Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Homemade Baby Food

Think you don't have the time to make your own baby food?  Worried you need a specific recipe or that you are going to do it wrong?  Read on to see how easy it really is to mash up food for your baby to eat.
Baby Food Hell
Photo attribution here
I find it amusing that there are entire websites and books dedicated to baby food recipes.  I mean, seriously, why can't you just mash up the foods you and your family are already eating and feed them to your baby?    When I eat an apple, I get out my handy food mill and grind some apple up for the baby.  When I steam broccoli I grab my food mill again and mash some up for the baby to eat.  And you know what?  She eats it.  And she loves it.  And it's easy.  And it's cheap.

I am no expert on baby-ness, but I do know two things.  First, making your own baby food is cheap.  Way cheaper than buying prepackaged baby mush at the store.  Make a small investment in a food mill and you are set for toddlers to come.  Second, making your own baby food is healthy.  (Provided, of course, that you aren't grinding up chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cups and feeding that deliciousness to the baby for dinner.)  It's fresh and you know exactly what you put into it

With my first child I dutifully bought small containers of over-priced baby food, fed him his peas and beans, waited three days before introducing a new food, and was a total stress case the entire time.  Things changed with my second.

I bought this handy dandy baby food mill and I use it several times a day.  It's easy to use (assemble three parts, insert food, and turn) and easy to clean (although it is best to clean it right after using it so the food doesn't have time to get hard and crusty).  When I'm not using it for baby food my three-year-old is using it to pretend like he's driving a truck.  Everyone loves it!  This is the one I have, and it's cheaper on Amazon than it was where I bought it.

That's my whole plug for making your own baby food.  I make it as I go, but if you need to make a larger batch and store it in the freezer for later use there are some really nifty baby food freezer containers for sale on Amazon, too.

Happy food mashing!

(Note: The links in this post are my affiliate links.  I will never recommend anything to my readers that I wouldn't buy myself.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Make and Can Homemade Jam

There is seriously nothing better than homemade jam on hot homemade bread.  Since I covered how to make bread in my last post, I'm going to show you how to make jam today.

Here is a list of what you need before you start making your jam.  For a more complete review of the gear you need to start canning and preserving see my post here.
  • Hot water bath canner
  • Canning utensil set
  • Mason Jars and Lids (5 pint jars or 9-1/2 pint jars per batch)
  • Pectin (I use Sure-Jell, but any pectin will work fine)
  • 3-4 pounds of sugar per batch
  • 2-3 pound of fruit per batch, depending on the fruit and the recipe
The instructions found in the box of pectin will tell you exactly how much fruit and sugar you need.  In the video I made raspberry jam, which calls for 5 cups of crushed berries and 7 cups of sugar (I know, why do you think it tastes so good?) The instructions for preparing the jam are the same no matter what fruit you are using, although the ratio of fruit to sugar does change slightly.  Follow the instructions from the pectin box as precisely as possible to be sure your jam sets.  I hope this video helps as you prepare and preserve your own jam!
Homemade jam on homemade English muffins...YUM!

(Note: Some links in this post are my affiliate links. I will never recommend anything to my readers that I wouldn't buy myself.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

I have been making homemade bread for about six months now.  Last week we ran out and I was feeling so tired and pregnant that I decided to splurge and buy a loaf from the store.  Wow, that was a BIG disappointment!  It was the first time we have bought bread for six months and the taste and texture were just awful.  Needless to say, today I made two batches of bread:)  Our home smells amazing.

Making homemade bread is a "win" situation no matter how you slice it (that pun was for my husband).  It tastes better than bread from the store, it's healthier because you control what goes into it, and it's cheaper.  After trying out several bread recipes and putting them to the test on my husband's refined palate, this is the recipe that won time after time.  I got it from my friend, Jill, so we call it Jill's Bread.  She got it from her mom who got it somewhere else, but I think it's just easier to give all the credit to Jill:)  I now make a batch of bread every week and we love it.  There is nothing more cozy than a home that smells like fresh-baked bread.

Today I am going to give you a bread recipe, tell you where to buy everything, do a cost breakdown, and do a calorie breakdown.  Hold on to your horses.

Jill's Bread:  I use three normal loaf pans (9 in. x 5 in.), but Jill uses five small loaf pans (8 in. x 4 in.).  It's really a matter of your preference of how big you like your loaves and your slices of bread.
  • 12 cups whole wheat flour (I grind my own wheat, but you can buy the flour already ground)
  • 3 Tbsp. yeast
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 4-6 cups lukewarm water
Directions:  Grease your loaf pans.  Combine gluten, honey, oil, yeast, and salt in mixer (if you have a Bosch or KitchenAid) and mix on medium speed with the dough hook attachment.  While the mixer is still going, add one cup of flour at a time, while slowly pouring in the water.  When dough begins pulling away from the sides of the bowl and the dough is slightly sticky to the touch, stop adding flour and water.  Knead bread on low for 8 minutes, or knead by hand.

Take dough out of mixer and place on slightly floured surface.  Form into a smooth ball and separate into 3 (or 5 if using small loaf pans) equal portions.  Smooth each ball and place in prepared pans.  Let rise about 30 minutes, or until double.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes for regular loaf pans, 25 minutes for small loaf pans.

Let me give you a few pointers that I have learned to make things go more smoothly:
  • I don't have a Bosch or a KitchenAid, but I do have a bread maker that does the kneading for me.  I mix all the dry ingredients together first and then add the wet ingredients and let my bread maker knead for about 20 minutes.
  • Use the same measuring cup for the oil and for the honey.  If you measure the oil first, the honey will slip right out of the measuring cup and be easier to clean up.
  • Don't let the bread rise too much in the loaf pans or it will collapse when you cook it.  Maybe we have a warm kitchen because we live in Arizona, but I never let my loaves rise for more than 30 minutes.
  • I always add about 4 cups of water.  Sometimes I add a little more than that, but I have never added close to 6 cups.  Maybe it depends on where you live (altitude, humidity).  I don't know.  You want your dough sticky, but not so wet that you could wring it out:)
If you have a membership to Costco or Sam's Club you will want to buy all of the ingredients there except for wheat and wheat gluten.  I buy my wheat at the LDS Cannery in Mesa (they have locations all over the place) and then grind it on my own.  You don't have to be a member of the church to buy stuff there.  Just walk in and ask for a bag of wheat and they'll sell it to you.  I buy my wheat gluten on Amazon, although you can find it at Sprouts or Wal-Mart.  It's just slightly cheaper and much easier to have it delivered right to my door:)  Here is the link if you want to buy it on Amazon: Bob's Red Mill Gluten Flour, 22-Ounce Packages (Pack of 4)

Cost Breakdown:  When I first started making bread I really wondered if I was saving any money at all since it seemed like some of the ingredients (especially the honey) were really expensive.  So I did my own cost analysis to find out.  Here is what I found:
  • 25 pounds wheat = $11.45
  • 2 pounds yeast = $4.68
  • 4 pounds salt = $0.98
  • 22 oz. bag vital wheat gluten = $5.02
  • 1.25 gallons vegetable oil = $8.99
  • 5 pounds honey = $9.77
After doing lots of boring math (that I found exciting) I found that at the prices I have listed it costs $3.52 per batch of bread.  If you make 3 loaves, like I do, it's $1.17 per loaf.  Not bad!  This week at the store I found that really nice bread like Oroweat runs about $3 per loaf on sale.  Even if you go for the cheap generic sandwich bread you are still looking at $1.50 per loaf.  Savings all around!

Nutrition Breakdown:  I wanted to do this just to make sure I wasn't going to make myself fatter by making my own bread.  Again, through lots of boring calculations that I really enjoyed doing I found that there are about 7,840 calories per batch of bread.  If you make 3 loaves out of it and slice it into 15 slices each (using my awesome bread slicer here) then it works out to be about 175 calories per slice.  Obviously, that would be less if you make 5 smaller loaves per batch (around 130 calories per slice).  Oroweat bread costs you around 100 calories per slice, so there is definitely a trade-off there.  However, in store-bought bread there are a lot of preservatives and fillers.  In the sandwich loaf I bought this week I counted almost 30 ingredients!  Homemade bread is great because there are only 7 ingredients and you can control the quality of everything you mix into it.  So I guess it's just a trade-off.

I really love this recipe because it uses 100% whole wheat, which means it's loaded with fiber.  There are 216 grams of fiber per batch of this baby, which breaks down to 4.8 grams of fiber per slice.  There are also 203 grams of protein per batch, which means 4.5 grams of protein per slice.  That ain't bad.

Have I convinced you to make your own bread yet?  I promise, once you do, you'll never go back to the stuff you find on the shelf at the grocery store:)

(Note: Some links in this post are my affiliate links. I will never recommend anything to my readers that I wouldn't buy myself.) 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Zaycon Chicken $1.49/lb.

I wanted to post this as soon as found out because it is a real steal!  Zaycon is selling chicken for $1.49/lb.  That's not a typo, that's simply the best price you will ever find for boneless skinless chicken breasts.  I just ordered myself 80 pounds of it.  Maybe that sounds like a lot, but I ordered 40 pounds last March and have been surprised at how fast we have gone through it.  This time I am planning to can about 50 pounds of it (for my post on how to can chicken go here).  With the other 30 pounds I am planning to make freezer meals in preparation for our baby to arrive.  Hopefully I won't have to cook for a couple of months that way:)

For those of you who are new readers, Zaycon Foods is a Spokane-based company that brings fresh meats and other products directly to consumers at wholesale prices. Their specialty is Fresh Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts – 100% natural, no added hormones, additives or artificial ingredients. Even better is that their chicken comes directly from the farm – it is never frozen, and always fresh. The chicken is sold in 40 lb. boxes, and comes packaged in (4) 10 lb. bags – (perfect for those that want to split a box with another family).

The process is easy:  you order from Zaycon directly through their secure website, and then you pick up your order at a specific Zaycon Food Savings event.  For those of you in Arizona they have locations in Mesa, Peoria, Queen Creek, Chandler, Marana, Flagstaff, Prescott, Goodyear, Tucson, Maricopa, and Casa Grande.  The date and time for pick up are different for each location, so check their website here.  For my readers in Utah they have locations all along the Wasatch Front and in St. George.  They also have locations in Idaho, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and in most states throughout the country.  If I were you I would go ahead and register on their website so you can receive email notifications when they have events near you

How can you get it on this amazing deal?
  • Register at Zaycon Foods to be notified of future sales.
  • Place your order and select a pick up location.
  • Pick up your chicken at the time and location you have selected.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!