Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kielbasa and corn

There are so many reasons I love the slow cooker! The dish I fixed Thursday embodies nearly all of them. It used items I already had on hand -- kielbasa, corn, potatoes and tomatoes. It was budget-friendly. And it was so easy and delicious.

Here's how did it. First, dice and brown half a package of kielbasa in a tablespoon of oil.

I added a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and garlic powder to the pan as the kielbasa cooked.

I diced three potatoes and added a 12-ounce can of corn and a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes.

I added a teaspoon of dried oregano and a teaspoon of black pepper. Then I cooked it on low for about 8 hours. I also had about a half cup of leftover green beans; I stirred them in before serving.

We love rice with almost any soup, especially a heartier one made with kielbasa. I place about a half cup cooked rice in the bottom of each bowl...

And ladle in the soup on top. It was a hit! The recipe makes about 8 servings and freezes well.

Kielbasa and corn soup

1/2 pound kielbasa, diced and browned in a skillet
3-4 medium potatoes, diced
12-ounce can of corn, drained
14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
Sprinkle cayenne pepper to taste
Garlic powder, to taste

Brown kielbasa in a skillet over medium heat. Add to a 6 quart slow cooker. Add all other ingredients, plus three cans of water from the diced tomatoes. Stir well. I also added a half-cup of cooked green beans I had on hand, at the end of cooking. Easy and delicious. Serves 8.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Some canning basics

Many of my friends are interested in learning more about home canning. First, let me offer some good sources for basic information on safety. Whatever you can, you want it to be enjoyed later with confidence. I learned to can more than 10 years ago, using resources from Virginia Cooperative Extension. Here is a great link that offers a wealth of home canning information Virginia Cooperative Extension home canning. It explains the basics for water bath canning, which is what is used for high-acid foods, like tomatoes, or foods that have had acid (vinegar or lemon juice) added to them, like pickles.

Learning the water bath method, where jars are submerged in boiling water, is the basic method for any home canner and needs to be mastered. Please note the importance of using actual canning jars (not old mayonnaise jars or jars that have been reused from any other purpose.) Jars, lids and rings that are specifically designed for home canning will give a proper seal.

You might also consider ordering a copy of The Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving. It is a full-color publication from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is full of recipes, ideas and techniques for food preservation.

Another excellent resource for home canning is the Ball Blue Book. It is full of safety information and basic techniques, as well as recipes. It is available in many bookstores or online. Here is a link to the 2009 version Ball Blue Book. Many people who love to can at home refer to their state's extension office resources or the Ball Blue Book -- if you want to learn to can, you gotta learn the language.

Cheap eats

I love to use kielbasa
in slow-cooker soups
and stews.
A slow cooker is ideal for saving money; it lets the cook turn dried beans, cheaper cuts of meat or canned vegetables into something special. Plus, most slow cookers use a similar amount of electricity as a desk lamp.

Today I am trying a newly created recipe that uses kielbasa, potatoes, corn and tomatoes. I love them all and I'm sure I'll enjoy the finished product tonight. I'll share the verdict and photos soon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Easy Chicken Curry

Dried cranberries are a delicious
addition to this recipe.
Here is one of the recipes that a friend, Donna Farmer Hutchinson of Norton, Va., offered up when I mentioned my interest in slow cooker cooking. I encourage you to try it.

4 boneless chicken breasts
14 ounce bag dried cranberries
12 ounce bag dried apples
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 can water
2 tablespoons curry powder

Place two boneless chicken breasts in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add half the bag dried cranberries and half the bag dried apples. Layer two more chicken breasts and the rest of the dried fruit. Mix the cream of chicken soup, water and curry powder together in a bowl. Pour over the chicken and fruit. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. Serve over rice.

Donna's comments: "Suzanne, if you are a slow-cooker - here's my fave and it's easy!!"

A fine kettle

Isn't this a great example of a fine copper kettle? It once was the preferred method for many people to make apple butter, outside and over a roaring fire.

Despite its beauty and nostalgia, most home canners and cooks will never use a real copper kettle to make apple butter. A more likely choice is a slow cooker, one of my favorite and most often used kitchen appliances. It uses a tiny amount of electricity (comparable to a desk lamp) and it is nearly foolproof. For home cooks, it delivers excellent meals that are delicious and easy on any wallet.

Certainly the recession of 2009 caused most of us
to re-evaluate our spending habits, including what we spend on food. But I believe the slow cooker is a terrific way to feed a family on a budget without making anyone feel like they are eating on the cheap. Spectacular meals, soups and stews can come out of a slow cooker, while the cook is off at work or play.

Just mentioning slow cooking is likely to produce a slew of fantastic recipes from your friends and family. Just mentioning the idea for this blog produced two great recipes on the spot. I encourage readers to submit their favorites; I would be honored to share them.