Thursday, February 25, 2010

Homemade Granola Bars

Mix together in a bowl:
1/3c oil, 1/4c brown sugar, 2T (1/8c) honey, 1t vanilla, 2 eggs

Add and stir:
1c ww flour, 1/2t baking powder, 1/4t salt

Add and stir:
1 1/2c oats, 2c crispy rice cereal, 3/4-1c additional things

Press evenly into a greased 9x13 cake pan.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes for more chewy bars, or 300 for 40-50 minutes for a crunchy bar.

Cut when you take it out of the oven, and then again when cooled completely.  I cut mine in half lengthwise first, then in half the other way.  This will divide it up nicely into 4 [somewhat] even sections.  Cut each section in half and in half again - you should end up with one lengthwise cut and seven cuts the other way, for a total of 16 bars.  Store in a zip bag in or out of the freezer.

"Additional things" ideas: We found that our favorite is chocolate and peanut butter chips.  Other things I've tried:
-1t cinnamon, cinnamon chips and dehydrated apples
-dehydrated mixed berries with white 'chocolate' chips.


If you find another variation you really like, please share!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pressure Canning Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup

(for a video demonstration on using a dial-gauge pressure canner OR a weighted-gauge pressure canner, see this post: How To Pressure Can Beans)
Today I am canning homemade vegetable beef soup. I actually remembered to take pictures!! I used to be afraid of pressure canning ... I really don't know why though. Now that I've done it several times, I feel like a 'pro' (although I know I'm not!!). Here is what I do:

Before you start, have all the veggies chopped and ready to go. If you are making a large batch of soup, sometimes it's nice to have all of the prep work done the day before.

First saute the onions - I used one medium onion. Add garlic cloves (5) just before finished.

Next cook the ground beef. I used 2 pounds.

Add the onions, beef and other ingredients into a very large stock pot. I put in 3 quarts of diced tomatoes, frozen vegetables (1lb each of corn and peas, 2lbs of green beans ... if I have garden fresh stuff I use that instead), 4qts of diced potatoes, 2lbs (~6c) sliced carrots, 8c cooked beans (I used chickpeas this time; the children really like these), water/stock and seasonings to suite your taste. I like to add beef stock, paprika, braggs or soy sauce, and water to cover.

As you can see, this is a larger pot - I think it will hold about 20 quarts, but I'm not exactly sure. When full, it is much too heavy for my electric stove so I use the gas stove at the church.

Cover and let it get warm; I bring it to a soft boil and then turn it down low - it will cook plenty in the canner. Get the jars and lids ready. I fill the pressure canner with about 3qts of hot water. Then I add clean quart jars - my canner only fits 5 of the 'golden harvest' jars, so that is why you only see 5 jars here. I can fit 7 if I only use 2 golden harvest and then other brands for the rest; the gh jars are fatter for some reason ... so I stopped buying them. Cover with the canner lid; do not tighten. Let it boil while you get the rest of the stuff ready. This is my way of 'sterilizing' the jars; for a sure method, you can have another large stock pot with boiling water for your jars.

Update ... I normally do not sterilize jars nor do I heat the soup before cooking. I have had no troubles with cold packing the soup into the jars, HOWEVER I am pretty sure this is not recommended?? so don't blame me if you do it and your soup goes bad!!! :) We go through our soup pretty fast, so it's not like it's sitting around for months or years ... I don't know if that makes a difference or not, but that's the way I do it.
My current method is to chop all the veggies, cook the meat (if using), and mix them all together with some cooked beans in a very large bowl (last time I used two 5 gallon buckets and dumped the mix from bucket to bucket to 'stir' it). Mix the saucy ingredients and seasonings together in a pitcher. I found that a few large cans (~2qt size I think?) of cheap vegetable juice tastes really good in the soup, so I use this now too if I remember to get some while at the store. I pack the jars full of the veggie/meat/bean mix and then pour equal amounts of the saucy mixture into the jars. I fill whatever space is left with water.

Put your lids into a small pan, cover with hot water, bring to a boil, turn off, leave covered and let it sit for 5 minutes or so.

Next get the jars out of the canner; have jar tongs, ladle and a funnel ready. Place the jars close to the soup pot; keep the jar you are filling as close to the pot as possible - this will help keep the mess down. File each jar 1" to the top.

Put on the lids and rings. Put the jars in the canner.

Brianna took this picture ... she did a good job!

Secure the lid properly. Leave the petcock open and bring to a boil - the steam will be coming out quickly. Let it stay like this for about 10 minutes. Close the petcock, bring to 11lbs of pressure (adjust according to your altitude if needed) and maintain that level for 90 minutes. Check often to make sure the pressure is right. Adjust the flame higher or lower accordingly.

After 90 minutes, turn off the heat and let it sit there until the pressure gauge reads zero (I let it sit for about 10 minutes beyond that point). Open the petcock slowly at first ... NO STEAM should be coming out. If it does, shut it again and wait longer. If you do not let it cool down in this way, the soup will spill out of the jars and you'll risk it not sealing properly because the rims will be full of soup. It might seal at first, but then days or weeks later it could come unsealed and you wont know it till you reach for the jar.

Remove the canner lid - make sure you tilt it away from so the steam does not go in your face :) Take out the jars and place them on a towel to cool. Let them sit for 24 hours or so. Check the seals ... lightly touch each lid; if it is sticking up, store that jar in your refrigerated and treat as a left over. But sometimes lids are down even when they are not sealed right ... we check for this by lightly thumping the tops of each lid with one finger. They should all pretty much have the same pitch. You will know without a doubt if one is not sealed ... the pitch will be much different.

Now you are ready to remove the rings, wash the jars, and store them on the shelf or wherever it is you put your filled jars.

If you have any questions beyond what is here, please ask!! Post a comment by clicking on the comment button below.

Also, a 'disclaimer' - I am not a professional or an expert by any stretch of the imagination. My point in posting this was to show how easy it really is to pressure can. Please follow my instructions using your own discernment ... I would not want to be the one to blame if someone got sick!! Here is a website that has a good 'how to' page - Canning Pantry. Here's the Michigan State University Extension page for pressure canning. Both of these sites have great advice.