Saturday, August 23, 2014

Canning

Right now, I have several jars of salsa and dill pickles on my table. I also have a boiling water burn, three broken jars in the garbage and a churning dishwasher. Must be canning season.





I've done the salsa before and I use the recipe, more or less, out of the Better Homes & Gardens Canning special edition magazine that came out a few years ago. The recipe has variations for pineapple salsa and salsa verde, which I make at the end of the year, provided I have enough green tomatoes and jars to go around.





I also use Hatch chiles. I bought two bags this year, thinking I'd have enough to roast and freeze. Guess I'll be back at the store soon.

The pickles were new. We planted one (One!) cucumber plant, and hit the jackpot. In addition, a friend of mine gave me cucumbers and tomatoes out of her garden, instantly doubling all the recipes.





I used the dill pickle recipe out of the same magazine, and it was shockingly easy. The hardest part was determining which size of cucumber slice should go in which jar. But the brine was a cinch. Here's the recipe if you're interested.

I wish I had more photos for you but I was working pretty hard just not to injure myself. It should be said that canning is not for the faint of heart or short on time. Between sterilizing jars (10 minutes each) cooking the salsa (2 hours) and processing the filled jars (15 minutes for each jar), the morning went fairly quickly. The afternoon, too. That said, pretty cool to see the fruits of your efforts. Back soon with less injuries and more recipes!





Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lunch: The most important meal?

Lunch used to be a challenge for me. I would get takeout multiple days in a row. Then I'd pack a lunch, and either had too much or too little to eat. Then I'd hit up the vending machine.

Then I visited my sister. And I watched how she packed lunch for my three nieces who are always on the go. Each had her own lunch bag, and a set of plastic-type things that went in it. One even had a hot-food container. Then she added these flat ice packs, zipped up the bags, and away they went.

And all I could think was, "Man, I want one of those!"

So, I went on Amazon, and got myself a fun little lunch bag (here's a similar one), some plastic boxes and a set of those fancy flat ice packs. The plastic set included a sandwich-sized box, a half-sandwich box, two small dip boxes and an ice pack that fits the lid. Genius.





And ... I bought a Funtainer.

The Funtainer is easily my favorite. It holds hot food and keeps it warm until lunch. It also does not leak when stored on its side, which is a miracle in itself. I did not buy the Star Wars Funtainer, although, clearly, that would be even more fun. Perhaps too much ...


The Funtainer.

Here are a few examples of lunches I've packed with this set. Some days I include a breakfast option, as I tend to graze throughout the day, depending on my schedule:

Banana bread; green peppers; hot pasta casserole

Hot buttered veggie elbow noodles; carrot sticks; pepper slices; hummus

Ham and cheese with mayo, mustard and tomato on wheat; cucumber slices; blueberries

Granola; almond milk (in the Funtainer); turkey and cheese wrap; celery sticks

Chicken, avocado and cream cheese wrap; cucumber slices; blueberries; breakfast bar

Soup; crackers; peapods; ranch dip

Leftover pizza slice; red pepper slices; chocolate; fried rice (It was junk food day.)




The thing about investing in a lunch-type set like this is that it seems kind of ridiculous at first. People use grocery bags and takeout containers all the time, and we do, too. In fact, I like to say the Chinese takeout place has pretty much provided us with our go-to leftover containers.

However, having items that fit specifically into a cooler bag with ice packs does a few things:

1. It keeps food at the proper temp. Safety first!
2. It makes you plan ahead, so it's one less thing to think about in the haze of work frenzy.
3. It makes you take time to think about, and take care of, yourself, your health and your mental wellbeing.

For me, it's helped a lot in that I have spent much less on lunch, and I feel like I'm eating a lot healthier. I also enjoy the sense of ritual of this meal that we've left off, somewhat, in society. Meals are meant to be savored, even in 10-minute increments!

So, lunch. Get yourself some!

Note: None of the companies linked or mentioned have any idea I exist, so no sponsored posting here. Just opinions, all my own. I did spend a fair amount of time researching the products, though, so I feel like they are good things!