Friday, February 22, 2013

Creative Cousin's Coolest Kitchen Container

I have the most creative cousin who happens to be my FAVORITE cousin, but not solely for the creative reason.  She is also witty, funny, a great cook (she clings to Cajun traditional cooking), artistic, and has an eye for decor.  She hunts, fishes, gardens, and trains animals.  I have not found anything she cannot do.  Her mind is constantly churning whether it's something brewing on the stovetop or finding a way to repurpose, recycle, or reuse an item headed to the trash - or sometimes not.  That item may have been left unattended for a minute and is now hers.

Cousin D aka CCC or Crazy Cajun Cousin, is the most amazing person I know and I'm blessed with the good fortune to be related, and to be loved like her little sister.

CCC decorating for our wedding reception
So one of her recent repurposed projects that I love is her very handy "Wrap Rack."  It a common problem to find enough space for plastic zip bags, rolls of foil or plastic wrap, etc.  Cousin D, however, found the perfect solution.  She pulled an unused hanging shoe rack from the closet.  One quick glance, followed by a "Hmmmmm??" and she darted off to the kitchen and yanked Ziplock and Glad boxes from her pantry.  She slid them into the shoe slots and "voila" her storage problem was solved.  Almost.  She cut a slit in one of the shoe slots in order to retrieve the zip bags and decided that the plastic shroud was subject to ripping over time.  She dug out her trusty duct tape and reinforced the opening.  Now her plastic and foil items are handy, freeing oodles of pantry space.  The "mate" side of the shoe bag is perfect for holding the refill box.

It took me almost a year to find one of these shoe bag treasures and I grabbed it quickly when I did.  Sadly, it was the only one in stock.  But I have mine.  Not exactly matching my kitchen decor, but there are times, even with Cousin D's solutions, function ranks over beauty.

Cousin D's Wrap Rack hangs outside the pantry
I need to visit Cousin D soon and find her other creations to outfit my home and garden.

Love you my dearest Cousin.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Experiment: Dehydrating Eggs

I'm always looking for the unique ideas and skills on the pathway to self sufficiency.  Recently, I stumbled on this article about dehydrating eggs (all the details are here).  What the heck - I'll try it.  This lady dehydrates 9 dozen eggs at a time, so I decided to gamble with 1/2 dozen while we were drying pineapple.

Branching - pineapple is probably the easiest and most rewarding fruit to dry.  No special prep, other than slicing the same thickness of the fruit, and wow, does the home smell wonderful during the process.  An entire pineapple sliced in rings, fits comfortably in a quart freezer bag.

Ok, ok.. back on track.  So, 6 eggs took a quick whirl in the blender, a few seconds was perfect.  My non-stick pan is heating on the stove, with no oils, sprays, etc.  This is purely eggs to non-stick coating process.  Commence the scrambling process.  Using a spatula, break up the chunks into small pieces as you stir the eggs.  Once the eggs are cooked, spread them evenly onto the drying rack and place them in the oven.  Set the dehydrator to 145 degrees.  After 8 hours the eggs were close to done.  I tested by breaking some of the larger pieces.  By 10 hours, they were are ready to pull from the dehydrator.  The large hunks were the same color and texture inside and out.

Into the Blender
Grinding into Egg Powder
Volume results for 6 eggs: 1 1/2 cups raw, 3/4 cup dried.  Next weekend, we will try the egg powder in a blind taste test.
6 Eggs on the Left, 6 Eggs on the Right
Drying eggs and pineapple together?  The flavors did not cross.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Extending the Life of a Vacuum Sealer

In our household we freeze, can, dehydrate, cure meats and strive to keep fresh food on hand and made with ingredients we can pronounce.  We frequently shop bargain tables and sales for edible treasures.

Several years ago, Magic Man purchased a vacuum sealer for me.  I love my vacuum sealer.  It allows us to freeze items longer or store dehydrated foods in compact packaging.

Magic Man loves that he can buy gifts for his bride that has a plug or pull cord or a handle or makes barnyard noises.  As a City Boy, he benefits from these gifts and is learning to appreciate suburbanized mock-farm life.  One step at a time... he is still the traditional man, and the lovely roses below are my Valentine's Day gift this year.

Loving both
Back to the sealer.  This particular unit is several years old, but functions as well as the day he purchased it.  With the final selection in hand, the sales clerk offered this sage advice before heading to checkout.  When storing your unit, remove the sealing tray along with the gasket because 1) the pressure of the lid won't compress the gasket, and 2) the tray will help retain the gasket's factory shape.  Store the tray in a loosely closed plastic bag, he continued to keep dust and grime off the gasket and allows moisture to escape the bag.

His advice is proven to be sound.  In the past, my sealers have lasted no more than three years.  The gasket was always the first to go.   Thanks to a caring salesman, we plan to use this machine for many years to come.