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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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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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Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

I love my Homemade Ranch Dressing, but it’s a bit of a PITA to make because you have to measure out all of the ingredients. My solution is to mix the dry ingredients ahead of time and store them in a little jar.

I like to combine enough for six batches, so that’s what this recipe makes, but you can do the math and make more or less if you want.

Ingredients for the mix:

 teaspoons dried chives
 teaspoons dried parsley
 teaspoons onion powder
1½ teaspoon garlic powder

1½ teaspoon dried dill weed
3/8 teaspoon salt (or eyeball it)
3/8 teaspoon ground black pepper (or eyeball it)


Place all ingredients in a jar, stir or shake.

To make the dressing:

Place two heaping teaspoons of the dry mix in a bowl.
Add 1/2 cup maynnaise.
Blend well with a stick blender, whisk, or fork.
Add 1/2 cup sour cream.
Blend well with a stick blender, whisk, or fork.
Add 1/2 cup buttermilk.
Blend well with a stick blender, whisk, or fork.

Cover or pour into a jar and refrigerate.

Alternatively, you can skip the sour cream and use 1 cup of buttermilk, for runnier dressing. Or, you can skip the buttermilk and use 1 cup of sour cream for dip.

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Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Dressing

Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Dressing

Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Dressing. This is one of the easiest dressings ever! It only requires four ingredients, and it is so good.

It’s a lot like Alfredo sauce, but cold, so it is great for pasta salad if you are in the mood for a creamy one instead of one dressed with a vinaigrette.

And if you love left-over chicken Alfredo, but hate the way it gets all congealed when it’s cold and then doesn’t really get a good texture back when you reheat it, this is the perfect make-ahead substitute. Just cook your pasta and chicken, put them in a sealable container, toss it well with some of this dressing, and refrigerate. Perfect cold “chicken Alfredo” for breakfast!

I’m completely spoiled to homemade dressing, but it took me a while to get my system down so it wasn’t so much work. When I make this one, I make a batch of Homemade Ranch at the same time. But now I premix the dry ingredients for my Ranch and store enough for several batches.

I also have an amazing batter bowl that my mom got from the Farmer’s Market for my birthday. I’ll have to post pictures of it later. I mix my dressings in that, using a stick blender (you can use a whisk of a fork), and then I pour them into sauce jars that I have saved.

I label them, using painter’s tape, with the expiration date of the ingredient that has the closest expiration date. For me that’s usually the buttermilk. That works better than just labeling them with the “made on” date because when I did that I still had to go look at the expiration dates on my ingredients to know if the dressing was good, and if I had already thrown out the containers for the ingredients I was screwed.

Ingredients:

1 bulb garlic (roasted)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk

To Roast the Garlic:

Set the oven to about 350 or 400 (preheating is not necessary). Cut the top off the bulb of garlic. Put it in a ramekin or another little oven-proof bowl-type thing. drizzle with olive oil. Put it in the oven until it’s golden brown, usually somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour. I know it’s time to check it because I can smell it.

Remove from the oven and let cool! You can roast the garlic a day or two before you make the dressing and just keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to go, but it’s easier to squish out at room temperature.

To Make the Dressing:

Squish roasted garlic into a bowl.
Add mayonnaise and Parmesan. Blend well with a stick blender, whisk or fork. Add buttermilk. Blend well again.
Pour into a sealable container or cover your bowl and refrigerate.
Label with expiration date if desired.

That’s it!

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Rachel vs. “The Kitchen”: Simple Split Chicken Breasts

Rachel vs. “The Kitchen”: Simple Split Chicken Breasts

Rachel vs. “The Kitchen”: Simple Split Chicken Breasts


This is so easy, but it always comes out juicy and wonderful. I make it frequently. I save up the bones in the freezer until I have enough to make Homemade Chicken Stock.

I am planning to adapt this to a whole roasted chicken recipe soon, using some of the basics from my previous post Easy, Delicious Roast Chicken and Gravy.

 

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Found Recipe: Guac & Chicken Pinwheels

Found Recipe: Guac & Chicken Pinwheels

I came across a recipe for Guac & Chicken Pinwheels with Tyson Grilled & Ready on Twitter (retweeted by @therebelchick here).

Guac & Chicken Pinwheels

This is so quick, easy, and good. It looks like a great way to use up some of the ingredients you have hanging around the fridge, too. I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for inviting ways to use up the rest of the fresh spinach before it goes bad.

So what we have here is some chicken, cheese, spinach and guacamole, rolled up in a tortilla and cut into bite-sized peices. It would make a great snack, appetizer, or main dish. You could even serve it up with some homemade ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Personally, I would use sliced cheddar or pepper jack in place of American cheese, and substitute some of my cook-ahead chicken for the store-bought chicken in the original recipe, but I love the idea here!

One thing that’s pictured, but not named,in the original blog post is Wholly Guacamole, store-bought guac. While nothing beats homemade guacamole, I have found that this brand is quite good, and makes for a very acceptable substitute for the real thing. Normally I won’t touch store-bought guac, so that’s a pretty big deal.

Thanks to @therebelchick and @Momhatescooking for the headsup on this one!

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Easy Salisbury Steak

Easy Salisbury Steak

Patty ingredients:

1 ½ pounds ground beef

2 tablespoons brewer’s yeast
1 to 2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
1 to 2 table spoons onion powder
2 teaspoon steak sauce (optional)

Sauce:

Strong beef broth (about 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all patty ingredients and knead together until well blended. Form into very thin oval shaped patties. Brown the patties in a skillet and remove with a slotted spoon or spatula. Place patties in a glass baking dish. Pour sauce over patties. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

You can add green onions to the patties, or just in the pan with them before baking. Also, top the patties with sliced mushrooms before baking, if you enjoy mushrooms.
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Easy Blender Hollandaise Sauce

Easy Blender Hollandaise Sauce

I absolutely love Hollandaise sauce, but I do not have the patience for all that whisking and praying that it will turn out right. I am so glad I discovered the blender method! This is quick and easy and the end result is just the same, except it leaves me in a better mood.

Ingredients:

6 egg yolks
1 stick butter
¼ cup lemon juice
Cayenne
Salt

Separate your eggs and put the yolks in the blender. Add lemon juice to blender. Add cayenne and salt. Melt butter in a sauce pan and heat until bubbling. With the lid on the blender, but the center thing removed, turn on the blender. While the blender is running slowly drizzle the hot butter in. Put center thing back in blender and keep blending for a minute or so.

The hot butter cooks the egg yolks a bit, for the sake of the squeamish. However, if the blender isn’t running when you start drizzling it in or if your pour it in too fast, it can really cook the yolks and ruin the texture of the sauce.

Serve with asparagus, steamed artichokes, eggs benedict, or as a tasty dip. The possibilities are endless.

So, now what to do with all those egg whites? If you’ve got any suggestions I would love to hear them!
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Homemade Sour Cream

Homemade Sour Cream

Until recently I had no idea how easy it is to make your own sour cream. So far, this costs about the same amount as store-bought sour cream, but there are some advantages that make it worth it, and there may be a trick to make it cheaper (I’ll explain that part later).

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 and you can impress your friends.

Ingredients:

¼ cup buttermilk
1 cup heavy cream (or milk)

Instructions:

Find a clean glass jar with a lid. I save mine when I buy sauces and such. Boil some water, pour it into the jar, swish it around, and dump it out. Clean the lid in a similar fashion.

Put the buttermilk and cream in the jar, put the lid on, and shake it up until it’s mixed up real good. Set it on the counter or on top of your fridge, cover with a dishtowel, and let it sit up to 24 hours, undisturbed. To check it, tilt the jar. It should have thickened. Refrigerate before serving.

That’s it. You’re done. You now have sour cream! Who would have guessed it was that easy. You should try it at least once, just because you can.

Tips:

The buttermilk must have live cultures. The cultures in buttermilk die off over time, so if it’s almost out-of-date it may not work.

Your sour cream will be thicker than your liquid no matter what, but if you use plain, whole milk it will still be pretty runny. Heavy cream seems to create a nice consistency, still not as thick as I would prefer, but thick enough to use on burritos without a runny mess. However, heavy cream is expensive.

Adding powdered milk may be the key to getting thicker, stiffer sour cream, and saving money. I know it works with homemade yogurt (I’ll post my recipe for that soon). I haven’t tried it in sour cream yet, but I will.

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