cooking


With a bazillion recipe sites out there, the reason for this cooking section of our site is simple: I cook both low-carb and high-carb food on a regular basis. I am diabetic; my husband is not. Thus many of these recipes are low-carb in nature, but some are not. Further, many recipes include both a low-carb and "regular" version. For instance, when I cook pasta for him, I cook fried zucchini or Napa cabbage for myself.

This section covers our regular day-to-day cooking, desserts and snack foods, our favorite special recipes and food preservation. All recipes included are actual tried-and-true favorites of ours.

 

day-to-day cooking: the Thirty Dinners

I cook for both myself and my husband. This section is about the basic items I cook regularly for us. Mostly, I cook dinners and we're on our own for other meals and snacks.

For myself, I keep these foods around for breakfast, lunch and snacks:

For my husband, who eats most of the above foods along with me, I keep the following foods on hand:

We each cover our own non-dinner eating from these items.

I usually eat a hot flax cereal for breakfast, some sort of dairy (cottage cheese, ricotta, yogurt or cream cheese) and some low-sugar fruit (berries or melon).

For me, lunch is usually a salad topped with cheese, sunflower seeds, a hard boiled egg and ranch salad dressing. Sometimes I have Italian guacamole or just a plain avocado for lunch instead.

Besides coffee and water, I drink about a quart of a sugar-free "sports drink" which provides supplemental calcium, potassium and vitamin C.

Steve has cereal with milk, various types of sandwiches, cheese and crackers, fruit, some sort of home-baked goodies or leftovers for his non-dinner meals and snacks.

I fix dinners. There's usually some sort of dessert or baked good around also. I cook in batches enough to have leftovers the second night. On the second night, I usually make a dessert of some sort.

While I like experimenting with recipes and trying new things, I had gotten tired of figuring out what to fix for meals on a regular basis, so I made up a list of our favorite meals. There's 30 dinners on the list and since I cook for two nights at once, this is 2 months of meals before we repeat.

Thirty Dinners with recipes

 

baking

This section has recipes for both regular and low-carb desserts and snacks. Because I only cook dinner for 2 people, we microwave leftovers every other night. On the nights when I don't have to cook dinner, I generally fix something from this section.

I bake something off the regular list for Steve 5-6 times a month or so. Most of the recipes include whole grains or fruit or nuts, so are healthier than junk food purchased from the store.

I have much less of a sweet tooth than Steve does, so I generally fix something from the low-carb list 2-3 times a month.

Most of my low-carb recipes are adapted from posts to alt.support.diet.low-carb, which is worth Googling if you want a lot of low-carb recipes.

regular and low-carb desserts and snacks

 

special recipes

This section contains recipes for:

special occasion recipes

 

Food Preservation: canning, root-cellaring and dehydrating

Food preservation is important to us because we garden and therefore have an excess of food at harvest-time that we wish to preserve for use throughout the year.

It also allows us to cook foods that take a long time, such as bean soups, in large batches and save the excess for another meal.

Excellent resources for food preservation are the newsgroup rec.food.preserving FAQs and the book "Putting Food By."

canning

In 1988, the USDA commissioned university studies to test various canning methods for safety. It was discovered that a lot of recipes in use prior to that time were not safe. When canning, you should follow modern recipes - no matter that your grandmother did it that way and never killed anyone. There's simply no sense risking something as serious as botulism toxin in your canned foods.

The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning is the standard resource for safe canning. I find this such a useful reference that I printed out a copy for my kitchen. In additon, an excellent, widely-available and pretty cheap source of recipes is the "Blue Ball Book," which is a well-illustrated reference I have handy in my kitchen also.

The USDA only recommends using jars that take 2-piece lids for canning. These need to be actual canning jars, not mayonnaise jars or spaghetti sauce jars or such. There's a bunch of different brands, but it seems they're all made by the same company now.

Jars can be picked up very cheaply at auctions, flea markets or yard sales. I recommend you buy mostly regular size jars as the wide-mouth lids are more expensive.

The 2-piece lids consist of a lid and a ring. The rings are reusable, but the lids are not. Lids are your primary recurring cost in canning.

pressure canning

To do pressure canning, you need a pressure canner. A pressure canner is *not* the same thing as a pressure cooker. You can cook in a pressure canner, but you cannot can in a pressure cooker.

Pressure canners come in two basic types: weighted or dial gauge. Dial gauges can be more accurate, but need to be calibrated annually. My pressure canner has both types of gauges, which means I can calibrate myself and then use the dial gauge for accuracy.

I bought my pressure canner many years ago, new, for about $100. In my opinion, it is an extremely worthwhile investment. On the other hand, since then, I have begun going to auctions and I see pressure canners go for a buck or two, so you can probably pick one up used for next to nothing.

The USDA provides a full description of how to pressure can, which are also included in the "Blue Ball Book" with thorough illustrations.

My pressure canning recipes are for 0-1000 ft above sea level; the pressure needs to be adjusted for higher altitudes.

boiling-water bath canning

Many of the recipes provided below can be canned in a boiling-water bath. Note that recipes that call for pressure canning *must* be pressure canned to be safe; there is no safe way to convert them to boiling-water bath canning.

To do boiling-water bath canning, you can buy a large enamel canner, or use any pot that will allow the jars to be covered by water when placed on a rack in the pot. The actual canners are often available at auctions for a buck.

The USDA provides a full description of how to boiling-water bath can, which are also included in the "Blue Ball Book" with thorough illustrations.

My boiling-water bath canning recipes are for 0-1000 ft above sea level; processing times need to be adjusted for higher altitudes.

open kettle canning and steam canning

These methods are not USDA-approved as safe and therefore not recommended.

canning fruits

Quick definitions:

jam
A thick product made from cooked-down pureed fruit which is gelled.
jelly
A clear product made from fruit juice which is gelled.
preserves
Whole fruits or large pieces preserved in a thick syrup or thin jelly. Preserves are a pourable product as opposed to jams and jellies.
conserves
Similar to jam, but contains large chunks of fruit as well as puree. Often contains nuts and/or dried fruits.
marmalade
Chunks of fruit suspended in a clear jelly, usually containing citrus peel.
chutney
A spiced, pickled fruit relish.
pectin
Product made from fruit that causes liquid mixtures to gel. Most pectin requires sugar to work properly. Pectin comes in powdered and liquid forms and recipes differ depending on what type you use.
sugar-free pectin
To make sugar-free preserves, you need to use what is known as a low-methoxyl pectin with calcium added. These types of pectin contain a package of the pectin, and a package of calcium which you mix up to make calcium water. There's a number of different brands available, I use Pomona’s Universal Pectin.

Whatever recipe you are using, it's important not to double the recipe as it's unlikely that the product will gel properly. It's also important to note that half pints gel better than larger sizes. Finally, over-processing can interfere with gelling also.

Most packages of pectin include recipes inside them, so you rarely need to find a recipe for most common jams and jellies.

root-cellaring and dehydrating

I once tried canning gobs of garden produce and discovered that even home canned vegetables tend to be mushy and water-logged. With the exception of corn, they tasted as unappetizing as the store-bought canned vegetables I grew up on. So I switched most of my vegetable preservation efforts to dehydrating and root-cellaring. Better-tasting and much less work!

root-cellaring

Root-cellaring is simply storing whole foods in a cold environment that allows them to keep for many months. Two basic types of environments are useful, the first being a damp environment and the second being a dry environment, which can be somewhat warmer than the moist environment. Both environments must stay as cold as possible without freezing, be rodent-proof and have good ventilation.

A few vegetables store best in a *very* moist environment. Typically, you store them in a bucket of damp sand.

We live in an old stone house whose basement is pretty cool even throughout summer. It is also very damp down there. We placed a dead freezer in the basement, drilled some holes for ventilation, then covered the holes with screen to keep the freezer rodent-proof.

Typically, people use an attic for dry, cool storage. While an attic doesn't stay cool in summer, it is generally cool fall through spring, which is when you want to preserve foods. Because our house is only heated on the first floor, the spare bedroom on the second floor works as an "attic" for us since our real attic is relatively inaccessible.

A good reference on root-cellaring is the book "Putting Food By." Walton Feed has a site on root-cellaring.

dehydrating

Dehydrating can be done by many methods: simple air-drying on screens in the sun, solar dehydraters, dehydraters built into stoves, drying in a very slow oven with the door propped open, or electric dehydraters made specifically for dehydrating. I use an electric dryer because I picked one up at an auction for only a couple bucks.

A useful reference for dehydrating foods in an electric dehydrator is the American Harvest manual, which I have printed out to refer to in my kitchen.

Dehydrated foods are most conveniently used in soups and stews, where the rehydrate naturally during the cooking process. Otherwise, The dried food needs to be reconstituted by soaking in hot water before cooking.

A useful reference for comparing dehydrated food to rehydrated food is the water content of foods from Walton Feed. I keep this printout handy in my kitchen for reference also.

food preservation recipes



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