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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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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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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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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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Garlic and Herb Homemade Mayonnaise

Garlic and Herb Homemade Mayonnaise

This takes a while to process, but other than that it’s pretty simple. I made it to mix with canned salmon for salmon sandwiches. It is chilling right now. I can’t wait to try it!

2 egg yolks
½ cup avocado oil
Fresh basil leaves and flowers (a small handful)
1 large clove Garlic
1 table spoon Lemon juice
Salt
1/8 teaspoon dill
½ teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon maple syrup

In food processor, process garlic and basil. Add egg yolks and process. Add lemon juice, dill, mustard powder, and maple. Add the oil a tiny amount at a time, processing until fully emulsified. Refrigerate immediately.

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Homemade Teriyaki Chicken

Homemade Teriyaki Chicken

When I was a teenager my dad and I used to go to breakfast together on Sundays at a little French café. Their breakfasts were very good, but they also had two dishes that I loved that were not breakfast foods – potato soup and teriyaki chicken. You could say it has been one of my minor life’s quests to replicate those dishes. I have made potato soup and teriyaki chicken that were very good, but not the same. Until now!

When I decided to make teriyaki chicken I didn’t have any teriyaki sauce. I could have bought some, but I decided to try making my own. I had no idea that this was going to turn out so much like my favorite teriyaki chicken in the whole world. I had given up on trying to replicate it!

Chicken breast – 2.5 pounds, frozen, boneless, skinless
Pineapple juice
Tamari sauce (or regular soy sauce)
Garlic powder
Ginger powder
Cayenne powder

Heat oven to 350. Place chicken in glass baking dish. Sprinkle powdered spices on chicken. Pour in pineapple juice. Add tamari. Cover and bake until chicken is done, flipping chicken over once or twice.

A note on proportions. I used about 2 or 3 cups of pineapple juice and about ¼ to ½ cup of tamari sauce. I went unusually light on the spices, just lightly sprinkling them over all the chicken, not coating it!

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Hair Care in Your Kitchen

Hair Care in Your Kitchen

Good hair care products are way too expensive, but the cheap ones will trash your hair, so there must be a reason why it costs so much to have beautiful healthy hair, right?

No. you can have healthier, happier hair (and skin) than expensive salon quality products will ever deliver for pennies using products from your own kitchen.

This evening I will begin a series of posts on hair care solutions you already have in your home!

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