Monthly Archives: May 2012

Cooking rice in a slow cooker. Who knew??

I think that nowadays there are so many kitchen gadgets and so many appliances out there that it might be nice to have one that can do a few things instead of just the one thing it was made for, don’t you think? I always thought I was the Queen of appliances when finding uses for them aside from what they were made to do. I had seen articles about using a crock pot to do rice but didn’t think it could possibly work.

When I was packing to move I decided to pack up things that I knew I wouldn’t be using right away and one of them was my family size rice cooker. (I can almost hear Grams laughing at me because back in her day there was no such thing,) Now that I have been unpacking guess what I can’t find…the power cord to the darn thing.

Soon it’s getting on dinner time and I am wondering what to do since I don’t want to eat noodles again. I’m thinking of rice but if there is one thing I will admit to hating to have to do in the kitchen, its cooking rice in a pot on the stove. It almost never comes out right. At least for me. My teenage daughter however seems to have that knack that I lack and can make really good rice. Me? I will stick to the rice cooker.

I decided to try the crockpot  (or slow cooker to my American friends) to cook the rice in, everyone says that it comes out perfect and I liked the idea of having some extra time to make a salad while waiting for the rice to cook.  Apparently you can cook whole meals that contain rice in the crockpot  and have perfection as well. Sounds to good to be true right? I decided to put it to the test.

I found a few recipes and went to work using both brown and white and basmati rice. The one that came out the best and that was simple is this one:

Spray the sides and bottom of your slow cooker with vegetable oil spray to keep the rice from sticking as it cooks. It likes to stick on the bottom near the walls of the ceramic liner so make sure you get that area well too.

Add two cups of white or brown rice to your slow cooker. Brown rice takes longer to cook.

Cut 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp. of butter or margarine into small pieces and arrange it over the rice. Pour in 3 1/3 cups of broth if you are cooking white rice and 3 2/3 cups of the broth for brown rice. I used plain water for mine. I also added a sprinkle of salt since I used water only.

Cover your slow cooker and set the heat setting to high.

Cook white rice for two hours and brown rice for three hours.

Gently stir the rice once during cooking time. Taste test a spoonful of the rice and cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes, if necessary. A two-quart or three-quart slow cooker is a good size for cooking rice as a side dish. Cooked rice will stay warm in your slow cooker for up to two hours after you turn off the heat.

I lifted the lid with apprehension and was expecting a pile of steamy mush but much to my surprise, there in front of me was a pot full of fluffy correctly cooked rice. It tasted great and fluffed up nice. I was really impressed! I didn’t need to let the crockpot go any longer either. The next time I used white rice and had the same result. Perfect! Then I tried brown. It was good too but I felt it cooked too long and would suggest depending on the slowcooker to cut back the time by 15 mins and start checking it or it will be too soft.
No one likes mushy rice.
I used this same method and then used the rice to make rice pudding for hubby and he loved it. Better than momma’s, I think Grams would be impressed. Its just too bad I didn’t know about this before I bought the rice cooker.
Here is a meal you can try for chicken and rice all at once.

Things You’ll Need

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • Unsalted butter or low fat margarine
  • 3 1/3 cups to 3 2/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Stir spoon
  • 1 can of low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can of low-sodium celery soup
  • 1 soup can full of skim milk or water
  • 1 envelope of low sodium onion soup mix
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 tsp. to 1/2 tsp. of paprika

Cook a Complete Meal

Step 1

Add and stir to combine the soups, skim milk or water, 1 tbsp. of dry onion soup mix and 4 tbsp. of unsalted butter or low-fat margarine in a saucepan. Heat the mixture on a stove top over medium heat, stirring once every minute, until the butter or margarine melts.

Step 2

Spray the sides and bottom of your slow cooker with vegetable oil spray.

Step 3

Add 1 1/2 cups of white or brown rice and 2/3 of the soup mixture to your slow cooker. Stir for one minute to make sure the soup mixture completely coats the raw rice. Set the chicken breasts on the top the rice, and pour the remaining soup mixture on top of the chicken. Sprinkle the remaining dry onion soup mix evenly over the chicken breasts, followed by the paprika.

Step 4

Cover your slow cooker and set the heat setting to low. Cook the chicken and rice for about two hours, and then remove the cover and stir. Continue cooking for an additional four to five hours without raising the cover or stirring the rice.

Step 5

Taste test a spoonful of the rice. If you are cooking brown rice, add up to 30 to 60 minutes of cooking time.

Next time I need to have a total mixed meal I am going to use the slow cooker with the rice!

Bon appetite!

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DIY: Hillbilly Washing Machine

20120521-diywasher-00

 

This is a great method for off-the-grid low-tech clothes washing or, in my case, diaper washing as part of the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge. For complete pictorial instructions pls visit: http://refashionista.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/diy-hillbilly-washing-machine/

The total cost to make this washer was around $6, and about 10 minutes. The amount of time it takes to operate depends entirely on the quantity of clothing and the type of material being washed. Denim, for example, will take more effort than t-shirts.

The first thing you need to do is obtain a suitable bucket. The place where I work often has empty 18.9L (5 US gallon) detergent buckets, so I popped over to pick one up. Total cost to me? $0

These buckets are great because the cover already has a small lidded opening in the cover — you will want to use it with the cover on to avoid splashing. For optimum efficiency, it’s best to have the hole centered in the lid, but I was coming at it from the “ease of construction” angle. ;)

The other thing you need is a traditional-style toilet plunger. I found one at a local building supply store for around $6.00.

The plunger, and the plunging action employed through good old elbow grease, act as the agitator in your washing machine. Depending on the style of your plunger, you may want to cut away the extra rubber flap inside — this can contribute to overly sudsy wash water, which is something best avoided when washing cloth diapers as it requires much more rinsing.

As an extra step to prevent this problem, you will want to cut between 3 – 6 quarter-sized holes around the perimeter of the plunger. It doesn’t have to be perfect — mine clearly isn’t! I found that three holes wasn’t enough, so I went for the full six.

Be very careful when cutting these holes — I found the squishy, thick rubber quite difficult to deal with, even using a very sharp knife. Remember to practice safe knife practices when cutting these — SAFETY CIRCLE, Everyone!

The next step is putting it through a trial run.

I opted to start with otherwise clean but freshly tie-dyed diapers, before moving onto washing today’s dirties. I added my detergent (1/2 what I’d use in our regular washer) to the bottom of the bucket and then filled the bucket half-full with very hot water. I dumped in the diapers (about 8 flats, plus wipes and homemade fleece liners) and started plunging. In hindsight, I could have used a bit less detergent, as it required two rinses, but they got good and clean in very little time.

After the final rinse, I pulled them out of the bucket, wrung out as much water as possible, and hung them on the line. The rinse water went straight onto my flower beds, where my roses gratefully drank it up.

Overall, it went together quickly and was very easy to use. I stood the bucket on a knee-high step to facilitate the plunging, but I think I will get a longer handle for the plunger so I can set the bucket flat on the ground. I’m not sure I’d want to wash two days’ of diapers in one go, but doing a single day’s worth was pretty easy and not a terrible way to unload the many little frustrations of my afternoon. ;)

We will take it with us when we go camping this summer and leave it at our cabin for doing laundry. I think the threat of washing clothes this way will serve as an incredibly effective deterrent for bad behavior with my older boys!

http://refashionista.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/diy-hillbilly-washing-machine/

Homemade cream cheese without a starter culture?

http://www.howtobaker.com/techniques/insane-foodie-projects/homemade-cream-cheese/

Hand powered washing Machine- Living off the grid?

http://moderndayredneck.blogspot.ca/2012/05/hand-powered-washing-machine-update.html

ORIGINAL BLUE DAWN . . . IT’S NOT JUST FOR DISHES ANYMORE

I could not believe my eyes!

Check this out!

http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/05/original-blue-dawn-its-not-just-for-dishes-anymore.html

A wonderful idea for picky kids

Todays post comes from Cafe Chocolada’s blog:

Originally this was a recipe for a pastry filled with a cheese and oregano tomato sauce but this lady decided to forego the sauce and make the recipe into something else. She used dough she made in her bread machine and used things found around the house (coffee cup etc) to form the shapes. Who could resist biting into one of these cuties?

I am thinking little pieces of sliced ham from the deli and some cheese in between?

You can get the recipe and read the entire article here:

http://cafechocolada.blogspot.ca/2008/02/this-little-piggy.html

Bread, Bread and More Bread…Super easy recipes for the Newbies!

Any way you slice it, fresh bread is very tasty. Hot out of the oven or warm on a cutting board, whether it was made in a machine or cooked in the oven you can’t deny the fresh country aroma of bread. The nice texture or crisp/soft crust with just the right amount of real butter…..oh heaven on a crisp fall day….or with some homemade soup on a cold winter day. Comfort food at its finest.

There are  many ways to say “bread”. The word itself is Old English bread, is common in various forms to many Germanic type languages such as Frisian “brea” and Dutch “brood”, the German :brot”, Swedish “bröd, and Norwegian and Danish “brød”; it has been claimed to be derived from the root of brew. It may be connected with the root of break, for its early uses are confined to broken pieces or bits of bread, the Latin “crustum”, and it was not until the 12th century that it took the place—as the generic name for bread—of hlaf ([hlaifs] in Gothic: modern English loaf), which appears to be the oldest Teutonic name.

And just like names there are many kinds of bread and I admit I have a few favorites myself;  like naan (India), German Rye, sour dough, pumpernickel and Italian and of course fry bread!!

There are sweet breads, quick breads, unleavened breads, egg breads to name a few more. And don’t forget banana or zucchini too!

As a foodstuff bread is of great historical and contemporary importance, in many cultures in the West and Near and Middle East bread has a significance beyond mere nutrition. The Lords Prayer for example, contains the line “Give us this day our daily bread”; here, “bread” is commonly understood to mean necessities in general. Bread is also significant in Christianity as one of the elements (alongside wine) of the Eucharist; or sacramental bread.

The cultural importance of bread goes beyond slang to serve as a metaphor for basic necessities and living conditions in general. A “bread-winner” is a household’s main economic contributor and has little to do with actual bread-provision, for example. This is also seen in the phrase “putting bread on the table”. A remarkable or revolutionary innovation is often referred to as “the greatest thing since sliced bread”. The term “bread basket” is often used to denote an agriculturally productive region.

Jews have traditionally baked :challah”, a type of egg bread with a thin, hard crust and a soft, well-leavened center. It is made by wrapping plaits of dough and then lightly baking them in an oven.Challah is sometimes sweetened using honey and sometimes includes raisins. During Passover, unleavened bread, in the form of various types of matzoh, is required due to the Biblical injunction to avoid any form of leaven during this time of year.

In most Wiccan traditions, bread and wine are often consumed together during rituals to remind followers that the gods provide everything needed to sustain humanity. It has  always been good luck to share your bread too.

I have a bread machine that is still going after 16 years. It is a Westbend. I use it to save time and sometimes to make specialty breads like hemp seed and 12 grain and dough. The next one I buy will be the two-loaf model. It is a very impressive machine that in its day was not cheap. I have had two others as well, one which made crappy wheat bread (Black and Decker) and the spare I kept (Doughman Proffessional) which always makes either rock hard or too “fluffy and rippy” bread. Very disappointing.

But I enjoy making my bread from scratch/by hand. Its sort of like sculpting or using clay only the dough is what you have to work with. You can also make artisan bread on a pizza stone in your oven and it requires no pan to cook it in. My partner loves it this way because it produces a fine crust and wonderful texture.

I love making snack or dessert type breads for the family, banana pecan, carrot zucchini or pumpkin pineapple to name a few. I even tried a fruitcake once too. And there was the time i tried banana bread in a wood stove oven which was so bad even the dogs wouldn’t touch it. (But that is a story for later…)

Here is an easy recipe for those of you who want to try to bake bread in the oven. If you want no muss no fuss bread with little equipment this is a good one.

Super Easy Bread for Beginners

This is the easiest one-loaf yeast bread you will ever bake. The Super Easy Bread for Beginners recipe produces a soft crust and a moist center using the most basic ingredients that can be found in most kitchens. (About.com)

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately

Preparation:

  1. In large bowl, add the warm water. Slowly stir in dry yeast. Continue to stir until yeast is dissolved.
  2. Add salt, sugar, shortening, and milk to bowl. Stir.
  3. Mix in the first 2 cups of flour.
  4. If needed, begin adding more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough chases the spoon around the bowl.
  5. You do not need to use up all the flour called for in this recipe, or you may need more flour than called for. The amounts vary depending on many factors, including weather, which is why most bread recipes only give an approximate amount of flour needed.
  6. Turn dough out onto floured board and knead, adding small spoonfuls of flour as needed, until the dough is soft and smooth, not sticky to the touch.
  7. Put dough in buttered bowl, turn dough over so that the top of dough is greased. Cover and let rise in warm spot for 1 hour.
  8. Punch down dough. Turn out onto floured board and knead.
  9. Preheat oven at 375 degrees F.
  10. Form dough into loaf and set in buttered bread pan. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.
  11. Score dough by cutting three slashes across the top with a sharp knife. Put in oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.
  12. Turn out bread and let cool on a rack or clean dishtowel

Sometimes I like to add a 1/2 Tbsp of garlic and onion powder to this recipe to spice things up. Here is another:

One-Loaf Whole Wheat Bread

This whole wheat bread not only looks beautiful, it also tastes delicious. It also freezes extremely well so you can make it ahead of time and freeze it until you are ready to use it. Recipe makes one medium loaf of bread.

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp dry milk
  • 2 tbsp raw wheat bran
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp bread flour

Preparation:

  1. In medium bowl, add honey, vegetable oil, and warm water. Stir.
  2. Stir in salt, yeast, dry milk, and raw wheat bran.
  3. Mix in whole wheat flour, then mix in about 1/4 cup bread flour.
  4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured board and knead the remaining 1/4 cup plus tablespoon of bread flour into the dough for about 5 minutes. When finished, the dough will be slightly sticky.
  5. Grease medium size bowl. Put dough into bowl and turn dough over so that the top of dough is lightly greased. Cover with clean cloth and let dough rise in warm place for about 45 minutes or until double in size.
  6. Turn dough out onto board and knead out air bubbles for about 3 minutes. Shape into bread loaf.
  7. Grease bread pan. Sprinkle cornmeal on bread pan, if desired. Place loaf in pan. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes or until double in size.
  8. Bake bread at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Turn out on rack or onto clean kitchen towel and allow to cool.
  9. Bread can be frozen in a sealed freezer bag for up to 3 months.

Tomorrow I will be back with some bread machine tips as well as a few recipes. Bon Appetite!