My Foray Into Food Storage

A regular gal learning about Food Storage, Home Cooking, Canning, Gardening, and more!


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Maybe It’s Time To Invest In Some Good Mini Loaf Pans…

How many times have you been perusing blogs or Facebook or Pinterest or other social media, and you start feeling inadequate?  I know I’ve felt it.  Most people put their best pictures, experiences, etc. out there on display, and it’s so easy to compare all of our worst qualities with everyone else’s best qualities.  I’m determined to keep this blog real and uncensored, so I will regularly share some of my failures with you.  Not all of them, because I don’t want you to lose all respect for me!

 

Yesterday and today, I’ve been making some quick bread to help a friend prepare for her son’s wedding reception tonight.  No problem, right?  I make stuff all the time.  It can’t be that hard.  Wrong!  Look at how they’re coming out of my pans…

 

Not prefect, but not too bad.  Unfortunately, it just gets worse.

Not prefect, but not too bad. Unfortunately, it just gets worse.

 

I lost the entire bottom of this loaf.  If these were for my kids, it would be no problem.  They eat it so fast, I don't think they even notice what it looks like.

I lost the entire bottom of this loaf. If these were for my kids, it would be no problem. They eat it so fast, I don’t think they even notice what it looks like.

 

I think this one takes the cake (no pun intended).  There's really no way to save that one, is there?

I think this one takes the cake (no pun intended). There’s really no way to save that one, is there?

 

 

Maybe it’s time for some new mini loaf pans?  Maybe some non-stick ones like these from Amazon?

 

Those sure are pretty, aren't they?  Maybe that will be what I spend my grocery savings on this month.  Hmm...  If you want to check them out, here's an affiliate link.

Those sure are pretty, aren’t they? Maybe that will be what I spend my grocery savings on this month. Hmm… If you want to check them out, here’s an affiliate link.

 

Thankfully, I have some really awesome friends who understand that life is not perfect.  When something looks too good to be true, it was probably photoshopped.  I’ll bring the best loaves I have and love and support my friend the best I can.

 

Friends really make all the difference, don’t they? 

Good friends remind you of your good qualities and don’t kick you when you’re down. 

I’m blessed to have many great friends!

 

* * * This post contains an affiliate link.  For more details about affiliate links, please visit my about page. * * *


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Procrastination Plight Transformed Into Yummy Caesar Croutons!

Quick Reminder before I begin – Only 3 days left to enter my April giveaway!  Click here for details and to enter.

 

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Yes, I’m still a procrastinator.  I’m working on it, and I’m getting better with some things.  But I know me.  I will most likely always put off some things until the last possible moment.  That’s human nature, and I’m definitely human.

 

Yesterday, I posted about my yeast failure due to my procrastination followed by my over confident rushing through my bread recipe (click here to read it).  My yeast didn’t completely fail, but it underperformed.  See?

 

All these loaves were about the same size when they were put in the loaf pans.  The shorter ones didn't rise nearly enough.

All these loaves were about the same size when they were put in the loaf pans. The shorter loaves didn’t rise nearly enough for my children to eat them without complaining.

 

I hate throwing away perfectly good food, and I had just made a boatload of breadcrumbs, so I made that “more dense than I’d like” bread into yummy garlic, Caesar salad croutons.  I found the recipe here and adapted it just a bit for the ingredients I had on hand and to my taste (sorry, family, but my tastes reign supreme and I don’t love spicy-hot).  Here’s my version of the recipe.

 

Garlic Croutons

Garlic Croutons

 

Garlic Croutons

Adapted from a recipe found on about.com

 

2 loaves Easy, Peasy Bread (recipe here) or your bread of choice, cut into cubes (Stale bread is perfect for these!)

1/2 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press (you can mince it if you don’t have a garlic press)

1/2 cup fresh, grated Parmesan blend

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Combine garlic and olive oil in a small bowl, and let sit at room temperature for four or more hours.  This allows the garlic flavor to infuse into the olive oil.

 

When garlic infused olive oil is ready, preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cut the bread into a rough cube shape (about 1 inch wide).  Add the cubes to a large mixing bowl.  Add half of the cheese, Italian seasoning, paprika, salt, and pepper to the bread crumbs.  Stir to combine.  Strain the garlic infused olive oil and drizzle oil (minus garlic pieces) over the bread cubes.  Stir gently to ensure all bread cubes are evenly coated.
Transfer the bread cubes to a parchment or foil coated cookie sheet (parchment and foil are optional, but they make clean up easier).  Cook in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Remove, stir bread cubes, and return to oven.  Cook for 15 minutes longer.  Remove from oven again and stir.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the croutons, and return the pan to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.  Cook until the croutons are brown and crunchy.  Allow them to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Here’s my photo step-by-step for your viewing pleasure.

First, I assembled my ingredients.

First, I assembled my ingredients.

 

Then, I prepared garlic infused olive oil.  I started by using my handy dandy Pampered Chef Garlic Press for my garlic.  I hate mincing garlic, and this makes it so easy!

Then, I prepared garlic infused olive oil. I started by putting the olive oil in a small bowl.  Then, I used my handy dandy Pampered Chef Garlic Press for my garlic. I hate mincing garlic, and this makes it so easy!  Simply put the entire clove of garlic, unpeeled, into the press.

 

Then you press the handles together.

Then, you pull the handles together.  If it’s a large clove, it’s a bit harder, so, if you have a hard time squeezing, stick with small garlic cloves.  The ones I used for this recipe were quite large.  I’ve used other garlic presses, and they were not anywhere near as good!  Early in our marriage, we bought one from the kitchen department in a pricy department store.  It wasn’t cheap, but I HATED it!  It was so difficult to use, and I had to peel the cloves first.  I ended up giving it away within a few years.

 

See?  The garlic comes out beautifully!  I scraped it off on the side of the bowl containing my olive oil.

See? The garlic comes out beautifully! I scraped it off on the side of the bowl containing my olive oil.

 

Then I opened up the press and pull out the garlic clove peel.  Easy, Peasy!  I use my garlic press at least 4 days a week every week (unless it's crazy, and I'm not cooking as much).  I've had it for over 5 years and it's still going strong.  It works as well as the first day I got it.  I LOVE IT!  (If you want a good garlic press, check out my friend's Pampered Chef website here.)

Then I opened up the press and pull out the garlic clove peel. Easy, Peasy! I use my garlic press at least 4 days a week every week (unless it’s crazy, and I’m not cooking as much). I’ve had it for over 5 years, and it’s still going strong. It works as well as the first day I got it. I LOVE IT! (If you want a good garlic press, check out my friend’s Pampered Chef website here.)

 

Next, I stirred the garlic into the oil and let it sit for several hours.

Next, I stirred the garlic into the oil, and let it sit for about 6 hours.  You don’t have to let it sit that long.  Four hours is plenty of time.  Or you can let it go longer than 6 hours.  Make it in the morning before you go to work, and it’s ready to use when you get home.  It’s your choice.

 

After the garlic olive oil sat for about 6 hours, I continued preparing the croutons.  I cut the bread into thick slices and then cut them into 1-inch cubes.

After the garlic olive oil sat for about 6 hours, I continued preparing the croutons. I cut the bread into thick slices and then cut them into 1-inch cubes.

 

Here are my cubes of bread.

Here are my cubes of bread.

 

I measured out my spices.

I measured out my spices.

 

I sprinkled the spices over the bread.

I sprinkled the spices over the bread.

 

And added the Parmesan.  Then I stirred the bread, spice, Parmesan mixture.

And added the Parmesan. Then, I stirred the bread, spice, Parmesan mixture until everything was well combined.

 

I transferred half of the mixture to another bowl to make it easier to mix.

I transferred half of the mixture to another bowl to make it easier to mix.  Next, I drizzled the strained garlic infused olive oil over the bread cubes.  I didn’t put it all in at once.  I drizzled it over the top, then stirred.  Then I drizzled it again and stirred.  I did this 3-4 times to ensure all were evenly coated.  (Don’t you love my fun Halloween bowls?)

 

I spread the mixture on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Then I put the cookie sheets into a preheated 300 degree Fahrenheit oven.

Finally, I spread the mixture on parchment lined cookie sheets and put the cookie sheets into a preheated 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes.

 

After 15 minutes, I removed the cookie sheets from the oven and stirred the bread crumbs.  The ones on the outside of the pan brown faster than those in the center of the pan.  Then I put it back into the oven.

After 15 minutes, I removed the cookie sheets from the oven and stirred the bread cubes. The ones on the outside of the pan brown faster than those in the center of the pan.  Stirring ensures they cook evenly.  Next, I put it back into the oven for another 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, I removed the pans and stirred the bread cubes again.  Then, I sprinkled the remaining Parmesan on the cubes and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

 

 

After the final bake, I removed them from the oven.

After the final bake, I removed them from the oven.  And, VIOLA!, I had lovely, delicious, garlicky croutons.  Don’t they look yummy?

 

After they cooled completely, I put them in a ziplock bag.  We're having Chicken Caesar Salad tonight with these delicious croutons!

After they cooled completely, I put them in a ziplock bag. We’re having Chicken Caesar Salad tonight with these delicious croutons!

 

This recipe made about 16 cups of croutons, but, honestly, I can’t tell you exactly how much it made, because my boys kept picking them off the pans as they were cooling.  It could have been a little more or less than 16 cups.  I guess I’ll never know unless I can keep the boys out of the kitchen next time I make these.

 

Not only were these were super easy and super good, they also saved me a lot of money!  As mentioned in my “Am I REALLY Saving Money?” post about sandwich bread, 2 loaves of bread cost me $1.19.  The cost of the olive oil and spices are about 50 cents, so for less than $1.70, I have 15+ cups of croutons.   How does that compare to similar croutons found in the grocery store?  I found these at Wal-mart yesterday.

 

These croutons are just under $2 for 20 servings.  Each serving is listed as 6 croutons, which is probably about 1/4 cup.  So you are paying about 10 cents a serving.  Not too shabby.

These croutons are just under $2 for 20 servings. Each serving is listed as 6 croutons, which is probably about 1/4 cup. So you are paying about 10 cents a serving. Not too shabby.

 

My recipe made over 15 cups of croutons which is about 60 1/4-cup servings.  That works out to 2.8 cents per serving.  Less than 1/3 the cost!  Wahoo!!

 

I’m a pretty happy camper.  I recovered from a potentially disastrous bread experience and ended up saving money along the way.  Today is a very good day.

 

Have you ever had to be creative when something went wrong in the kitchen only to make something awesome? 

Or has it gone the other way with disaster begetting a bigger disaster? 

Please share with me!


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Yup, It’s True. I’ll Own It. I’m A Procrastinator.

There’s only a few days left to enter my April giveaway.  Please visit Jennette’s Thrive website and find a product you would like to try (no purchase necessary), then visit this blog post, and post a comment telling me what product that it.  It’s that easy to enter, and you can do it once a day until April 20th!

 

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Procrastination…  We’ve all done it before.  Some of us (a.k.a. me) do it more often than others.  I was a big time procrastinator yesterday.

 

I started out just fine.  I bought a few plants in the morning, and I wanted to get them in the ground.  Great, right?  It was tax day, but my taxes were done (the night before, but that counts!), so I could do what I wanted with my time.  I spent a few hours gardening, planting, weeding, etc.  It was wonderful.

 

I planted lavender, marigolds, and some seeds (green beans and carrots).

I planted lavender, marigolds, and some seeds (green beans and carrots).

 

My tomato plants are coming along, and I've added some marigolds to keep the bees happy.  Well, that and to keep the rabbits away.

My tomato plants are coming along, and I’ve added some marigolds to keep the bees happy.

 

Why am I showing you a patch of dirt?  I decided to plant spaghetti squash from seed as one reader suggested.  We'll see if 4th time's a charm.  I planted some marigolds to attract bees, so, hopefully, if the seeds grow, and I get flowers, the bees will pollinate them.  Here's hoping!

Why am I showing you a patch of dirt? I decided to plant spaghetti squash from seed as one reader suggested. We’ll see if 4th time’s a charm. I planted some marigolds to attract bees, so, hopefully, if the seeds grow, and I get flowers, the bees will pollinate them. Here’s hoping!

 

I had a fleeting thought that I should make sure that the bunnies didn’t eat my new strawberry plants.  But I ignored that thought.  That was a BAD idea.  I was going to take pictures yesterday, but I decided to wait (a.k.a. procrastinate) until today.  Also a BAD idea.  When I stepped out my front door this morning, I found this:

 

No leaves!  The bunnies ate them all!  You can see their little bit marks at the base of (what used to be) the leaves.

No leaves! The bunnies ate them all! You can see their little bit marks at the base of (what used to be) the leaves.

 

And this…

 

They must love strawberry leaves, because they left the one unripe strawberry on this plant.

They must love strawberry leaves, because they left the one unripe strawberry on this plant.

 

And this…

 

Look, there's a leaf growing in the center of the plant, which the bunnies didn't eat (yet).  Maybe I can still save these plants.

Look, there’s a leaf growing in the center of the plant, which the bunnies didn’t eat (yet). Maybe I can still save these plants.

 

Hopefully, these are not too far gone, as the bunnies only munched on the leaves.  I’ll find some way to protect them, and, hopefully, they’ll survive and thrive.  Grr…  I’m not loving the bunnies this morning.

 

Of course, that’s not all I procrastinated doing yesterday.  I am a professional procrastinator!  I was a bit tired after all that gardening, so I decided to wait to make bread.  We ran out of bread at lunch, and I knew I needed to make more.  We don’t usually go through bread that quickly (2 loaves in 3 days), but my sons thought it was my best attempt so far at homemade sandwich bread (see my recipe here).

 

Arrogance proceeds the fall, right?  I thought, “I’ve got this!  I’ve mastered bread making.”  Have I never watched an episode of Survivor or Amazing Race?  What happens right before people are kicked off of the show?  They become overly confident.  While I don’t base my philosophies on reality TV, I have found a correlation between my own over confidence and my rate of failure.

 

Overconfidence + Carelessness = FAIL!  See?

 

This bread is usually ready to go in the oven 30 minutes after I put it in the pan.  When it's about an inch over the top of the pan, I pop it in the oven.  These aren't lookin' too hot.  It had been 90 minutes, and they were not rising as I'd like them to be.

This bread is usually ready to go in the oven 30 minutes after I put it in the pan. When it’s about an inch over the top of the pan, I pop it in the oven. These weren’t lookin’ too hot. It had been 90 minutes, and they were not rising as I’d like them to be.

 

So what happened with my bread?  I heat up my milk to hurry the process along when making bread.  I usually check the temperature.  I didn’t.  I think that coupled with the warm water and melted butter killed some of my yeast.  It wasn’t all dead, but my bread was rising very, Very, VERY slowly.  Not good.  Not good at all!  It should look more like this.

 

Look at those beautiful, puffy loaves!  And that's after only 20 minutes!

Look at those beautiful, puffy loaves! And that’s after only 20 minutes!

 

Usually that wouldn’t be a big deal, but remember how I said I’m a procrastinator?  I didn’t start my bread until after 8 pm.  Usually the bread is done in 1 1/2 hours from start to finish.  So, it’s 9:30 at night, and I’m tired (remember, I gardened for several hours that day), and my bread just isn’t rising.  Do I put it in the oven and hope it’s not a rock?  Or do I make new bread.  I was so tempted to just put it in the oven and hope it turned out.

 

BUT, my kids still miss the store-bought bread.  If the bread is rock hard, that’s not going over well.  Trust me.  So, I bit the bullet and made another batch of bread.  It rose exactly as it should.  Look at this picture with both sets of loaves.  The first batch is on the right.  The second batch is on the left.

 

This picture really shows the difference.  By this time, the loaves on the right had been rising for almost 2 hours.  The ones on the left?  30 minutes.

This picture really shows the difference. By this time, the loaves on the right had been rising for almost 2 hours. The ones on the left? 30 minutes.

 

I cooked both batches, just to see what would happen.  Here they are.

 

The two loaves on the left is my first batch.  It improved a little, but it didn't rise anywhere near as much as my second batch (on the right).

The two loaves on the left are my first batch. It improved a little, but it didn’t rise anywhere near as much as my second batch (on the right).

 

Here they are out of the pans.  You can really see the difference.

Here they are out of the pans. You can really see the difference.

 

You can see how dense the first batch is when you compare slices.  These are slices from the middle of the loaves.  The one on the left is my first batch.  The one on the right is my second batch.

You can see how dense the first batch is when you compare slices. These are slices from the middle of the loaves. The one on the left is my first batch. The one on the right is my second batch.

 

My first batch isn’t bad, but it’s not as light and fluffy as my kids like, so I’m making it into croutons. I’m cutting the bread into thick slices to make some nice croutons for Caesar Salad.

 

These slices will be croutons by day's end.

This bread will be croutons by day’s end.

 

I’ll post about that a little later today.  I am making garlic infused olive oil right now, and it needs to sit for at least 4 hours, and the longer it sits, the better it is.  That’s good for a procrastinator like me.

 

Procrastination + Garlic + Olive Oil = Wonderful Garlic Infused Olive Oil!

 

So, now you know a little more about me.  Maybe more than you wanted to know, but such is life.

 

Tell me a little about you.  Are you a procrastinator?