Amazing Homemade Velveeta-Type Cheese

Cheesy Mac

Mac and Cheese With Homemade Velveeta

Being a rebel cook, I get completely geeked out when I can recreate a delicious store bought food and it still tastes as good (or better) as a homemade version.

I had heard that Velveeta was going to be hard to find (a pretty effective marketing ploy in the food world). This really isn’t much of an issue at our house, since we go with blocks of cheese here. I do remember the delicious saltiness of the boxed stuff, and I know it’s probably real-food blasphemy, but I long for it’s creamy yumminess and I wanted to make my own!

Of course, I didn’t just want a recipe. What fun is it if you can’t tweak a recipe?

Thanks to the power of Google, I found plenty of choices, but wanted one that was made from as few ingredients as possible, and still sounded like it was going to be the glorious, salty goodness that Velveeta is supposed to be.

I chose the recipe from  America’s Test Kitchen (the diamond standard in cooking, IMO) but didn’t stop there (sorry ATK). I just didn’t have some of the ingredients and was too excited to wait. Here is my recipe:

Homemade Velveeta-Type Cheese

Line a pan with plastic wrap, leaving enough to hang over so you can wrap that part over the top when finished. I used a square Tupperware style container

In a small dish, mix warm water and gelatin. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften.

Mix shredded cheeses, milk powder and salt in a food processor. Pulse to mix thoroughly.

Heat milk for 30 seconds in microwave.

Turn on processor and pour hot milk over cheese

Then add melted gelatin

Continue to process for 2 more minutes, or until mixture is smooth. Scrape sides of needed, but I didn’t find this necessary.

Scrape melted, smooth mixture into your prepared container (move quickly so it doesn’t cool and thicken too much)

Gently smooth top of cheese with a spatula and tap container a few times to help settle the melted cheese into the shape of the pan

Wrap excess plastic wrap up and over the top and smooth it out to make the top level.

Cool and slice or cube as desired. I chilled mine for an hour and the kids ate all of it immediately.

The Verdict: It’s better than Velveeta! Smooth and creamy with all the tang and saltiness that you remember.

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Pressure Cooker Chicken Soup: 15 Minutes Thought To Bowl

Pressure Cooker Chicken Soup

Pressure Cooker Chicken Soup

 

Recently, I was lucky enough to stumble across a new kitchen gadget that has been so much fun to play around with! Our local overrun store (you know, where extra inventory is sold at a discount) had pressure cookers for sale. They were different than the one I had, much larger and electronic.
After mulling it over for a couple of days, I got one (in RED-squee!). Ever since, I have been using it daily. What I love about it, is that we have plenty of tough bits from our steer and chickens in the freezer. There isn’t any way to make them tender, other than long cooking times.

Now, I put absolutely frozen roasts into the pressure cooker, and 40 minutes later have tender slicing beef for sandwiches. It’s amazing! Today, I made a chicken soup in 15 minutes. You could tack on another 15 minutes to cook the frozen chicken drumsticks (another sad piece of meat that gets left in the freezer), but if you already have cooked chicken, it’s truly 15 minutes. Here is how I did it.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Soup

Place frozen chicken into the pressure cooker with 1/2 cup water. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Release pressure and set aside chicken. To the broth, add:

1/2 cup raw white rice

Your favorite vegetables; I used a handful of baby carrots, two handfuls of baby kale, 10 brussels sprouts cut in half, 1 cup leftover sweet corn from last year’s garden

Separate chicken from bones and return to pot

Add enough water to cover, making sure you don’t overfill (my cooker has markers on the inside, which I filled to the 8 cup mark)

Pressure cook on high for 15 minutes

Release steam

Add heaping tablespoon minced garlic (at end so cooking doesn’t destroy the healing enzymes)

Salt/pepper/seasonings of your choice.

Serve

Delicious and so easy!

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Garden Radio and Other Fun Announcements

Love the greenhouse

Love the greenhouse

 

Despite the never ending snow (currently at 3 feet), things are bright and sunny in Northern Maine. It’s hard to fight the urge to start seeding trays for the garden, but it’s still way too early.

I grow plants in the greenhouse though. My Rosemary is beautiful, the basil and mint is growing like crazy, and even my kale is happy. I suppose it will have to do.  The kids and I spend at least 30 minutes a day in there, soaking up the sunshine and breathing in the warm, earthy smell. It’s the best medicine for cabin fever.

Today, I was lucky enough to have do another segment with NPR’s Take Care segment. This week, we are talking about starting a garden from seed, and how easy it is! Check out the link to the program:

TakeCare

In other news, I have launched my animal-herbal side of things;

The Farmer’s Herbal

If you use herbs for nutrition and healing with your livestock, this is the place to ask questions and share your experiences. Thanks for supporting and *likes* on the page already.

 

Have a great week!

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Smoky Sausage, Kale, and White Bean Soup

Smoky sausage, kale,and white bean soup recipe

Smoky sausage, kale, and white bean soup recipe

I attended my first Leadership training class last week, and our lunch was catered by an amazing cook who inspired me to make this soup. Hers was tastier, but this one was made with what I had on hand.

Kale is always a winter favorite, because it is so inexpensive and full of nutrition. I eat it nearly every day.

 

Smokey Sausage, Kale, and White Bean Soup

1 lb smoked sausage or kielbasa

1 medium onion

1 bunch of kale (use what you like, I go a little heavy on mine)

3 cans white beans

6 cups chicken broth

1 clove garlic  minced

salt/pepper to taste

In a heavy soup pot, saute sliced sausage and chopped onion, until onion is clear and sausage is slightly browned around the edges of each slice.

Remove sausage and cooked onions from pan, clean pan of excess grease and return sausage/onion to pot, on medium heat.

Add broth, drained beans, minced garlic, and salt/pepper if desired.

Heat to simmering and cover. Cook 15 minutes, or until kale is wilted as much as you like.

Serve.

This tastes better the next day, and would be wonderful warmed on low in the crock pot all day.

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The Herbal Cupboard

Herb Cupboard

Herb Cupboard

You know that feeling that you sometimes get when you just know something is going happen? I get that way about this time in the winter, when everyone around us is getting a cold, and the news is full of flu news. It can start to make me feel as if I am going to be floundering in germ warfare at any minute, then I have to talk my self of the ledge.

So, to remind myself of how prepared I really am, it’s time to take stock of my herbal bounty. My herbal strength is to specialize in things that I feel confident about. I try to use mainly the things found where I am living (with some leftovers from out west, where we last lived). So, here are some of my favorites :

Tinctures

  • Burdock
  • Yellow Dock
  • Cayenne
  • Turmeric
  • Dandelion Root
  • Velerian
  • Elderberry
  • Lemon Balm
  • Anise
  • Pine Needle
  • Nettle
  • Ginger
  • Cleavers
  • Echinacea Flower
  • Echinacea Root
  • Catnip
  • Shepherd’s Purse
  • Sunflower
  • Mullein
  • Usnea
  • Motherwort
  • Propolis

Bulk Dried Herbs

  • Alfalfa Leaf
  • Red Raspberry
  • Goldenrod
  • Oatstraw
  • Nettle
  • Motherwort
  • Red Clover blossom (with some leaf)
  • Burdock Root
  • Comfrey Root
  • Dandelion Root
  • Spearmint
  • Peppermint
  • Plantain
  • Elderberries

All of these things are herbs that I try to harvest on my own, but not all of it. I also have some salves and infused oils, but they were made for a specific need, so they are sort of the rolling inventory. You won’t find anything fancy, but everything is comforting.

Do you have an herbal cupboard? What’s in it?

 

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Time to Brine!

Brining Turkey

Brining Turkey

If you are staying on track for Thanksgiving prep, tonight is the perfect time to make up your brine. Then, it cools overnight and is ready to be used tomorrow and tomorrow night for the turkey. You can of course, make the brine tomorrow, but Wednesday is traditionally reserved for dessert making in this house, so getting this out of the way a day early frees up the space on the stove. Here is a snippet from my original brining post:

I have been brining the turkey for many years. It started out with a specific recipe from the Food Network, back when it was just a cooking channel.  Now, I use this recipe that seems to work exceptionally well and no matter if you deep fry or roast the bird, it comes out unbelievably moist and flavorful.

Brined Turkey
1 cup salt
1 cup Brown sugar
1 sliced lemon
1 sliced orange
2 cinnamon sticks
small handful of cloves(1/8 cup)

Add all ingredients to 2 quarts of water to dissolve the sugar and salt. Then add to a large kettle, add the bird and add remaining water, until it is completely covered.

I use a huge kettle. The turkey has to be placed inside, with the seasonings and enough water to cover the bird. Do this the night before and keep in a cool place-really cool, like your fridge if you have one that is empty enough, out in an unheated garage if it is freezing cold outside(this is my normal technique). In the morning, lift your bird out of the brine and dry it off, then cook as you normally do.

In other news, I am excited to announce that I will be reviewing another product. Here is the official announcement :

K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students. I’ve been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program. If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

 

I’ll let you know how it turns out!  Finally, thanks to Scottfeidstein for sharing this cool pic of brined turkey on Flickr. Check out his visual how to here.

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The Farming Wife’s Top 5 Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Peppermint Fudge

Peppermint Fudge

With a short 5 days until Thanksgiving, it is time to do some essential preparation in order to not stress about the meal. I like to make my menu now, asking everyone in the family what they would like me to make. It’s usually about the same from each of them, but traditions are essential in our family.

After making my menu, I start gathering my recipes. Here are some of the must haves on the farm. These things are tried and true, and I make them pretty much every year.

Squash braided bread

Squash Braided Bread

Squash Braided Bread

1 hour dinner rolls

1 Hour Dinner Rolls

1 Hour Dinner Rolls

Cranberry Mint Soda

Cranberry Mint Soda

Cranberry Mint Natural Soda

 

Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb Crisp

Peppermint Fudge

Peppermint Fudge

Peppermint White Chocolate Fudge

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Win a Signed Copy of Fermenting for Dummies

Fermenting for Dummies

Fermenting for Dummies

It’s been a busy fall. The leaves are gone, and I am a little envious of those who are enjoying the foliage this year. We seemed to have green leaves, then BOOM! They were gone.  ~sigh~ It happens that way sometimes. The upside is that the ocean is now in full view practically at all times. That’s a big plus in my book. We can even clearly see it from the house until next summer.

I wanted to celebrate my newest  book; Fermenting for Dummies. This one was a collaboration with fellow writer Marni Wasserman, and is chock full of nutritional information and of course plenty of recipes.  As with all of my books, I am available for questions and discussion. So, it’s sort of like buying a book and consultation all in one!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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What’s Growing in Your Kitchen?

Kombucha

Kombucha

My kitchen is never clean. Not in the way that you may think. Yes, things are wiped and all that, but if you look carefully, you will see things bubbling, steaming, working, growing, fermenting, in every corner of the room. I leave my crockpot out to throw things into as I harvest them. I have a gallon jar of Kombucha fermenting all the time, sometimes two.
Today, I am going to make kombucha. This is a fermented drink that tastes sort of like sweet apple cider. I make it 3 quarts at a time, and it never lasts long around here. In fact, when served ice cold, it is the first thing anyone asks to drink. Kombucha  does have a little alcohol in it, less than the equivalent of 1 beer in a gallon of kombucha, but it is something you should know.
Here is how I make it:
Kombucha
 
3 quarts cold water
1 cup sugar
6 black tea bags
1 SCOBY pad
½ cup Kombucha starter
In large pot, combine water and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off heat, add the teabags and cover tightly
Steep 15 minutes
Remove the tea bags
Cover tightly to keep impurities from falling into the pan
Cool the tea to room temperature
Place the scoby into a gallon sized glass jar
Pour the Kombucha starter over the SCOBY
Pour the cooled tea into the jar
Cover jar with a coffee filter and hold it in place with elastic band.
Let sit until it smells like apple cider vinegar. It takes about 7-10 days in our house.
Pour the finished Kombucha off into a clean jar to use and keep about ½ cup in gallon jar along with the SCOBY, to start another batch.
The scoby can be peeled apart and shared after each batch of Kombucha is made.
Back in the day, I made kombucha for a customer who also bought my raw milk.   Once a week, I would carefully drive down the mountain, with coolers full of milk, kefir and kombucha. It was quite an exchange. I was sort of like the milkman, only I delivered eggs, milk, and other cool foods.
Fermented foods are so important to our diets. I am surely preaching to the choir, but I truly believe that there are good bacteria in them that our bodies really need, in order to digest whole foods like we should.
So there you have it. My kitchen may seem quiet, but it is actually hard at work, making healthy things for our family. You have to appreciate that.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user: MissBossy

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Homeschool Review: Bridgeway Academy

Bridgeway Logo photo bridgewayacademylogo_zps8c2d62cc.jpg

I had such a wonderful offer to review Bridgeway Academy’s Marine Biology course these past few weeks(9 week course is $145.00). It has been such a fun time and I have lots to share.

First off, my 4th grader was just old enough to participate. Marine Biology is a challenging course, and unlike many online courses, it is very thorough with homework assignments that make the student really dig into the information. Because my child has some learning issues, I wasn’t sure if he could manage jumping right in to a course with many other kids. He has anxiety issues that create a challenges to overcome when he is in new situations where he has to stay on track with distractions.

Every week, a link was sent out to direct Josiah to his class for that week. The setup was interesting; the screen had the live teacher in one box, the chat for the students in another, and a section of whiteboard where the class work was presented. It was engaging and really felt like a live class for him.

What was interesting, was that the class had to participate as a whole while the teacher taught. It was nice that she would ask a question and students would be answering and she was giving feedback very smoothly. Clearly, our teacher was very well prepared and comfortable. I have had quite the opposite experience with online classes previously, making it hard for my son to stay focused.  There was no problem with Bridgeway Academy.

After the class was over, he was assigned homework to do until the next class. Each lesson was about him researching the topic they learned that week, and coming up with either  a brochure or a newspaper article about the marine animal he chose. Below, is one of his drawings based on a lesson:

JosiahJeanroyWK1He had to create an imaginary creature based on the characteristics they had learned about that day.   He then had to write a paragraph or two about his creature explaining how it would live. It was a fun homework assignment that actually made him think. Who wouldn’t love that?

The classes are available to watch again anytime, which was good for review or if it seemed that he didn’t understand something.  Also, the teacher was available if we ever had an issue with our log in or homework assignment.

All in all, I would use Bridgeway Academy again. In fact, my son has asked if we could sign him up for other classes. It was a very thorough class, we could tell that the company was organized and serious about offering *real* class experience to it’s students. My son loves his time spent in class. We feel so lucky to have been chosen to review this great company.

 

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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