post. I’ll be adding more links to recipes and instructions, but I didn’t want to wait for all that to post this.

• Simple Skillet Steak – top sirloin from my local meat market, seasoned with my Homemade Seasoning Blend
• Beef and Bean Burritos using my standard Taco Meat recipe
Homemade Sour Cream
Homemade Ranch Dressing (make ahead Ranch Dressing Mix)
• Slow Beef Pot Roast
• Whole Cut Up Chicken
• Scrambled Egg Sandwich on Jalapeno Cheddar Bread
• Deviled Eggs
Homemade Buttermilk (here’s more on homemade cultured buttermilk from Foodie with Family, a blog I just discovered and love! Lots of good recipes here.)
• Purple Sauerkraut Experiment
• Sourdough Starter
• Roasted Garlic Hummus (here’s another hummus recipe)
• Bean Dip or Nachos – from the leftover refried beans
• Salad

It’s farmers market season, and that always inspires me! The hot weather tends to discourage me from cooking, but we’ve been blessed with some cloudy weather, and even rain! That gets me going on cooking and food-making. The stuff I’m making this weekend will keep us going all week and some of it, like the buttermilk and sourdough starter, will yield benefits forever if I manage to keep it going.

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Quick and Easy Cold Green Beans and Bacon

Quick and Easy Cold Green Beans and Bacon

This cold green bean recipe takes about one or two minutes to prepare. You eat it right out of the dish you make it in and store your leftovers in. A simple, one-person snack that’s not crap. It’s also a nice, refreshing dish when the weather is hot. Of course, you could make this as an easy side dish for two or more people. You could even serve this as an alternative to a salad.

Here’s how it came about…

When I get really hungry and have to eat something right this minute, one of the easiest things to do is open a can of French style green beans, drain it, and eat them right out of the can standing in the kitchen.

It works, and I actually like them that way, but a couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted a little more substance. So, I added bacon bits. The real bacon kind. I stirred them up in a container I could eat them from and then just seal up and put in the fridge to save the leftovers for tomorrow. Oh, and I actually sat down to eat them. At my desk, but I was sitting.

Today I decided I wanted to do something a little fancier. I wanted more flavor, but I didn’t want to alter it to the point that it was no longer a really fast and easy thing. I decided to look up recipes for ideas of what I could add, and everything I found started with fresh green beans! NOOO!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for starting with fresh vegetables most of the time, but in this case it completely defeats the purpose. All of the recipes I found require cooking. That means too much time, too much effort, and it uses dishes.

This is about as quick and easy as it gets.

Ingredients:

  • One can French style green beans
  • Bacon bits – real, fake, or homemade if you have them*
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt

Equipment:

  • Can opener
  • Bowl or container with a lid
  • Fork

Instructions:

  • Open your can of French style green beans.
  • Drain it.
  • Dump it in a bowl or container that has a lid.
  • Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic salt.
  • Toss in a couple handfuls of bacon bits.
  • Stir with a fork and eat.

When you’ve had enough, put the lid on it and put it in the fridge. Now you’ll have an even quicker snack waiting for you tomorrow.

* When it comes to the bacon bits, you have options. The very best are homemade from nitrate-free bacon. Of course, that only works if you’ve already got some in the fridge. Short of that, real bacon bits work great. Fake bacon bits will work, but they will get soggy if you don’t eat it all right away.

 

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Why I Make My Own Seasoning Blends (You Can Too!)

Why I Make My Own Seasoning Blends (You Can Too!)

I fell in love with seasoning blends when I was a teenager, maybe younger. I couldn’t cook yet, but I loved food, experimenting and helping my mom come up with new stuff. To give you an idea of my ignorance at that point, I thought that making spaghetti sauce from scratch, instead of just adding a jar of sauce to the meat, was a very original idea. So, when I saw “Italian seasoning” for the first time I thought it was brilliant. I had no idea what spices produced what flavors. I mean, I knew a few – onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper – but basil and oregano were completely alien terms to me.

Fast forward a few years and, I still didn’t know my spices and still didn’t know how to cook much. It wasn’t that no one had tried to teach me when I was growing up. I just wouldn’t learn. It was a matter of principle and patience. I loved experimenting with food. But there was no way in Hell I was going to grow up to be one of those women who was stuck in the kitchen! When it came to relationships, I looked for men who could cook. I was not going to play that role.

But I loved food and making new dishes. So I did a lot of experimenting and very little practicing. And, seasoning blends seem like a good idea for someone who doesn’t know which spices to use, right? Well, I didn’t read the ingredients. That was my worst mistake. I decided to make some wonderful Mexican dish for some friends one night and used “Mexican seasoning”, but I didn’t know it included salt. In fact, salt was the first ingredient. So, as was my way, I salted the Hell out of the dish. And that was on top of all the salt in the seasoning blend.

To me, the dish was so over-salted that it was barely edible. My poor friends weren’t as fond of salt as I was and I don’t know how they choked it down. The worst part was that I served it before I tasted it. Yeah, I did. And, being the cook, I didn’t even get to start on mine until they were well into theirs. I felt terrible!

Now I know. I know so many things I didn’t know then. And knowing things about food just raises more questions and bafflement like – what the Hell is 100% avocado-free guacamole? And, there is no such thing as fat-free sour cream (you know what cream is, right?). So, what is in the stuff they call “fat-free sour cream” and why are they allowed to call it that? But I digress…

Back to seasonings. You don’t need to buy seasoning blends, or things like taco seasoning mix. Anyone can make their own. Yes, even if you don’t know what goes into them yet! The easiest way, if you already have one that you like, is to read the ingredients and make your own from the spices listed. Of course, now you can find recipes online for any seasoning blend you might want to try.

Why Make Your Own?

So, many reasons, but here are the two that are most important to me. First, you bypass the unwanted and unknown ingredients in the pre-mixed blends. You do want to know what you’re putting in your mouth don’t you? Second, you can tweak it to your personal taste.

Both points can apply when it comes to the salt content. When you make your own seasoning blends, you have total control. You choose the type of salt you will consume as well as the amount. For me, one of the big problems with the pre-made spice blends was the high ratio of salt to other spices. And I wasn’t concerned about sodium levels in my diet, I just wanted more of the other flavors and I couldn’t get enough of those flavors without overwhelming the dish with salt.

How I Make My Basic Blend

My basic spice blend is very simple. Just onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Mostly onion and garlic. It’s a good starting point for dishes that call for other spices, and works as a stand-alone for a few others. It’s a time saver, and makes life much easier when you’re seasoning raw meat.

I use and empty spice container. You can go large or small. If you go small, you will probably find yourself moving up to a larger size so you don’t have to make it as often. You don’t want to fill the container because you need to leave some room for shaking it up. It’s all about proportions, and I totally eyeball mine, so I broke out the tape measure to give you an idea of how it works.

My container is about 5 inches tall (not counting the lid and all that). For that size I pour in about:

Put the lid on and shake well until fully blended.

The reason I use so little pepper is that I’m picky about how I add pepper to my food. I like to add it freshly ground, and sometimes toward the end of cooking. If you’re not picky, or just don’t want to have to add more pepper later, you can always include a larger portion of pepper in your mix.

You can use this as a starting point for other blends. For tacos, you would want to add some chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne (if you like it hot). For burritos, I would do the same, but leave out the cumin. Either one could include cilantro. If you want an Italian seasoning, start with the basic and add some oregano, basil, and parsley.

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Dr. Mark Hyman: Here’s How the Food Pyramid Should Look – EcoWatch

Dr. Mark Hyman: Here’s How the Food Pyramid Should Look – EcoWatch

 

Dr. Hyman came up with his own Food Pyramid, to help you make healthier food choices.

Source: Dr. Mark Hyman: Here’s How the Food Pyramid Should Look – EcoWatch

The Food Pyramid may be the single worst thing to happen to health in America. As Dr. Mark Hyman explains,

At the base of the pyramid were carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates like breads, pasta, rice and cereals, of which we were told to eat six to 11 servings a day.

These carbohydrates break down to sugar, which gets stored in your body as fat. In addition to the 152 pounds of sugar we eat every year, we’re getting 146 pounds of flour that also breaks down into sugar. Altogether, that’s nearly a pound of sugar and flour combined for every American, every day! That’s a pharmacologic dose of sugar.

We were also told told to cut out as much fat as possible, including healthy fats. But our bodies and our brains require fat to function properly. And, instead of going for foods that are naturally low in fats, people went straight for the low-fat and “fat-free” substitutes that food manufacturers were more than happy to supply.

And what’s wrong with low fat and fat free versions? Well, for starters, they have to replace the fat with something to maintain texture and flavor. Those replacements are typical sugar, salt, and other additives that you don’t want in your food.

If you don’t want to go read the article, you can watch the video.


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Grilled Cheese on Roasted Garlic Sourdough and Microgreens from the Farmer’s Market

Grilled Cheese on Roasted Garlic Sourdough and Microgreens from the Farmer’s Market

This weekend we did a big grocery trip. I picked up a beautiful loaf of roasted garlic sourdough bread at the farmer’s market, and I got some kale microgreens at the store. The microgreens were something new for me.

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For my grilled cheese sandwich, I decided to try something new. I spread homemade ranch dressing on the bread. I know some people use mayonnaise, and I’ve never done it that way, but this sounded too good to pass up. Oh, and this batch of ranch had fresh dill and parsley.

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Then I sliced some muenster cheese and topped both slices.

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I put the kale microgreens in the middle, between the cheese slices so they wouldn’t get cooked.

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I decided to grill it on a cast iron comal instead of a skillet, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the sides of the pan getting in the way.

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Then, instead of smashing it down with the spatula, I used a small plate.

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Ingredients:

  • Roasted Garlic sourdough bread
  • Muenster cheese
  • Ranch dressing
  • Microgreens
  • Salted butter

Directions:

  • Heat a cast iron skillet or comal on medium heat on the stove
  • Slice the bread
  • Spread Ranch dressing on each slice
  • Top each slice with muenster cheese
  • Top the cheese on one slice with kale microgreens
  • Put the sandwich together
  • Melt a pat of butter in the center of the comal
  • Place the sandwich on the butter
  • Place a small heavy plate on top of the sandwich and squash the sandwich
  • Grill until the cheese starts to melt
  • Flip the sandwich and repeat the squashing and grilling
  • Flip again
  • Increase heat to medium high, squash some more and watch the cheese for adequate melting
  • Flip and repeat
  • When grilled to your liking, remove to a cutting board and cut in half

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Lemon Mustard Roasted Potatoes

Lemon Mustard Roasted Potatoes

I like to watch cooking shows while I’m doing other things. I put them on in the kitchen while I’m cleaning up or cooking, and sometimes I have them on while I’m working. The result is, I miss a lot. Sometimes I notice that I missed the one thing I wanted to see and I rewind and play that part again. And, very often I still miss it and have to repeat the process several times before I finally catch it. This recipe was inspired by one of those episodes.

I was watching Giada at Home. The episode was My Grandfather’s Favorites. So, Giada and her Aunt Raffy are recreating some of Dino De Laurentis’ favorite recipes. Giada has revamped the recipes in her own style, and it irritates Raffy to no end. They bicker. Giada grins at the camera a lot. And it feels a little weird that she’s the one in charge, instead of her aunt, given the theme of the episode. But hey! It’s her show. I think it would be interesting to see them make both versions, side by side. And, much more interesting to actually taste test both versions!

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My lemon mustard roasted potatoes are inspired by her lemon-mustard potato salad. Hers sound really yummy, but I was after roasted potatoes that could be reheated, rather than a salad dish with greens and other fresh stuff. Plus, it was important that I could use ingredients that I had on-hand. That is often a major factor in my adaptations and I hope that you will follow suit and take my recipes as an inspiration and a guideline to be adapted to the ingredients that you have, can easily get or just prefer!

Lemon Mustard Roasted Potatoes – Ingredients

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1 ½ pounds potatoes

Zest of one large lemon

Juice of 1 large lemon

3 tablespoons extra light tasting olive oil

2 tablespoons stone ground mustard

1 tablespoon fresh chives

1 teaspoon Himalayan salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Shredded parmesan

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375

Chop chives or cut with kitchen scissors

In a bowl large enough for tossing the potatoes, whisk together all ingredients except the parmesan and potatoes

Scrub potatoes and cut into large bite-sized chunks

Dump the potatoes into the bowl with the dressing and toss until thoroughly coated

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Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper (you don’t have to, but it will make your life much easier)

Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet

Spoon any dressing remaining in the bowl over the potatoes

Bake for 20 minutes

Top with shredded Parmesan

Baked for another 20 to 30 minutes, until golden and tender

Transfer back into the bowl and toss with remaining chive fragments

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I served this with baked chicken breast and Ranch on the side. Some kind of vegetable, like steamed Brussels sprouts, broccoli florets or artichoke hearts would go great with the meal, since they are all easy to make and great for dipping.

What will you serve your lemon mustard roasted potatoes with?

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Beautiful and Tasty: Fresh Herbs Instead of Flower Arrangements

Beautiful and Tasty: Fresh Herbs Instead of Flower Arrangements

Fresh cut flowers brighten up the room, but they are expensive and then they wilt and die. Fresh herbs, on the other hand, are both useful and beautiful.

Mint in champagne flute
Mint in champagne flute

Storing fresh herbs used to be a challenge for me. They don’t do so great in the fridge. They get slimy. Or I forget I have them and then they get really slimy! And I don’t use them nearly as much as I could.

When I discovered that I could keep them in water like flowers, I was thrilled! When I started doing this I used little jars and things I had around. This year, when my mom brought me some mint, I had an even better idea – a champagne flute! The shape is perfect for mint. The narrow stem and wide mouth accommodates the leaves and the stems, keeping the leaves from getting in the water without having to trim a bunch off.

For chives, I use a stemmed glass with straight sides.

To keep the herbs fresh, I change the water regularly, trim off any parts that are starting to go wilty or brown, and rinse them stems. Oh, and clean the glass, too. It doesn’t take long and they keep much longer.

If you have herbs that are already starting to wilt, putting them water can perk them up. You may need to trim the bottoms off the stems so they can take up water.

For the glasses, I like to use fancy ones that don’t get used often enough for drinking glasses. It gets them out of the china cabinet and out where they can be enjoyed. I have a hard time passing up interesting glasses, and an even harder time finding places to put them. I get most of mine at thrift stores and garage sales.

Whether you grow your own herbs or buy them at the farmer’s market, there are so many things to love about this!

You can put them herbs right on the counter where you do your prep work so they’re handy and you remember to use them.

For me, it’s great when I’m really making a quick salad because I got busy and waited too long to eat. Or if I’m loading up a baked potato to go with a steak for dinner, in the middle of watching a movie!

Plus, they’re pretty, and they smell good.

And the gift opportunities are amazing. The next time you’re thinking of buying cut flowers for someone, consider finding a unique glass at your local thrift store and filling it with your friend’s favorite herb, or an assortment of herbs. Even if you ordered a glass or a set of glasses, it would be cheaper than going to the florist, and much more personal. And it’s something they can use, not just something to sit there and look pretty.

If it’s too difficult to transport, you can put the fresh herbs in a baggie with a damp paper towel wrapped around the stems. If you want to present it all put together, take a bottle of water with you and put it together in the car right before you go to the door.

 

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You Can Make Your Own Cultured Buttermilk

You Can Make Your Own Cultured Buttermilk

Why Am I Making Buttermilk?

I’ve had a buttermilk issue for a few years now, and from what I hear I’m not alone. The problem is that I can’t find it in small amounts, and I almost never use up the whole container before it’s out of date. I have many uses for it, and I need it all the time, but I only use small amounts for all the uses.

I have been told that you can freeze it. I have tried that, but it didn’t work out for me at the time, and I wasn’t sure if the cultures would survive. Turns out, they do, but they don’t last a long time in the freezer and you really need to freeze the buttermilk when it is as fresh as possible because that helps the cultures survive longer.

You can read a cool Instructable about it by a scientist.

Waste wasn’t the only issue. Store-bought buttermilk has too many ingredients. When I say, “too many,” I mean unnecessary things that shouldn’t be in it. The easiest way to make your own buttermilk is to start with store-bought buttermilk for your cultures. That doesn’t entirely eliminate the extraneous ingredients, but it reduces them. Since you make each subsequent batch using some of the last batch you made, you will eventually get to the point where those ingredients are practically non-existent.

The alternative to using store-bought buttermilk is to use buttermilk starter. Then, again, you use your buttermilk moving forward. That would eliminate the extra ingredients entirely. I haven’t tried doing it that way. If you have tried both methods, let me know which one you like better and why.

Why Buttermilk?

I use buttermilk to make Ranch dressing and homemade sour cream on a regular basis. I will be posting an updated version of the sour cream recipe soon. Less frequently, I use it to soak chicken before cooking, make fried chicken, and in other recipes like homemade tortillas and other breads.

It’s also good for your skin. You can use it alone to clean your face or mix it with raw honey to make a nice mask.

Cultured vs Traditional Buttermilk

I don’t know about you, but I used to be confused about buttermilk. What I always knew of as buttermilk was the liquid that is left over from churning butter. That’s traditional buttermilk and totally different to what you can buy in stores today or what recipes call for.

Traditional buttermilk doesn’t have cultures, so it can’t be used to make more buttermilk or sour cream. It is not acidic like cultured buttermilk, so doesn’t have the same flavor or chemical effect when used in recipes.

What About Adding Lemon Juice to Regular Milk?

When you mention “making” buttermilk to most people, they think you’re talking about the old trick of adding lemon juice to regular milk when you don’t have or can’t find buttermilk for a recipe.

That will work for some recipes. It gives it the acidity and tangy flavor, so it will activate baking soda and generally achieve the flavor you want. But again, no cultures. It won’t make more buttermilk or sour cream. And, you get none of the health benefits of the live active cultures.

How to Make Buttermilk

This is insanely simple!Find a glass jar with a lid. Boil some water to sterilize the jar and lid. I just set them in the sink, pour the boiling water in them and dump it back out.

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Fill the jar with ¾ milk and ¼ buttermilk.

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Put the lid on tightly and shake it up to mix well.

Put it in a warm dark place. If you don’t have a dark place, cover it with a towel to protect it from the light.

Wait 12 to 24 hours.

Taste and refrigerate.

The end result should be thicker than the milk you used. It will turn into buttermilk faster in warmer temperatures, so keep that in mind when planning ahead. If you want to be sure it stays warm in a chilly house, you can put it in a cooler along with a jar of very hot water.

For the jar, I have started using freezer-safe canning jars. They are better for pouring and easier to clean than regular jars with a shoulder.I used to use Jars I had saved from Spaghetti sauce, but now I use those for fly-proof drinking glasses.

Have you tried making your own buttermilk? If so, tell me about it in the comments!

 

 

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Homegrown Tomato and Stir Fry Chicken Salad

Homegrown Tomato and Stir Fry Chicken Salad

A few fall-like days that had me making chili and then the temps went through the roof and now I’m on a hot weather food kick, and really getting back into my salads. I was able to make this salad thanks to a friend who gave us a bunch of homegrown tomatoes.
I’ll have to post my stir fry recipe later. It was a real hit this summer.
Ingredients:
  • Stir fry chicken
  • Spinach
  • Medium tomato
  • Mini bell peppers
  • Goat cheese
  • Red onion (optional)
  • Dressing (only a small amount needed)

 

 

It’s a salad, so cut the ingredients to your preferred size and toss. The stir fry sauce makes up most of the dressing, but I highly recommend adding a little Ranch dressing or at least some olive oil to bring out the nutrients in the vegetables and add a little coating so the sauce can stick better. Red onions are recommended for flavor if you have to use store-bought tomatoes.

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