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Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Your questions answered: Freezing baked goods

Pumpkin Spice Bread recipe

From my inbox, Bethanie writes:

I have some questions about freezing baked goods. I'm planning on having a baking day, and storing up. Any advice would be great! Thanks!

When thawing out sweet breads, do you put it in the refrigerator or just set it out on the counter?

I thaw mine on the counter, wrapped. If you leave the bread in the bag until it's up to room temperature, the condensation forms on the bag and not on your bread! :)

For freezing bagels, I slice them before I freeze them. That way, I can easily separate the halves while still frozen and just pop a frozen one in the toaster whenever I want one. :)

How well does cookie dough freeze, and how do you package it? Where do you let it thaw?

Cookie dough freezes really well!

You can make a long log of dough, and wrap it in waxed paper and then foil. Those cookies would need to be sliced before baking. I slice mine while the dough is still frozen, and bake them without thawing first. Just adjust the baking time if they aren't quite done as quickly as usual. :)

You can also line a cookie sheet with waxed paper and drop the dough onto the sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer and when the cookie dough is frozen, put the (unbaked) cookies in a freezer bag and use as needed.

Can you freeze muffins, and how do you package those? Are they as good when they thaw?

I have tried freezing muffins, just wrapped in plastic wrap, but they are so much better fresh -- and fairly quick to make -- that I don't freeze them. At least, that was my experience.

Can you freeze bread dough, like for example french bread dough?

Yes, you can -- though I am not experienced in this myself. See this post for some readers' input on freezing bread dough! :)

Can you freeze cakes? (Like before you frost them.)

I'm guessing you could, though I have never tried this! I just know that banana bread freezes wonderfully. :D

My main "problem" with frozen breads, cookies, etc. is that they just never last very long!! Way too handy. :P :)

What do you think, dear readers? Any advice or tips for Bethanie? :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Oven-roasted chicken

Now that our weather has finally turned colder, I've been making oven-roasted chicken at least once a week. Some things I love about my oven-roasted chicken:

    • It's easy. The "prep time" listed on my recipe says 7 minutes, and I'm not exaggerating! I try to be fair with "prep times" since it seems like most of the prep times on recipes I try are about half of what my real prep time is... is it just me, or what? :)
    • It's one of my husband's favorite meals. Plus, it's easy. ;)
    • The leftover chicken meat is perfect for use in casseroles (get ideas here), or, for putting into the freezer for later. I've been putting all of the leftover meat into the freezer as part of my "getting ready for the new baby" plan. :)
    • It's inexpensive. Or at least, it should be. If I didn't get mine at Aldi's ($0.69/lb), I'd watch for a sale and stock up.

When the weather's cold, having a warm oven makes the house feel so cozy! And it's also convenient to put a pan of potatoes or a loaf of garlic bread in the oven to go along with the chicken. Add a vegetable or salad (or both!) and you're all set!

Oven-roasted chicken

I got this email from Christian today:

Tonight I made your roasted chicken for the first time and it was SUPERB. My husband and boys (ages 5 and 2) loved it, as did I. I love, love, love how economical it is and how much meat it gives me to use in future meals.

Being a boneless, skinless chicken breast girl this was quite an adventure for me in cooking, but I learned so much and was so pleased with the result. At one point I had to call my mother-in-law to figure out which side of the bird was the "breast side."

I'm curious, do you do anything with the pan juices after you roast your chicken? Also, I would love to see a tutorial on *how* to properly carve/slice up the bird.

Well, we aren't "carvers"... Joshua usually pulls off a drumstick (or two!) and I use a knife or fork to cut out some of the breast meat. Here's an online tutorial for a "real" way to serve roasted chicken or turkey. ;)

I do save the juices from my roasted chickens. I put the (cooled) juices in a container in the fridge, and when the fat has hardened, I take it off the top. (The rest has turned to jello by then!) I use the broth in any recipe calling for chicken broth (I water it down as needed, since it is quite rich!) or if nothing else, I make cream of chicken soup with it and put that in the freezer for the next time I need cream of chicken soup. :)

To participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Post a kitchen tip in your blog, with a link to this post. Then come here and add your name, tip subject, and URL to this post! Links must be family friendly, as always. If you don't have a blog but would still like to share a tip, just leave a comment here with your tip! Everyone's ideas are appreciated. :) Note: Please link to your individual post, not your blog's main/front page! Thanks for participating! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays Participants

1. Our Red House (Moroccan Mint Iced Tea)
2. Mandy @ Biblical Homemaking (my favorite chicken seasoning)
3. Where the Lilies Bloom :: Giving the Gift of Food
4. Shirley (Teddy Bears Come To Dinner)
5. Erika(snack bag)
6. Willa (Quick Breakfast)
7. holly (cleaning your indoor grill)
8. Amy (delicious Orange Marble Fudge recipe)
9. Debbie J. (Homemade bread)
10. AmyG (fridge cleaning made simple)
11. Mrs. Mordecai (silicone mufin cups)
12. Kirstin (pampered chef & recipe link)
13. Womanly Pursuits (A secret of good soups)
14. Mrs. Pear (Swapping Freezer Meals)
15. Nichole (Spaghetti)
16. Rachel (Weekly Menu Cheat)
17. Jia, The Newlywife (No Tears Onion Chopping)
18. summer-at-home (menu plan)
19. BethanySue @ CFOMoms (food storage containers)
20. Bren (Reynold's Handi-Vac)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Making and freezing pepperoni

We make our own pepperoni using this recipe. I make 4 pounds at one time, and then slice and freeze for later use. It is so handy that way, and we love the extra flavor on our pizza! You can see a photo tutorial of making the pepperoni here.

I used up the last of my pepperoni, and so last week when meat was on sale, I made some more. This time, I used my Food Saver (read tips here!) to package it into small "pizza size" packets. :) No more freezer burn, and especially handy for last-minute thawing. :)

I had to cut down the size of my Food Saver bags for these little packets -- click here for more details about that! :) It's so nice to have it all made and ready to use! :)

To participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Post a kitchen tip in your blog, with a link to this post. Then come here and add your name, tip subject, and URL to this post! Links must be family friendly, as always. If you don't have a blog but would still like to share a tip, just leave a comment here with your tip! Everyone's ideas are appreciated. :) Note: Please link to your individual post, not your blog's main/front page! Thanks for participating! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays Participants

1. Debbie J (Organizing for Christmas)
2. holly (bubble fun!)
3. Western Warmth (Bulk Ground Beef)
4. Shirley (Yeast Waffles)
5. Amy (Andes mint cookies--yum!)
6. Willa (washing dishes tip)
7. Kirstin (holiday cupboard/holiday notebook)
8. SueEllen (freezing for two)
9. Womanly Pursuits (how to eat vegetables and like them)
10. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home (cut kitchen costs)
11. Mrs Pear (Christmas Baking List)
12. NerdMom(buying meat)
13. Sharon (freezing grnd beef)
14. Our Red House (Vintage Cough Remedies)
15. Sonshine(master grocery list)
16. Amanda (cleaning your blender)
17. Me (copying family recipes)
18. Erika (crockpot brownies)
19. Bren (cleaning tips)
20. Momala (best chocolate chip cookie recipe)
21. Jane (kitchen organization)
22. Trish (easy breakfast sandwiches)
23. The Garveys (poached pears)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Fresher spices

Here are a couple of tips for keeping fresher spices in your cupboards! I want to improve in this area, so if any of you have tips along these lines, please share!! :)

Black pepper

A few years ago, Joshua and I invested in a pepper grinder. We quickly realized that the freshly ground peppercorns were so much more flavorful and spicy than the pre-ground pepper I had been buying. The price of buying peppercorns and ground pepper was the same (per pound) at the bulk food store, so after the initial investment for the grinder, it was like getting 5 times the quality for the same price! :) I don't even have pre-ground pepper in my cupboards now.

Whole cumin seeds

The bulk food store also carries whole cumin seeds, and this tip was passed to me from one of my uncles when he was telling me how he had made his spanish rice. I buy whole cumin seeds and when I need some for a recipe, I crush them with a rolling pin on my countertop. They become very fragrant and I use them in my recipes just as I would use ground cumin. The crushed cumin isn't as fine as the ground cumin from the store, but we haven't noticed any difference after it's in our foods... except for the great flavor! :)

Edited to add: I now grind cumin in my mortar and pestle set -- simple and efficient!

I'm sure there are more good ideas when it comes to spices -- I just haven't thought of them yet! Anyone want to share tips for grinding your own spices (like which ones and how!) or getting higher quality spices or herbs for cooking? :)

To participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Post a kitchen tip in your blog, with a link to this post. Then come here and add your name, tip subject, and URL to this post! Links must be family friendly, as always. If you don't have a blog but would still like to share a tip, just leave a comment here with your tip! Everyone's ideas are appreciated. :) Note: Please link to your individual post, not your blog's main/front page! Thanks for participating! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays Participants

1. Noah (Nutmeg)
2. NerdMom (Making the Most of Your Oven)
3. Our Red House (Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk)
4. Mandy @ Biblical Homemaking (~homemade Frappucinos~)
5. Willa (Creamy Mashed Potatoes)
6. Debbie J. (chicken stretcher)
7. Shirley (What\'s In YOUR Refrigerator?)
8. Erika (Mango Fool and Tday Tip
9. Lori (best baking dish)
10. AmyG (Wild Rice Recipe)
11. Amy (organizing recipe magazines)
12. Rachel (pizza tip)
13. Womanly Pursuits (bird\'s beak paring knife)
14. Mrs. Pear (Fresh Nutmeg)
15. Caroline@New Little Blessing (Saving money on Groceries)
16. Kirstin (create a baking center)
17. Jennifer in OR (Cooking with Kids)
18. Holly (produce wash)
19. Beth@BeppyCat (thanksgiving leftovers ideas)
20. Western Warmth (cast iron)
21. Bethany Sue @ CFOMoms (crock pot tips)
22. Bren (aprons and baking center)
23. Trish (bake bacon)

Help needed: Grease build-up on bakeware?

Jessica emailed me with this question:

Do you have any tips for cleaning off the sticky yellow buildup (Pam spray, oil, etc.) that accumulates on the handles and edges of glass bakeware? Soap and scrubbing isn't doing the job for me, and I hate that I can't seem to get my glass baking dishes really clean.

I have found that steel wool scrubbing pads (like Brillo or SOS) will take the baked oil off of glass bakeware, but that solution won't work for something non-stick. I also prefer not to use steel wool on my stainless steel bakeware since it does scratch the surface as it cleans.

My solution has just been to grease my baking dishes with butter (you can use shortening, also) instead of using vegetable oils or sprays. It's a little extra bother, but won't leave brown grease spots on your pans afterwards. :)

I've also noticed that some frozen foods (like tater tots) will leave build-up on pans. So, for the rare occasion that we eat something frozen that's greasy, I have one particular baking sheet that I use. It's non-stick, and I'll probably never get that grease off of it without damaging the surface...

Does anyone have any good tips for cleaning baked-on oil off of different kinds of bakeware? Please share!! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Hot plate, hot food

I'm not sure how original this tip really is, but here's something I've been doing for years, whenever I make scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast!

My husband loves scrambled eggs with melted cheese on top, and warm buttery toast.

When I make scrambled eggs, I cook them until they're almost completely done, and then turn the burner very low (you can turn it off if you have an electric stove, since the element stays hot for a bit yet!). I sprinkle shredded cheese on top, and then set a plate (not plastic!) over the skillet/pan as a lid.

While I am making the eggs, I put some bread in the toaster, and when it pops up, I butter it and put it on the plate.

A few minutes later, I have a hot plate, still-warm toast, and some scrambled eggs with hot melted cheese on top. :)

There's something so... luxurious about eating from a hot plate! :)

To participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Post a kitchen tip in your blog, with a link to this post. Then come here and add your name, tip subject, and URL to this post! Links must be family friendly, as always. If you don't have a blog but would still like to share a tip, just leave a comment here with your tip! Everyone's ideas are appreciated. :) Note: Please link to your individual post, not your blog's main/front page! Thanks for participating! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays Participants

1. Willa - Make your own cake mix
2. Our Red House (Fabulous Ideas for Make-and-Take Lunches)
3. Mandy @ Biblical Homemaking (have salad like the Olive Garden!)
4. Erika (The Life of a bag of Flour)
5. Debbie J. (cloth napkins)
6. Shirley (Hearty, Delicious, and Frugal)
7. Caroline @ New Little Blessing (Keeping kitchen floors clean!)
8. Amy @ Hope Is the Word (baking stone tip)
9. Bethanie (homemade stuff crust pizza)
10. Mrs. Pear (Kitchen Bible)
11. Crystal@ Biblical Womanhood (easy tomato-freezing tip!)
12. Stephanie (Homemade Alfredo Sauce)
13. mama creative organization under the kitchen sink
14. Rachel (Nailbrush Uses)
15. Western Warmth (the chalkboard)
16. Bethany Sue @ CFOMoms (homemade dishwasher detergent)
17. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home (cutting board safety)
18. *Michigan Momma* (shopping list tips)
19. Kirsten (cooking ribs)

Composting... what do you do?

I got this email from Christy:

You have mentioned in some of your posts that you compost. I was wondering if you could give the basics of how you do it and maybe post a picture sometime. What do you need to get started and how to do it frugally would be some of my questions. I have researched online, but didn't grow up doing it so it seems pretty foreign.

Hi, Christy!

Thanks for writing! I am not a composting expert -- honestly, to me it's just a good use for waste, not a special science! :) But, I do the "slow and easy" method described on this page.

Do any of you have good composting tips for Christy? If you do composting, how do you do it -- super simple, or rocket science? :) You can also vote in my poll about whether or not you compost! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Meatballs in bulk, for the freezer

Last week, I sat down and made some lists of things I want to do before our new baby is born. I survived the first several months of pregnancy with just doing the minimum, and while I still wouldn't say that I usually feel the greatest, I have been pushing myself to tackle some larger projects which were so helpful to have done before the birth of our last child! :)

Ground beef was on sale at a local grocery store, so I bought enough to make meatballs for the freezer. I'm down to just one or two packages of meatballs from the last time I made them, and it really is so handy to have them already done and in the freezer! I cook some pasta and use my home-canned spaghetti sauce for a quick meal of spaghetti and meatballs. :)Â

Get things ready...

First, I got my ingredients ready. I had 9 pounds of meat, and was using this recipe. I actually used the food processor for all the onions and garlic, since it's easier to make meatballs when the onion is chopped very finely. And, when making such a large amount of something, it's more worth the time to wash the food processor afterwards. :)

Start mixing!

Next, I started mixing. I used a spoon as long as I could, but I did use my hands at the end. The meat wasn't too cold, thankfully! ;)

Make lots of meatballs

Now, for the rolling. I rolled lots of meatballs. Let's just say that after about the 200th meatball, I was pretty glad I had decided to "only" do 9 pounds of meat!

I put my meatballs on lightly-greased cookie sheets, and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. They turn out great, and it's so much easier than trying to cook them on the stovetop.

Baked meatballs

I drain the baked meatballs on cooling racks and/or on paper towels. I was limited on counter space that day (lots of canned pumpkin still sitting around!) so I just stacked up the meatballs.

Package them up...

When the meatballs were cool enough, I started filling my Food Saver bags for the freezer. Here you can see the difference in size between an open bag and a vacuum-sealed bag! :) The amount shown in the bags above is enough for two full meals for us. I did a few bags with smaller amounts, as well.

Meatballs, all ready for the freezer! :)

Last step: labeling and dating each package. These all stacked neatly into my freezer, and I'm guessing I now have about a year's supply of meatballs. That might sound like a long time, but the vacuum-sealed bags keep the food really well, and we've actually found that certain foods (meatballs and pepperoni, for example) taste even better when they've been frozen for a few months! :)

To participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Post a kitchen tip in your blog, with a link to this post. Then come here and add your name, tip subject, and URL to this post! Links must be family friendly, as always. If you don't have a blog but would still like to share a tip, just leave a comment here with your tip! Everyone's ideas are appreciated. :) Note: Please link to your individual post, not your blog's main/front page! Thanks for participating! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays Participants

2. Hope Is the Word
4. Debbie J. (Be Prepared)
6. LeeAnn (Do-ahead Cinnamon Rolls
10. Rachel (baking rice)
11. Joanne peeling onions
12. Mrs Pear (Cleaning Dough Bowls)
14. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home (bakign with honey)
15. Our Red House (homemade scented spray cleaner)
16. Erika (butternut squash)

Working on pumpkin

Scooping out freshly-cooked pumpkin...

Somehow, this week has turned incredibly busy. It's all good, and I love the accomplished feeling at the end of a long day, but, it's still work. :)

I canned 8 quarts of pumpkin last week, but still hadn't taken the time to post the photos I took while working on it! :)

This morning at 9:15, my mom called, asking if I wanted to do more pumpkin today. I had a headache and felt like just laying on the couch. But when do I ever feel like saying, "Sure! I'd just love a 4-5 hour project for the day! I was so bored, anyway..."? Never. So I said, "Sure!" Smile (Read more about canning pumpkin...)

Harvest's end in sight

Dehydrated green bell peppers from the garden...

This weekend, the first hard frost was predicted for our area, and so everything left in the garden needed to be picked. My mom picked two heaping banana boxes full of green bell peppers! (Anyone local need some?!)

Besides giving some away, we chopped up a bunch for me to put into our dehydrator. I think I dried about 4 gallons of diced peppers, which didn't even come close to filling a gallon bag after they were dry. I'll use these dried ones in soups or taco meat. They'll last several years.

Now, pumpkin. I think that's the last thing to finish for the year. It'll be nice to have all my jars full... and start enjoying the fruits of our hard work! :)