"Reclaiming Homemade in a Small Space"

Friday, March 30, 2012

How to get rid of stinky dish cloths....

Does this happen to y'all? 
A wadded up dish cloth in the sink....smelly and nasty?  Maybe it got left overnight under a dish, maybe one of your kids (or husband) mopped up a spill and didn't rinse it out well, or perhaps it was just used a day too long.  The mildew-y smell gets the better of it and off to the laundry it goes.  It gets washed and dried with your regular laundry and STILL smells funky!  This has happened to me often.  I ended up throwing away dish rags I thought were now useless.  A couple of days ago, I opened the linen drawer in The Teeny Kitchen That Could and was nearly knocked over with the funk.   I had JUST done laundry!  There must be a way to get these wash cloths clean and fresh.  I did a little research and a bit of thinking and came up with a way to get rid of the unpleasant smell.  It is simple and you probably have what you need right now to fix the problem! 

Place 1/2 to 3/4 c. of baking soda in a bucket or container that will hold a gallon of water.  Then add a gallon of HOT water.   Add your wash cloths, stir them up and then let them sit overnight.  In the morning, dump the entire thing in your washing machine and add detergent.  (Enough for a small load.)  Run it like you normally would.  Dry in your machine and voila! clean smelling rags.
I am just so pleased that I got rid of that nasty stink I had to share it with you all!  Please feel free to pass this one along to all your friends!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cannellini Tuscan Bean Soup

HURRY!  Before it gets too warm, make this soup!  Actually, it is never too warm in the Smith house for soup.  We love it fall, winter, spring and summer.  But if you are one that only eats soup when it is cold, you might change your mind when you try this one.  It is sooo good.  I am not actually sure where I found this recipe.  I am sure that my husband, Matt,  probably sent it to me.  I wish I could give credit where credit is due, because this soup is fabulous!  Did I mention that it was easy too?  Good for those busy weeknights when you don't have a lot of time to prepare dinner.  Chop a few veggies, open a few cans....dinner!

I hadn't heard of cannellini beans until I tried this soup.  They are a white Italian kidney bean, similar in flavor to navy beans or Great northern beans.  They come canned or dried.  At first, I couldn't find them where we lived at the time, so the recipe didn't get made. A new grocery store opened up near us and they carried Bush's canned cannellini beans.  I bought the cans and made this soup one night.  YUM!  If you can't find cannellini beans where you are, just try using navy or Great northern beans.

Cannellini Tuscan Bean Soup:
Printable recipe
4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 - 15 oz. cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 bay leaf
salt to taste

2 T. olive oil
2 T. minced garlic
1/2 t. crushed red pepper
1/4 c. fresh basil, sliced
salt to taste

In a Dutch oven over medium high heat, cook bacon, carrot, onion and celery for about 5 to 7 minutes.  Don't get the bacon crispy...it will be blended into the soup.

 Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.

Now is the time to add your beans.
Add the chicken broth, wine, bay leaf and about 1 t. salt.  Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.  While this is simmering away, it is time to prep the topping.  In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add minced garlic, crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt until garlic is ever so slightly browned around the edges.  Take off the heat and add basil.  Stir it around until basil is wilted.
  I didn't have any fresh basil on hand so I subbed in 2 t. dried basil.  Set aside.

After the soup as finished simmering, whip out your immersion blender.
Place in the soup at a slight (slight!) angle and turn on.   If you leave it straight up and down, it will take forever for the soup to puree.  If you tilt it too much, you will be mad at me for suggesting it while you wipe down your walls that are covered in sticky, hot soup!
Correct angle
Straight up and down....wrong!
If you don't have an immersion blender...don't despair!  You can put the soup either in your blender or a food processor.  But please keep in mind that hot liquids need more space to blend than cold ones.  If you fill the blender or food processor past half full....again, you will be mad at me while you wipe down walls covered in sticky, hot soup.  So use caution!  After you've blended your soup, it should be completely smooth.  Taste it to adjust your seasoning at this time.
Add a pinch of the topping to each bowl and serve with a nice salad and some crusty bread!
Some other notes before you get started.  I didn't use canned beans when I did this recipe this time.  I have a wonderful access to dried cannellini beans so I used a pound of dried beans.   I did the basic overnight soak of the beans and then cooked them for 2 hrs.  before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.  You also do not have to blend the soup, but I feel like you will lose some in the texture if you do not.  Lastly, if you do not want to use wine, substitute 1/2 c. chicken stock.  I already mentioned my substitution of the dried basil for fresh.    And here is a bonus for reading to the end:  One cup is only 157 calories and has 9.4 grams of fiber!  Good for you and delicious!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Butternut Squash and Sausage Breakfast Hash- Low Carb and Delicious!

A year or so ago, I got serious about losing weight.  I was desperate...I was at my highest non-pregnant weight.  So I investigated different diets and found one that I thought would work.  It was an elimination diet that started off severely limiting carbs.  We ended up hating the diet and not losing any weight, but something good DID come out of it.  This recipe for breakfast hash. I had a flash of inspiration and thought I'd throw together butternut squash, red bell peppers and turkey sausage.  It was sooo good.  The best part is that a serving is 225 calories a pop!  It also uses red bell peppers and butternut squash...powerhouses nutrient wise.  With a little prep the night before, this will be come a staple at your house in the morning!

1 lb. turkey sausage
1 small butternut squash, about 3 c. diced (1/2 inch or smaller)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t. sage (or 3 fresh sage leaves, minced)
1/2 t. thyme
salt and pepper to taste (I used Cavender's Greek Seasoning)

*For fast prep in the morning, peel and dice your squash and bell pepper the night before.  Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin of the butternut squash.  Don't chop up the onions or garlic for overnight storage, it makes them bitter.

In a large skillet over med. high heat, brown your turkey sausage. (While the sausage cooks, dice up the onion and garlic.)

After it is completely browned, move it to a plate and keep warm.  Add the onions, bell pepper and butternut squash to the pan.
Add the sage, thyme, salt and pepper.  Fresh sage and thyme are best but it is still delicious with the dried stuff.

Cook the veggies until the butternut squash is soft and has taken on some color, about 10 to 15 minutes.  You may need to add a bit of water to keep the veg from sticking.  (I had to add 1/2 c. twice during this cooking)  Keep in mind, the smaller the dice on the squash the faster it will cook.  Add the minced garlic a couple minutes before the cook time is over.  After the veggies are all cooked, add the turkey sausage to the party.

Mix well and heat through. Check seasoning and adjust if needed.
This makes 4 servings.  It is one of my favorite things to have for breakfast (along with my faithful cuppa coffee!), I find that it keeps me fuller longer.  Did I mention how yummy it is too?  I hope you find it as satisfying as we have.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reclaiming Granola! Clumpy granola at it best.

I am a granola junkie....there is something about the crunchy, sweet oatmeal taste that is irresistible.  I love it for breakfast with skim milk.  I will eat it dry as a snack throughout the day and then for dessert, I will have it with whole milk or even cream!  I will eat it with yogurt......
"And I would eat them in a boat!
And I would eat them with a goat...
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good so good you see!"

I seem to recall begging my mom to buy granola in the store when I was a kid.  As an adult, I can't believe how expensive it is.  Have you looked at some of the designer brands of granola???  It's highway robbery! You know that means that I'm definitely going to try to reclaim it and make it my own.

I also craved some seriously custom granola, with no dried fruit (though you could certainly add some) and without puffed rice.  When I started making my own, I was disappointed with the lack of clumps...it was just individual pieces of oatmeal and nuts.  I wanted clumpy clusters in my granola.  I searched the internet for "clumpy granola" and found a recipe that gave me small clusters, better than none, but I wanted more.  The flavor, though, in that recipe was awesome!  I tried adding water to make it moister in the hopes that, when it baked, it would harden and make clumps. I stirred it like the recipe told me to.  Nope.  Still not clumpy like I wanted.  I continued using that recipe because it tasted so good.  A month or so ago I got my issue of Cook's Illustrated and saw a headline for Super Crunchy Granola.  I was so excited to try it.  It advocated using more oil to make it clumpy and not stirring it.  Aha!  I tried their recipe...it was an improvement on texture but not taste.  And still, not enough clumps.  I had a burst of inspiration and thought I'd take the recipe that tasted so good, Cook's Illustrated's method and just a little more oil and combine them.  I couldn't wait for this batch to come out of the oven.  It was PERFECT!  I could lift up the granola in one sheet and could break off pieces.  I'll have you know that a full third of the granola was gone before that day was over.  Everyone kept coming back for more.

Now before I start, let me give acknowledgement to the shoulders that I stood on to find my granola eutopia:  Alton Brown, Anna from cookie madness and Adam Ried from Cook's Illustrated.

Tools needed:  A lined baking sheet (lined with a Silpat or parchment paper), a metal spatula, 

Super Crunchy, Clumpy Granola:
3 c. old-fashioned oats
1 c. raw, slivered almonds
1 c. shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 to 3/4 t. salt (I used the larger amount...the salty and sweet combo is my fav!)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. maple syrup
4 T. brown sugar
2 T. honey
1 t. vanilla
1 c. dried fruit (opt.) 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, coconut and salt.

 In a small, microwaveable bowl, combine brown sugar, maple syrup, honey and oil.  If the combination of the brown sugar, syrup and honey seems like a bit of overkill, I have tried it with just one sweetener and the results are not the same.  The taste was flat.  The combination of the sugars and the salt is sooo good.  Heat in the microwave for one minute.  This just heats up the sugar so it dissolves and coats the oatmeal better.  Add the vanilla to the sugar mixture.  Pour this over your oats and nuts and toss to coat.
Turn out onto a Silpat lined baking sheet. With a metal spatula, press down hard on the granola.  This encourages good clumps!
Place in the oven for 15 min. then lower the heat to 250 and bake for another 30 or 40 minutes or until the edges are a golden brown.
 Let the granola cool completely.  You should be able to pick up nearly the entire sheet of granola after it cools.  Break it into bite sized pieces and then store in an airtight container.  If you want to add dried fruit, add about a cup now.
One of the best things about granola is that you can really do what you want with it.  I like almonds, but you can add pecans or cashews.  If you don't care for coconut, leave it out.  I'm going to try adding ground flax seed next time.  Certainly, sunflower seeds or sesame seeds would be in order.  This recipe also doubles fabulously....the container above is filled with a double batch.  If you do double it, make sure that you use another baking sheet and divide the large batch in two.  I encourage you to play with different combinations of nuts and flavors in YOUR granola!  Happy crunching!