I go through these phases every so often where I just want to stay home and putter around the kitchen, making everything from scratch. Then after a couple of weeks I get tired of it all and I want to just go to a restaurant and get served, buy the convenience foods and otherwise get out of the kitchen.
But this year, part of my Resolution #2 is to simplify my life, which means staying home more and getting rid of excess. This includes excessive spending at restaurants. And when it comes to “excess,” I’m also lumping man-made chemicals and convenience foods into that category. I want to get back to the earth more, and know that I could be completely self-sufficient if I needed to be.
I know that convenience foods are “simple,” and making your own stuff from scratch is “not simple,” but it still makes me feel so much better about myself and my health, AND keeps me grounded. It may even cost a bit less, overall.
SO. Here are a few things I’ve made from scratch this week so far:
1) Homemade Dog Treats
My dog is extremely picky. He won’t eat any dog treats unless they’re made from real, 100% meat. This means a bunch of bags of Beggin’ Strips and Duck Rolls and assorted other store-bought treats have gone to waste. The only treat I found that he liked was Chicken Jerky, so for awhile I was buying large bags of Kingdom Pets brand at Costco.
And then I heard that pets were dying of liver failure possibly linked to these made-in-China treats.
So I figured why buy the stuff and possibly kill my dog when I’ve got a perfectly good dehydrator that sits underutilized. So I started making my own jerky, and it’s super easy. I’ve dehydrated chicken breasts and I’ve dehydrated beef. I used the meat that was stuck to soup bones twice, and an inexpensive skirt steak once. The skirt steak was definitely better, the other was too fatty.
It’s also fairly inexpensive if you get the meat on sale. I bought a package of 5 chicken breasts on sale for $4.xx something and sliced it all up into small pieces and it filled all 5 trays of the dehydrator. I don’t marinate it or anything. I don’t see the purpose … my dog is going to eat them anyway, why go to the extra work and expense and mess … marinade would drip worse than plain meat does.
I would say it lasted long enough to make it worthwhile, except I’ve now turned my dog into a Doggone Spoiled Jerky Fiend. This dog now LIVES to get treats. Where I used to give him two to three store-bought strips a day, now (because I made the first batch so small) he expects to get one whenever the idea pops into his mind. That’s my fault, because I made three strips stretch across the whole day by cutting them smaller, so now he just expects to get a treat on demand. Well, at least he is very, very good at sitting on command.
I also read that a lot of dogs like dried sweet potato, so I made those last night.
What a waste. The dog touched his tongue to one and turned his nose up and refused to touch it again. I actually don’t blame him. They’re not that tasty. I guess the critters outside won’t be so picky, though. They’ll get a nice little winter treat this week.
And then there’s always the old standard, the BONE.
2) Beef Broth
Speaking of bones, they’re pretty cheap so I decided to make some beef broth, for the second time in my life. The first time I made it, it smelled absolutely heavenly while cooking, but didn’t taste all that great. So this time I put garlic and spices and celery tops into the broth while it cooked, and that improved the flavor muchly.
3) Almond Milk
Almond milk is actually pretty easy to make. You just soak a cup of almonds overnight and then blend them with 4 cups of water the next morning. It takes a bit of time to press the mixture through a strainer (twice) to get an ungritty milk, but I feel the results are worth it. I use the almond milk primarily as a base for a protein shake mix I have. The resulting drink fills me up for hours and is truly an effective meal replacement.
4) Hash Browns
Hash browns are SUPER EASY to make, and I love whipping them up for breakfast. I just take one peeled potato and grate it, then fry it in the olive oil left in the pan after I’ve made my eggs, sprinkled with garlic salt. YUM!
And while the hash browns in the store are probably pretty natural and without preservatives (although, I haven’t looked at a package lately, so I don’t know), I’ve never liked how the frozen ice crystals make them watery in the pan. These are so easy that there’s virtually no excuse to buy them anymore.
Okay, so I saw this recipe for Tepache in a book and the recipe itself said, “you may not like this, but why not give it a try anyway because it’s a fun little thing to do with leftover pineapple that you’d only throw away anyway.”
So, I did. Except I bought the pineapple expressly for the purpose of making this drink, so it wasn’t exactly “using leftovers.” But it looked easy and, more importantly, quick. And the pineapple was delicious. 🙂
I started with a pile of pineapple rind and skins, coarsely chopped. I covered with a cup of brown sugar and buried two cinnamon sticks in the mix, then covered with water. Let sit under a towel on the counter for 1-3 days, then strained into bottles and capped for another 1-3 days.
I hope I like it. The first taste (from the small “tester” bottle that you make in order to test the carbonation) was Okay.
SO. Stay tuned this winter to see if I make more things from scratch. My resolution is to be “glued to the house” as my husband says, so even when that day comes when I get sick of the kitchen, I’ll think about the money I’m saving and how nice it is to be at home more (so I can WRITE), and hopefully I’ll stick to my resolution.
It tastes like pineapple beer. 🙂