Monday, September 23, 2013

And the Winners Are...!

We had a great response to the book and apron giveaway. Thanks so much to all of you who participated!

And the winners are...Drum roll please...

  • Sherri M., from Pennsylvania (apron & canning cookbook)
  • Debi S., from Oregon (apron & canning cookbook)
  • Bonnie B., from Pennsylvania (canning cookbook)
  • Donna D., from Michigan (canning cookbook)
  • Becky P., from Georgia (canning cookbook)

Congratulations to all of you!

May your joy abound in the simple pleasures of a homemade life,


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Make-Ahead Mixes Recipes

This afternoon I spent some time putting together make-ahead mixes and a Facebook friend asked for one of the recipes. So, I thought I'd give you several in this blog post that are my go-to favorites.

Vanilla Cake Mix

What I love about this particular cake mix is that it uses dry milk powder, and I always have bunches on hand for making mixes. But what I don't love about this recipe is that it only makes one cake at a time and it feels fiddly to me to make several batches at once. But it's still worth it!

2 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup dry milk powder
3 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Crisco (be generous!)

Thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients except for the Crisco; once the dry ingredients are well mixed, add the Crisco and, using your hands (really!), gently mix until it resembles coarse crumbles. This part usually takes me several minutes, so don't hurry the process, because the finer you incorporate the Crisco, the better your cake results will be. Store in a large jar or large baggie. This recipe makes one cake, so when you go to the trouble to haul out your ingredients, make several batches at once. I usually make four at a time.

To make the cake:

2 eggs
1 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 batch Vanilla Cake Mix

Mix together the eggs, water, and vanilla; add the Vanilla Cake Mix and blend well. I use my hand beaters and mix for about 2 minutes.

Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool cake before frosting it, or eat it plain.

An Alternative Cake Mix

8 cups flour
6 cups sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups Crisco

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients except for the Crisco; once the dry ingredients are well mixed, add the Crisco and, using your hands (really!), gently mix until it resembles coarse crumbles. This part usually takes me several minutes, so don't hurry the process, because the finer you incorporate the Crisco, the better your cake results will be.

To make the cake:

2 eggs, well beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/3 cups cake mix

On low, beat together the eggs, milk, and vanilla; add the cake mix and beat on low to moisten. Then you can turn the mixer to medium and beat for about 2 minutes.

Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cool cake before frosting it.

Master Brownie Mix

6 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
4 tsp. salt
8 cups sugar
1 8-oz. can unsweetened baking cocoa, or 2 cups (make the second cup a tad scant)
2 cups Crisco

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients except for the Crisco; once the dry ingredients are well mixed, add the Crisco and, using your hands (really!), gently mix until it resembles coarse crumbles. This part usually takes me several minutes, so don't hurry the process, because the finer you incorporate the Crisco, the better your brownies will be.

To make the brownies:

2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups Brownie Mix
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
powdered sugar (optional)

Grease and flour an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, and Brownie Mix. Beat until smooth (I use a large wooden spoon). Stir in nuts if using. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool before cutting. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar when ready to serve.

Hot Chocolate Mix

I love this hot chocolate mix! I drink it during the cooler months, and there are few evenings that I don't have a cup before bed. Very soothing. And easy and cheap to make, too! (Two qualities I love in cooking!)

6 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup powdered sugar (generous)
1 cup regular sugar
1 cup unsweetened baking cocoa powder
dash of salt (I just take my salt shaker and give it a shake and call it good)

Combine all ingredients and mix well. I can get one batch of hot chocolate mix in a half-gallon canning jar. Love that!

To use:

To 1 cup hot water, add 3 tablespoons Hot Chocolate Mix. You can also use hot milk for an extra creamy cup of hot chocolate, but I'm too frugal to ever do that.


Easy Stove-Top Chicken Stuffing Mix

6 cups cubed bread
1 T. dried parsley
3 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1/2 cup dried minced celery
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. salt

Bake the bread cubes in a 350-degree oven for 8-10 minutes; remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Mix together all ingredients and store in a large jar or baggie.

To make the stuffing:

In a medium saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water and 2-3 tablespoons butter to a gentle boil, making sure that the butter has melted completely. Turn the heat off but leave the saucepan on the heated element and add 2 cups of the stuffing mix; stir with a fork, cover, and let set for several minutes. Fluff and serve.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cheater's Monkey Bread

This morning I decided that I wanted something sweet and decadent...not my usual style for breakfast. But I couldn't get the thought of sweet and gooey out of my mind. And to top it off, I wasn't in the mood to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but I did want to eat.

What to do?

Well, I decided to make a sort of cheater's monkey bread. It turned out so good that I want to share it with y'all. So here's what I did:

First of all, I turned on my oven to 350 degrees to let it preheat. Next, I took my largest pie plate (really, it's one I use when I make quiche, so it's a good 10 inches and a bit deeper, which I highly recommend so when the monkey bread bakes it doesn't bubble over--but just in case I put my largest cookie sheet on the rack below the pan to catch any drips...but there were none, thankfully) and greased the baking pan with shortening, using a light touch.

I broke open two tubes of biscuits--just the regular sized ones because that's what I had. I cut each of the biscuits into quarters. Next, I put about 1/2 cup of sugar and a large teaspoonful of cinnamon in a quart baggie and mixed them together. Then I added the quarter cuts of biscuits in batches and shook them so they were good and coated; I made sure to tear apart any that had stuck together so all surfaces were covered with the cinnamon sugar. When I took the biscuit pieces out of the baggie I tried to be "careless" so that plenty of the cinnamon sugar came with them and dropped them evenly into the baking pan.

Next, I took a stick of butter (1/2 cup) and melted it in the microwave in a quart bowl (really hot melted butter works better), and then added a cup of brown sugar and stirred it so the brown sugar sort of melted into the butter. I spooned it evenly over the top of the sugared biscuit pieces and baked it in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

As soon as the monkey bread was done baking, I plated it by turning it over onto a serving platter so all the caramel was on top. I let it cool just a bit and then brought it over to one of my son's homes whereupon it was devoured my grownups and little ones alike. My two-year-old grandson loved the name (he thought it was hilarious we were "eating monkeys") and the rest of us just plain loved it.

This is such a quick and easy treat. It literally took me about 5 minutes to throw it all together. Here's a picture of what was left of my plate when I remembered to take a picture:

Yum! Give it a try. You could also add some pecans or walnuts, or maybe even raisins before you bake it. I imagine that would be good too. I ate my helping with a spoon, but the others ate theirs with their fingers. Either way works deliciously!
I pray that you and your loved ones are happy and well.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Home Canned Tuna--And a Quick Recipe for Creamed Tuna on Toast

The fishing boats are busy in our nearby Pacific Ocean and the tuna is on! I picked up two fish and ended up with about 25 pounds of clean, sweat meat to can. Here's the end result:

Lousy photo...and I don't know why. But there's tuna in those cans!

Now I'll give you a quick lesson on how it's done correctly. The information, by the way, comes straight from my latest book:
(I think I need a new camera!)
The trick to canning sweet-tasting tuna is in the preparation. After skinning, removing viscera, bleeding the fish, and deboning, take extra care in the final cleaning to remove all dark flesh, blood vessels, and membranes. Rinse well. The cleaner your meat is, the better it will taste once canned, so take your time and do a thorough job. Trust me on this: I've known people who didn't clean their fish well and then wondered why their tuna tasted is the key to sweet success.
You can process your tuna raw or cooked. I'm going to tell you how to can it raw because it's about as easy a canning process as there is.
Pack raw tuna into half-pint or pint jars (do not use pint-and-a-half or quart jars!), pressing down to fill in the space inside the jar and leaving 1-inch headspace. You can add water to cover, again making sure you leave 1-inch headspace, but this isn't necessary as it's safe to can the raw tuna with no added liquid. (In fact, that's how I always can mine.) Add a bit of salt if desired: 1/4 tsp. or less for half-pints, maybe a bit more to pints, but again, this isn't necessary.
Process half-pints and pints for 100 minutes (that's 1 hour and 40 minutes...a very long time!) at 10 psi, adjusting the psi as necessary for your altitude. You'll find complete canning directions in my book, or else in the manual that came with your pressure canner.
Here's a nifty link that you can use to determine your altitude anywhere in the world: And even if you know what your altitude is, it's still a fun link to peruse.
You may be wondering why you would go to the trouble and expense of home canning tuna. Well, for starters, the fish is ultra fresh. And if you've ever looked at the ingredients list on store bought canned tuna, you're likely to see among other ingredients soy (GMO problems) and something called "pyrophosphates." I've read that pyrophosphates are somewhat toxic, even though they appear in lots of packaged food so "someone" "somewhere" has deemed it safe to eat. But I have to ask, why would I eat pyrophosphates when I could process my own fish and know exactly what's in it? And what exactly is in my jars of tuna? Well...tuna. Period. Makes my heart sing!
And now for a quick recipe:

Creamed Tuna on Toast

1 jar tuna, drained
4 T. butter
4 T. flour
1-1 1/4 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
Open your jar (or can) of tuna and drain well; set aside for now. (I generally dump my jar of tuna out into my hands and give it a quick squeeze to help get all the liquid out. It works!) Measure out the milk and have it near your stove for when you need it.
In a saucepan, melt the butter; whisk in the flour and keep whisking continuously for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk and keep whisking until the mixture begins to boil and thickens. Immediately turn your burner down to the lowest setting and add the tuna, stirring to break up the tuna and heat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the creamed tuna on toast and dig in. Comfort food at its finest!
I hope you give canning tuna a try. It's a special treat, to be sure.
May you and your loved ones be blessed.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Canning Cookbook and Apron Giveaway!

Hello, all!

I'm giving away 5 copies (I'll sign them if you desire) of the Amish Canning Cookbook. Plus, 2 lucky winners will also receive a handmade apron that is perfect for canning season--but it's also wonderful for gardening, cleaning, or pretty much any chore where you'd like to stay clean while working. I love these aprons, and I hope you will too.

The giveaway lasts until September 16 at 12:00 a.m. and the winners will be announced on Wednesday, September 18th.

Here's how to enter to win: First, comment on this blog post. Tell me what your favorite food to can is.
Next, go to the AmishReader Facebook page (the link's below) and "like" the page. Then, follow the directions for the Giveaway, and remember to check that you commented.

That's it!

Here's the link for AmishReader:

Here's a photo of a friend of mine wearing one of my aprons:

I've been making aprons using this pattern for probably 30 years now. They only use 1 yard of fabric--very economical. Plus they cover well and are so comfortable you'll forget you even have it on. (In fact, I've run to the store more than once with my apron still on!)

Good luck and happy canning!