FOOD STORAGE IN PORTIONS

Have you ever come home from work, play, yard work, other projects and were so tired that you only wanted to flop in bed, but you were so hungry?  And, there was nothing ready to eat except possibly a piece of fruit or some cheese?  Well, never fear, here's an idea.

I started using this idea with my puppy to portion out rice for her meal.  I cook brown rice and while it is still a bit warm and a little sticky, I press it into a one-cup measuring cup, flip it over onto a baking tray and then freeze all of them, usually three.  Once they are frozen, I warm the bottom of the pan with a bit of warm water on my hand.  The frozen rice pops right off. I then put all of them in a freezer bag and voila!, they are ready.  I get three cups of frozen rice from cooking one cup of rice with 1-3/4 cups of water for 30 minutes. This allows me to have rice available to mix into my pup's chicken and veggies. I don't have to make that. It's done.

Well, I didn't stop there. After thinking through this, I realized that I could cook many things and freeze them in the same manner. It works with most cooked foods that will stick together when pushed into a plastic or glass container. This food isn't frozen until I upend it on the tray and place it in the freezer. Also, you can freeze food in a freezer-type container, especially if it is liquid.  Once it is frozen, warm the container a bit and pop the frozen food out into a plastic bag.

For setting up portions to freeze, I use measuring cups for exact portions, glass storage bowls, plastic storage containers, etc.  

Once your food is solidified in the container by pushing it down with a spatula, flip it onto a tray or cookie sheet.  Freeze these until totally firm. Remove from the tray and store in a plastic bag or vacuum bag for longer storage. 

These little frozen portions will defrost in about 30 minutes on their own.  I don't use microwaves, nor do I recommend them, so you will have to consider what method of thawing is best for you and the size of your food portion.  It can also be stored that day or overnight in the refrigerator for slow thawing. I usually make individual size portions, but have accomplished this with larger portions.  Truly, that's up to the cook.  

Reheat in an oven-proof dish with a lid or a piece of foil tented over the top. Depending on the food type, you can also slowly reheat on the stove in a pot with a lid.

The food portion in the photo is Spicey Chicken and Rice.  One serving. 

DIY VELCRO TIES - RECYCLING

When I first saw the latest bag closures on Lundberg rice and some Bob's Red Mill packages, I was intrigued. Why? Because these are using the same idea of the Velcro locking system instead of the traditional zip-lock type.  I started saving these by cutting about 1/4 inch below the locking loops. I stored them away until I could figure out a super good use for them.  

It just so happened that I ran out of Velcro ties (see blue tie in the middle of the picture) for holding my electric cords and ropes and was really in need of either buying more, which I was having a hard time finding, or making up something.  Then I remembered the package closures that I stored away.

As I studied the two items, blue Velcro tie and the pink and beige package zippers, I realized there was a difference.  The package zippers were made of the same loops, they were not different like Velcro where one side is the loop and the other is smooth and fluffy, yet they both fastened securely.  I had a ah-ha moment.  I can make some cord ties with these.

Here's how it went:

In the photo you will see a beige strip of plastic bag fastener.  This is from Bob's Red Mill.  There is also a pink one, actually a reddish color, from Lundberg rice.  This one is the finished product holding my electric cord securely.  

Open up the strip you cut from the bag by cutting off one end.  You will need to fold backward 1-1/2 to 2 inches of the plastic strip so that the smooth sides are touching. In order to keep it in this position, I recommend sewing (zigzag on the sewing machine or by hand), E6000 glue or a staple or two, pretty much anything that will hold the flap up against the main strip.  

Next, cut off any excess edges so that there is only about 1/8 inch of plastic on each side of the zipper material.  If you feel the tie is too long, just cut off what you can't or won't use.  I left mine in place just in case I might use it for ropes or extension cords and need the extra length.  

In order to use the tie, you will wrap it with the smooth side against the item being wrapped.   When you finish wrapping, you will be back around to the section you sewed together, the thicker end. 

I have found that pushing more firmly on the connection sight is very important, since these don't work exactly like Velcro.  However, once they lock in place, they usually stay together really well.  Recently I used one of these on some thick electric cording and it wanted to pull apart, but I kept wiggling my fingers and using extra pressure and it secured strongly.

So, don't throw away everything.  Sometimes there is a helpful item just waiting to be invented and this one is pretty easy.  Thank you, Abba!

WHICH WAY DOES IT GO?

Have you ever tried to plug in a appliance only to become frustrated because you had to keep turning the plug to figure out which way it should go in to the receptacle?

Here is a quick and easy way to never have to play that silly game with electric plugs again. You will need a permanent marker in the color suited to your plug.  Sharpie also has markers that are filled with enamel paint, which is helpful for brown and black or other dark plugs. I purchased mine at JoAnn's Fabrics and Michael's. They only had white, black, silver and gold. Be sure they are enamel and the little ball inside clicks when shaken.

Just paint a section on the plug that will be right-side up. You will never have to play a guessing game again. Please don't allow people to laugh at you for doing this, because they probably will. I've been painting plugs for years and it has saved me time and aggravation.

NEED A FUNNEL?

The funnel in the photo is probably my cheapest and best one. 

I made is one day in desperation when I discovered that none of my funnels would work for the project at hand.  So, I picked up a plastic soda bottle that someone left at my house (don't use water bottles, they are too thin), cut it with a pair of shears at about 5 inches from the cap area and heated it on my glass top stove to melt and curl in the edge. 

If you don't have a glass stove top, you can heat a skillet until it is hot enough to melt the plastic just until it begins to fold into itself.  Use caution! 

I imagine most any plastic bottle will work for this, except a thin water bottle, but you will have to experiment to find the right size you need for your project. You will also have to be alert to over heating the plastic.  Again, use caution!

NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION!

GREAT TOOL! MULTI-CHOPPER

Helpful TOOLS in the kitchen are a must.  I especially like them when they are not expensive and anyone can afford to own one.  That's the way it is with this multi-chopper.  I found it at the Dollar Tree (see photo). Questioning what it was used for, I decided to purchase it because I had an idea it was a chopper.  Who doesn't need a chopper?  : )   It cost me $1.25 to discover its many uses.  The photo at the right shows me chopping coarse almond meal before dehydrating it.  I've used this little gadget for mashing potatoes, breaking apart rice clumps, mixing homemade dog food and more.  BTW, I found it online for $6.50 plus shipping, so I think I got a terrific deal.  The entire tool is 10 1/2 inches long. Blades are blunt.  It is made of hard plastic.

GREAT TOOL! YOGURT CHEESE MAKER

Here is another terrific TOOL for the kitchen.  This one makes yummy yogurt cheese which tastes very much like cream cheese and can be used the same way for most recipes, including cheesecake. 

SLIDE ONE is the actual Yogurt Cheese Maker that has three parts: the main container which will collect the whey, the basket to hold the yogurt (I like using Greek Yogurt to get more volumn, since it has already had most of the whey removed) and the lid.  Once the yogurt is placed into the container basket, it should be refrigerated.  I leave mine overnight or sometimes for an entire 24 hours.

SLIDE TWO shows the finished products: From one container (28 oz. of organic, Greek yogurt) I ended with the equivalent of two 8 oz. packages of cream cheese.  The 1 pint jar shows the amount of whey that came from the Greek yogurt.  I use this for fermenting veggies, drinks and bread. 

SLIDE THREE is a photo of the manual that contains a few recipes.  The three recipes in the manual include: Citrus Yogurt Cheesecake, Lemon Yogurt Cream and Tzatziki.  Each one is simple and I'm excited about trying them.

If you don't have one of these TOOLS and don't wish to purchase one, you can still make yogurt cheese (known as Quark in Germany) by using a nut milk bag or several layers of cheese cloth, both tied up and hung over a bowl.  It's just a little difficult as the yogurt should be refrigerated, unless you live in a cool climate.  Suggest research on this.

Also, be sure to use whole milk yogurt.  The fat is healthy, although some "scientists" try to tell us otherwise.  Low fat, 2% fat, etc is not good for our bodies.  Another thing to research.

Recipes for yogurt cheese are available.