JELL-O TRICKS


I think most everyone knows this trick by now, but it always amazes me how much better it makes a bowl of Jell-O so I thought it was worth mentioning again.

Around our house we always put canned fruit (peaches or pears usually) in the Jell-O for a little bit of extra UMPH! When you drain those canned fruits, use a sieve and drain them into the measuring cup for the cold water first. Then just add enough water to bring the level to where you need it. I usually get about 1 1/4 cup of fruit juice. Doing this will make for a better, more substantial flavor to any Jell-O.

Just after I pour in the Jell-o I use a small salad fork to stir up the fruit in each bowl. The fruit is usually well distributed in the Jell-O. We also don’t like the film that forms on the top.

And I hated trying to stack all the bowls in the refrigerator, so I started using my Pampered Chef prep bowls for making Jell-O. Once you’ve made it, put the lids on and you can easily stack them in the frig. If I keep this made, we both tend to eat this at night when the munchies strike and stay away from the chips and ice cream.

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HOMEMADE CHICKEN BROTH & STOCK UP TIPS

At this time of year, I’m usually stocking up for winter in the wild and snowy north.  I start with LARGE bulk packs of meat.  I then break them down by size and meat right down to cutting certain recipes into bite sized pieces.  Then I wrap them in freezer paper because I really hate freezer burn!  And I package them into pre-labeled ziploc bags for the freezer.

I didn’t get a secondary picture, but I then wrap the center of each one with a strip of duct tape.  Yep, you read that right, duct tape.  Just a small strip.  Enough so when they’re stacked in the back of the freezer you can identify the meat.  I buy it in colors – red for beef, green for chicken and blue for pork.  It makes it soooooooo much easier when you’re searching in the freezer for the right meat.
Many times this prep includes rotisserie chickens.  My market at home has buy one, get one free on Tuesdays.  Can you figure out when I did my shopping? By the time I get home and put away the groceries, the rotisserie chickens are cool enough to pick off the bone.  The bowl below is the skin, congealed juices and bones I collected as I stripped 2 birds.
I think Martha (MM) and I met over some post about buying in bulk and we found a common ground – saving money!  Talk to your butcher.  Many times you can save even more than the advertised sale prices.  For example, recently my local market was running a sale on chuck roast.  None of the roasts were as large as I really needed for company so I asked the butcher if they had one the size I wanted and instead she offered up a manager’s daily sale (in the bulk section just a few feet away from the ones I was looking at) where I could buy twice as much for half as much saving me $8 over what I intended to spend and gave me enough for 3 meals.  I made ALL the chuck roast as Pot Roast & Veggies for company and then used the leftovers to make Ortega Chile Bake and Beef Chili.
I then use a large stock pot and cover the “debris” with water.  I set it to simmer on a low temp and let it go for an hour or so.  I don’t add any seasonings since I’ve normally bought mesquite broiled or lemon herb, but adjust according to your tastes.

 Then I drain it into my large 8 cup measuring cup and allow it to cool.

I have several of these containers that I bought just for chicken stock in the freezer.  I haven’t bought chicken stock in over 10 years now.  It’s just so easy to make your own.  Even if I start with raw chicken and poach it for a recipe I add seasonings and by the time the chicken is done, there is several cups of broth ready for the freezer.

Today’s flavor was Mesquite broiled so it left us with a spicy red color also.

So what do you do to get ready for winter?  Have I motivated you to stock up?

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TIPS FROM AN EX-CATERER

While out blog surfing today, I happened on a fun new cooking blog, The Church Cook, who had a wonderful post about food preparation.  The post had 10 tips and but they are really good tips.  I’ll list the tips for you, then you can go check out the whys behind them.
  • Use your hands
  • Use a thermometer
  • Keep ingredients close to you
  • Store food in ziploc bags
  • Use the timer
  • Weigh Your baking ingredients
  • Clean as you go
  • Freeze
  • Prep ahead
  • Have Fun Sharing

aprons 3

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Health Department Ratings and what it means to you…

I spent most of my adult life working in the food industry on the west coast. This meant strict adherence to city, county and state codes and constant health inspections. We were in LA County where the restaurants are actually letter rated and that letter is posted for public viewing. There was also no smoking in any facility nor any pets allowed. SO imagine my surprise when we came here to work on this investment house and found that not only are there no letter grades, facilities are full of smoking, people walk in with their personal pets and let them run around as well as enough other numerous offenses that would have their doors permanently closed in most other cities and states. The county I’m currently in (thank goodness only temporarily) is said to ‘do their own thing’ and while that seems to be accepted as the norm, it is still wrong, only no one wants to deal with it so it continues. We eat at home 99% of the time because of this. This post came to be because hubby wants to take me out for my birthday next week and I don’t want to go. LOL you read that right I’m turning down a dinner out. Hubby wouldn’t hear of it, so we compromised on a restaurant in the next state, an hour away.

Many other states are following suit with the California program and it is actually being found that air borne illness and hospitalization are on the decrease since the grading system was instituted and that the number of ‘A’ graded restaurants is on the increase. In Los Angeles you can visit this site to see the rating for any particular restaurant. An ‘A’ or ‘B’ is an acceptable grade in LA County. A ‘C’ gives you a bit of time to get your grade up before the next inspection. A ‘D’ or ‘F’ will close your business. I, for one have no problems with the health inspectors checking for proper temperatures, lack of infestation, proper storage methods, etc… Environmental health affects us all at a social level.

The following is a direct quote from the Retail Food Inspection Guide.

The goal of food inspections is to reduce those risk factors which contribute to foodborne illness. Environmental Health is required to use a grading system to indicate how well food service operators are fulfilling their responsibility in the prevention of foodborne illnesses. All facilities receive grades which are posted on the website. However, only those facilities located in cities that have adopted Ordinance #97-0071 or located within the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County are required to post the Grade / Score Card at the facility. The grade or score that a food facility receives reflects the conditions observed at the time of the inspection. Each food facility inspection begins with 100 points. As the EHS conducts an inspection, the appropriate categories in Section I – VI on the FOIR will be marked. The categories in Sections I and II and the subcategories in Section III have been assigned a specific point value based on the associated publichealth risk of the violation. This point value is deducted from the 100 points. To determine a facility’s grade; the EHS must first add all of the point deductions from the marked violation categories in Section I – II and subcategories in Section III. That total is then subtracted from the 100 points.

A grade card (A, B, and C) or a score card will be issued at the end of the inspection based on the remaining points:

  • 90 to 100 points A Generally superior in food handling practices and overall food facility maintenance.
  • 80 to 89 points B Generally good in food handling practices and overall food facility maintenance.
  • 70 to 79 points C Generally acceptable in food handling practices and overall general food facility maintenance.
  • 0 to 69 points Score Card Poor food handling practices and overall general food facility maintenance.

There are situations as determined by the EHS, where violations pose imminent health hazards that warrant immediate closure of the food facility, (e.g., sewage, no hot water, vermin, etc.). In those situations, the Public Health Permit will be suspended and a Notice of Closure * will be posted. This closure sign must remain posted until the facility permit is reinstated. This action does not affect the grade or score of the facility but is related to the conditions that warranted the closure.

Food Safety is not a matter of choice when you are serving the public or at least it shouldn’t be. Having a compromised immunity from Systemic Lupus and having spent so many years working in the industry attending classes and seminars I am very much aware and in tune to violations and just plain lack of responsibility. Both of which are running rampant here in this county in the north woods.

final blog signature.

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Let’s talk food!


I posted an entry at my personal blog Menagerie today about menu planning and shortcuts in the kitchen. Tamy and I posted things like this here at the Krazy Kitchen in the very early days. Since we have different memes each day of the week here now I’ve decided to pick up where we left off and post it at my main blog.

I got the OK from Tamy to post this in between memes this evening for a little shameless self promo. I hope you will all endure my extra long post over at Menagerie and play along to give me your own hints, tips and shortcuts in your kitchen! I need all the help I can get!

Have a great week!
Martha 🙂

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COOKING WITH KIDS

My most recent experience of cooking with kids was with my girl scouts on some simple tasks or the time with Amber this summer. What readily comes to my mind is my grandma teaching me way back when. She’d let me wear her apron which she so cleverly converted into a size that fit me pretty well. Then she would bring a kitchen chair over to the counter and let me climb up on it. She would let me help her do simple measurements or read her the recipe (that she already knew by heart, but wanted me to learn to understand) or stir pancake batter. When she taught me to measure it was EXACT. You used a table knife to level off the top of the measuring cup. She also taught me how to make the best cakes with double sifting. These days they say you don’t need to sift, but I feel I get a better texture and moister cake by still sifting.

No matter how old they are, kids want to help in the kitchen and we should be glad and welcome their eagerness. Much of our life revolves around food and cooking in one way or another and boys as well as girls should learn at the very least, the basics. As Barbara pointed out, even finicky eaters become better eaters when they are a part of the process of making their own food.

You can include children of all ages in any food preparation. Just be aware of their capabilities and base their tasks on that. For example, every kid wants to wield the meat cleaver, but probably shouldn’t.

Start their tasks with simple ones like learning to measure correctly, snapping beans, washing vegetables, measuring rice, when to add the different ingredients and even simple things like cracking an egg which can certainly be messy, but every kid wants to do it! Grandma taught me to crack eggs into a separate bowl instead of directly into a recipe which turned out to be a very valuable lesson. You can always pick out egg shells if the only thing in the bowl is a single egg, but you don’t want to be doing it from a bowl with all your cookie makings in it. There was a point when I was using farm fresh eggs and let’s just say I was certainly glad I still used that separate bowl for eggs or my whole cookie batch would have needed to be tossed out. Kids can roll dough or meat into cookies or meatballs. They can use a fork to criss cross the tops of peanut butter cookies. Teaching them to clean up as they go will also be a benefit in so much of their life! If all goes well, this will also bleed over into cleaning up their toys and/or rooms.

As for that meat cleaver task at hand, you can take turns so that their tasks don’t involve the sharp implements, but yours do. Most importantly make it fun for you and them. The more fun they have, the more likely they are to want to learn more and more.

This post originally ran as a guest post series for Barbara over at Candy Hearts and Paper Flowers who is hosting the Homemaking September Shape-up. It was an all around comprehensive house to home style of posts to help us get our homes and lives whipped into shape.
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FAMILY DINNERS, HOLIDAYS & ORGANIZING FOR A CROWD

I had a houseful for the Christmas holidays so I will use that as my example.
Besides menu planning and doing everything you can to organize, my best advice is to use cutting boards to aid in stacking items in the refrigerator and use cookie sheets as lids in the oven so you can stack multiple dishes on each shelf and have room for the Turkey or Ham and all your side dishes so they’ll all be ready at the same time.

For a crowd that will be around for an extended amount of time, I also try to prepare dishes in advance and freeze them when possible so that I don’t spend all my ‘visiting time’ in the kitchen. I spent the better part of a day cooking, but it was well worth it as it saved me tons of time while my company ass here.

So to recap:
1) Menu Plan
2) Organize
3) Pre-make as much as possible
4) Stay organized or at least reorganize as necessary

for example:
12/17 ~ Spaghetti Bolegnese & Garlic Bread (sauce was made today and frozen)*
12/18 ~ Winter Soup & Beer Bread (soup was made today and frozen)
12/19 ~ Crock Pot Lasagne & Garlic Bread (sauce was made today and frozen)*
12/20 ~ Everything but the Kitchen Sink Soup & Buttermilk Biscuits & honey (soup made today and frozen)
12/21 ~ Garlic Shrimp Pasta
12/22 ~ Chicken Cacciatore (sauce made today and frozen)*
12/23 ~ Meatloaf Muffins & Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes
12/24 ~ Pot Roast & Veggies & Mashed Potatoes & Corn Flake Wreaths & Peanut Butter Bourbon Balls
12/25 ~ Rum Raisin Glazed Ham, Holiday Carrot Casserole, Garlic Smashers, Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie
12/26 ~ Chicken Enchiladas and Chile Cornbread (enchiladas made today and frozen)
12/27 ~ CORN (Clean Out Refrigerator Night)
12/28 ~ Lemon Lime Pepper Chicken & Cranberry Rice Pilaf (Rice made today and frozen)
12/29 ~ Taco Ring Salad
12/30 ~ Out for mom’s 69th birthday
12/31 ~ Chicken Fried Chicken with Peppered Gravy & Mashed Potatoes
1/1 ~ Creamy Tomato Soup & Cheddar Cheese Biscuits
1/2 ~ Stuffed Shells & Garlic Bread (Shells made today and frozen)
1/3 ~ CORN
1/4 ~ Meatloaf with a kick & Maple glazed carrots
1/5 ~ out on the way to the airport

All the meals that aren’t already prepared have been proportioned out and seasoned before freezing so they’re immediately ready after thawing.
Now I’ve given you a rather large example, so think how easy it will be to do just a Sunday family dinner after church? All the same principles apply just in a smaller proportion.

*I used the same sauce on all of these so I made a HUGE batch which saved me soooooooooooooooooooooooooo much time!!

This post originally ran as a guest post series for Barbara over at Candy Hearts and Paper Flowers who is hosting the Homemaking September Shape-up. It was an all around comprehensive house to home style of posts to help us get our homes and lives whipped into shape.

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OVERALL KITCHEN ORGANIZATION

What do you get when you cross 2 Virgos with organization, OCD and a love of cooking? A new blog of course! Martha and I are both pleased at how well tHe KrAzY KiTcHeN has taken off. This is still a new blog and we are ‘under construction’ and growing wildly. Thank you everyone for your support, encouragement, participation and as always we welcome all suggestions!

So now to continue with my kitchen organization posts. The last couple of days we have already touched on parts of this with the pantry and what needs to go in it. Kitchens are the heart of our homes, but no one wants to spend ALL their time in them, so the object is to make our jobs fun and easy. This is actually one of the easiest tasks to accomplish. Do you like having your counters completely clear or do you prefer everything to be within hands reach. Your choice! This is a purely subjective organization. WHAT DO YOU WANT?? Have fun and be creative. There is no right or wrong, it’s all up to you.

Arranging your appliances, tools, spices and cookware in the most efficient manner helps you enjoy your kitchen time more. For example, I store my Pyrex and Tupperware in the cabinet next to my dishwasher and sink so that when I clear the table, my storage containers are where the plates and bowls are making it easier to clean up. I keep that section of counter virtually clear of everything since that is where I make the biggest mess. I also keep my coffee maker near the sink since that’s where the water is. Spices near the stove make seasoning easier. My pots and pans are next to the stove as are baking pans, cookie sheets and all baking paraphernalia (sifters, measuring cups, choppers, etc…) with mixing bowls next to all of that.

If at all possible you want your stove, refrigerator and sink in a triangle with a work island or butcher block in the center. The fewer steps you take, the less mess you make is the theory. Have fun organizing. I can’t wait to see your kitchens. Here’s mine if you’re curious.

This post originally ran as a guest post series for Barbara over at Candy Hearts and Paper Flowers who is hosting the Homemaking September Shape-up. It was an all around comprehensive house to home style of posts to help us get our homes and lives whipped into shape.

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