Tips for Soups, Salads & Sandwiches

 

soup

  1. With soup, it is easy to “Cook Once, Eat Twice” (or three times!). Soup is the perfect freezer food, which means leftovers won’t go to waste. Soup will keep in the freezer for a couple months, so don’t hesitate to whip up extra large batches to enjoy now – and later.

 

  1. Freeze leftover soup in muffin tins for easy-to-transport single-serve lunch portions.  (I love this)

 

  1. Allow soup to cool overnight in the refrigerator before freezing. Putting hot soup into your freezer can briefly increase the internal temperature of your freezer, which could negatively impact your already frozen items.

 

  1. Don’t add cold milk or cream straight from the refrigerator to your soups while cooking. To prevent curdling, warm the milk and cream up before adding to the simmering soup.

 

  1. Mirepoix is a combination of diced carrots, celery and onion used to add flavor to soups, stocks and broths. The smaller the pieces are cut, the faster they will release their flavor. (Did you know?)

 

  1. When making soup, “sweat” aromatics, like onions or garlic, first. Simply sauté these ingredients in a little olive oil or butter until they are soft. This will release their flavors and enhance the final taste of your recipe.

 

  1. Give your soup a chance to cool a bit before adding final seasoning. When soup is boiling hot, it is difficult to tell whether or not it actually needs more salt or other seasonings.

 

  1. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to broth-based soups before serving to “brighten” up the flavors. Citrus has a natural fresh taste to it that will liven up the other flavors in your soup.

 

  1. Save time cleaning up by making your salad dressing in the same bowl you plan to serve your salad in. Mix up your dressing ingredients and let them sit for a while to give the flavors a chance to meld. Then add the rest of your salad ingredients to the bowl and toss to coat right before serving. If you make more dressing than you need for one salad, simply pour off the excess into another storage container before adding your salad ingredients.

 

  1. When making homemade vinaigrettes, add a little Dijon mustard or mayonnaise to emulsify the mixture. This will help hold together the oil and vinegar (or other acidic components) longer.

 

  1. No one likes a soggy salad. Don’t add dressing until right before you serve it to keep your lettuce crisp.

 

  1. It’s important to thoroughly wash lettuce before eating it, but it can be challenging to get it dry enough to hold your dressing. If you eat a lot of salad, a salad spinner is definitely worth the investment.

 

 

  1. If you need to take your salad on the go, but dread soggy, wilted lettuce – try layering your ingredients. A good rule of thumb is to always put dressing on the bottom (or in another container), followed by “tougher” ingredients like carrots and celery. Next up, add proteins like chicken breast or sliced eggs and then top with delicate lettuce or spinach leaves.

 

  1. Have extra tomatoes from your summer garden? Wash, chop and freeze them! Previously frozen tomatoes are too mealy to enjoy raw, but they are perfect for soups, chili and stews.

 

  1. Don’t buy previously grated Parmesan cheese in a can. A nice wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano isn’t overly expensive and will last you a long time. Plus, it won’t have a bunch of preservatives and anti-caking ingredients added to it. An inexpensive microplane* is perfect for grating over soups or salads and makes for a nice presentation when serving guests.

 

  1. There are many reasons to buy wedges of hard cheeses, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago cheese, instead of the pre-grated stuff. For example, hard cheese looks beautiful – and tastes amazing – when cut with a vegetable peeler into ribbons and placed on top of soups and salads. An added bonus is the larger chunks impart a more recognizable flavor to your dish.

 

  1. Always save the rind from hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano to add to the pot or slow cooker when making soups. That delicious salty cheesy goodness will soften and infuse your creation with a wonderful new layer of flavor.

 

  1. Plain, old sandwiches can get boring really fast. Introducing an unexpected flavor to your favorite combinations is an easy way to liven things up a bit. Instead of mayo or mustard, try a creamy avocado spread, spicy jalapeno jelly or sweet fig jam. The options are nearly endless.

 

  1. Grilled Panini sandwiches are a great cure for the common cold sandwich. You can pick up a highly rated Panini press sandwich maker for around $25 on Amazon – or you can use a grill pan and place a cast iron skillet on top of your sandwich for even heating (and those gorgeous grill marks).

 

  1. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy sandwiches, because who wants to be stuck in the kitchen making complicated meals on a hot summer day? Plus, it’s tough to beat the taste of in-season veggies, like tomatoes warm off the vine and crispy lettuce straight from the garden. They create the perfect foundation for whatever meat, cheese, veggie, and condiment combination you put together.

 

  1. One trick to instantly up the ante on your sandwich creation? Heat the protein before assembling your ingredients. Heating up your chicken, ham, sliced beef or even tofu will add another delicious dimension to your sandwich.

 

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What are some of your favorite tips?

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Grilling tips

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Tips for Grilling Moist Meats

Most everyone likes to cook outdoors on a grill, especially when it’s just too hot to cook in the kitchen. However, meat (especially a large piece) cooked in the hot dry environment of a grill may dry out if precautions are not taken. Using any of these ideas can offer a solution to this problem.

First, purchase the right meat. Beef should be firm to the touch, not soft. Fish should be glossy intact steaks or fillets. Second, be sure to get the grill hot before adding any meat. Lock in flavor by keeping the grill closed. Thirdly, use the proper cooking time for the selected meat and remember to let the meat rest after removing from the grill. This gives it time to finish cooking and reabsorb some of its juices.

Certain types of meat are meant to be cooked and removed from the heat before it has a chance to dry out. Things like sausage, pork chops and chicken breast for example, are usually quick cooked over direct heat. To lock in the moisture, rub with oil and seasonings. Also, go easy with the spatula. The more pressure placed on the meat, the more the natural juice lost.  Check out our Wildtree oils/rubs/seasonings

For indirect cooking, a good marinade is the best choice for locking in moisture as well as flavor. The best cuts of beef need only soak for 20 minutes to an hour. For less choice cuts of meat, increase the soak time to tenderize. Always marinate in the refrigerator—never at room temperature, but DO let the meat sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so before putting it on the grill. Chicken needs to marinate for at least 20 minutes but not more than an hour if the marinade is vinegar based. Grill each side for only 6 or 7 minutes

For meat that is to be cooked for a long period of time with the lid down, a simple pan of water set inside the grill away from the meat will help replace some of the juice lost during cooking. Flavored chips (Mesquite for example) added to the water to will enhance the taste. An open can of beer set over the hottest part of the fire will boil and saturate the air with vapor and flavor. Many cooks use a spritz bottle filled with a liquid to spray the meat several times throughout the cooking process. Sauces should be added during the last 20 or 30 minutes of grilling.

Whatever method chosen to moisturize, guest will appreciate your effort to serve a flavorful, succulent meat for their dining pleasure!

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Food Dehydrators – Do You Really Need One?

Food Dehydrators – Do You Really Need One?

 

 
Food dehydrators certainly do have some pros and perks. But then, so do air and oven drying. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of dehydrators and other methods.

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1. Dehydrators

These neat machines look a bit like air purifiers or humidifiers. They work by circulating hot, dry air around food at a temperature of about 150 degrees F.

Pros

* Speed – There’s no doubt that dehydrators speed up the process of food drying, sometimes significantly. Fast drying means bacteria have less time to grow, and it also means that foods tend to retain their color better.

* Space – A dehydrator takes up a lot less space than spreading foods all over screens or stringing them on thread and hanging them in garlands.

* Convenience – When you dry food in a dehydrator, you don’t have to carry your food indoors at night and put it back out in the morning. You also don’t have to worry about leaving an oven on all day if you have to step out.

Cons

* Expense – Dehydrators can be expensive. Expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $250 for various models.

* Energy use – Dehydrators don’t necessarily use a lot of energy, but they certainly do use more household electricity than air and sun drying.

* Storage – You won’t be using your dehydrator every day, so storing it when you’re not using it (which is most of the time) can be a problem.
2. Oven Drying

Pros

* Saves space – Since you already have an oven in your kitchen, you don’t have to make space for another appliance, or for homemade drying racks.

* Relatively fast – Oven drying is not as fast as a dehydrator due to the lack of circulating air; but it’s generally faster than air drying.

Cons

* Energy use – Oven drying is probably the most energy-consumptive method. Even on a low temperature, it takes a decent amount of electricity to keep an oven warm constantly.

* Inconvenience – You can’t cook or bake anything else in the oven until the food is dry.
3. Air and Sun Drying

Pros

* Free energy – You don’t have to concern yourself with using electricity – sun and air are free!

* Flavor – Some claim that air and sun drying produces the best flavor in produce, and infuses it with “natural energy” instead of electrical energy.

Cons

* Pests – Bugs, rodents, and pets can spoil your efforts.

* Weather – If the weather turns wet and you can’t get your food inside on time, your whole venture may be ruined.
As you look at this list, it seems like dehydrators do stand out as the most effective means of drying food. But if you can’t afford one or if you don’t have a place to store one, or if you are just working with a small amount of food to dry, the oven and the air and sun can still work. You can also check at yard sales this summer and see if anyone is selling a used dehydrator for cheap.

 

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Broken Glass?

It’s happened to all of us.

One of the worst things to clean up is broken glass. You risk cutting yourself  and also  leaving little bits for yourself or someone else to step on later.

Use this tip  to get the job done.

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If you ever drop glass, put a piece of bread on it.

The consistency of the bread will pick up even the smallest of shards.

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Basil

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Wildtree was founded on the premise that food should be natural, nutritious, delicious and easy to prepare – all at the same time. Our products are made with the finest ingredients available and contain no preservatives, additives, MSGs or dyes.

If you are looking for convenience foods, sauces, spices, and baking mixes that are non-gmo, msg free, and made from organic ingredients, Check out the Wildtree Website.

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21 Tips for Safe and Delicious Chicken

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  1. To ensure even cooking, start with cutlets or breasts that are uniform in thickness and size.
    Use a kitchen scale to make sure your pieces are the same size. Most recipes call for 4 – 6 oz. pieces.
  2. To achieve even thickness, butterfly thick chicken breasts by cutting across them horizontally with a sharp knife. Do not cut all the way through. Instead, open the two halves so they lie flat. Then place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound flat with a meat mallet or rolling pin until the entire piece is the same thickness. (Or do it like I do-Give it to your significant other to do)
  3. Never thaw frozen chicken at room temperature as this will allow harmful bacteria to grow. Instead, place frozen chicken in a glass dish and defrost in the refrigerator.
  4. Allow 24 hours for a 3-4 lbs. whole chicken to thaw; 12 hours for frozen parts.
  5. Don’t use the same permeable wood cutting board you use for your vegetables and other food items to prepare chicken. Choose a glass or other impermeable surface instead to protect against bacteria.
  6. The acids in marinades help break down the protein fibers in chicken meat. Marinating your chicken prior to cooking will tenderize the meat and add lots of great flavor to your recipes. Wine, vinegar, and fruit juices are all excellent ingredients to use in marinades.
  7. After your chicken has marinated, be sure to discard all remaining liquid rather than continuing to cook with it.
  8. Always cook chicken to temperature, not by time. Internal starting temperatures can vary widely, which can affect the total cooking time quite a bit. Use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat to make sure your dish has reached at least 165 degrees F.

 

  1. 165 degrees F is the minimum recommended safe internal temperature for chicken. However, some cuts are better at slightly higher temperatures. Here are some general guidelines:

    165 degrees – boneless chicken breasts
    170 degrees – bone-in chicken breasts
    175 thighs & drumsticks

  2. Cook fresh or previously frozen chicken within 2 days of purchasing it.
  3. Don’t refreeze previously frozen chicken meat. Double check before buying meat at your grocery store to determine if it has been frozen and defrosted.
  4. Refrigerate chicken within 2 hours of cooking it.
  5. Many recipes require searing the chicken over high heat prior to cooking to brown it. Don’t let those beautiful, delicious brown bits on the bottom of the pan go to waste! Deglaze the pan with some wine or chicken stock when you are done searing. This is the key to rich and delicious pan sauces and gravies.

 

  1. Those tasty brown bits left on the bottom of the pan after roasting or pan frying chicken or other meats are called “fond.” Fond is your friend!
  2. Before roasting a whole chicken, be sure to rinse the inside cavity before seasoning and stuffing. Then, pat the outside dry with paper towels to help the skin brown nicely. Water left on the skin will turn to steam inside the oven, which will inhibit browning.
  3. It is not necessary to rinse chicken prior to cooking it. In fact, rinsing is discouraged because this can cause germs to splatter around your food prep area. However, you should still rinse out the cavities of whole birds before seasoning and stuffing them.

 

  1. Use parchment paper when oven roasting chicken breasts to prevent them from drying out. A sheet of parchment paper placed under the meat will protect it and help keep it moist.
  2. Allow chicken to rest at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes prior to roasting. This will help the meat roast evenly throughout.
  3. Starchy side dishes like pasta, rice and potatoes are ideal for chicken recipes with pan sauces because they help soak up all that delicious flavor. For a great low carb alternative, try garlic mashed cauliflower instead.
  4. Chicken, like most meats, needs to “rest” when it comes out of the oven to allow the juices to be re-absorbed. To rest, place your meat on a serving plate and tent a large piece of aluminum foil over it. If you want tender and juicy chicken, don’t skip this step!
  5. The amount of time chicken needs to rest after cooking will depend on size. Smaller pieces will require less time (5-10 minutes) than a whole bird, which may take 20-30 minutes.download (10)

Benefits of Canning and Freezing

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When it comes to canning and freezing, most people do it for the great benefits. If you are considering taking up this time-honored way of preserving food, you might be wondering if it’s worth it. Why bother? Are there any benefits to canning and freezing food at home?

There actually are some very real benefits to canning and freezing. Here are some of them.

Saves Money

If you buy your food in season from local farmers or take advantage of supermarket sales, you can produce large quantities of high-quality canned food for little money. Dried beans are a good example – a 2-lb bag of dried beans for $2, cooked and canned, produces 4 to 6 pints of canned beans. A pint is a bit more than a commercial can, making your efforts well worth it.

Taking advantage of seasonal, local foods saves money, too. Many vendors at open air markets will sell boxes of “canning fruits” or “canning vegetables.” These can be very reasonable, producing more than their worth in canned or frozen goods.

Healthier

When you can and freeze food yourself, you know exactly what went into the jar. If you prefer less sugar or salt, you can simply use a recipe with less. Glass jars are also a very safe material for food preservation; no metals leach into the food.

There is a much shorter processing time when you can and freeze at home. There are no long transport times; you can get your food from garden or market to can in a matter of hours. This helps retain the foods’ nutrients.

Another note on health – foods you can yourself do not have added preservatives, artificial colors, or artificial flavors. There is no high fructose corn syrup either, or any other dubious chemicals and additives that may be of concern.

Winter Nutrients

In the middle of winter, nothing beats opening a jar of fresh-tasting berries, frozen or canned at the peak of their flavor; and few pleasures equal fresh-tasting corn and tomatoes in January. During cold and flu season, you and your family can be enjoying nutrient-rich, healthy foods that may help ward off illness.

Gifts

Have you ever received homemade jam or an herbal vinegar as a gift for Christmas? Frozen or canned goods make excellent holiday gifts, and they are inexpensive and generally well-received.

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Unique Ways to Use Extra Tomatoes

Unique Ways to Use Extra Tomatoes

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If you have planted a garden in the past, you know tomatoes are often prolific. Before you know it, you have an over abundance of tomatoes. You don’t want to can them. Freezing isn’t such a good idea. And you can only eat so much spaghetti. If you’re looking for unique ways to use extra tomatoes look no further.

1. Slice them up – Use slices for hamburgers and sandwiches. In the South, people have tomato slices as a side dish. If you’ve never tried that, now would be a perfect time.

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2. Make salsa – There are so many different salsa recipes available in cookbooks, magazines and on the internet. Try different recipes with your extra tomatoes. If you’re tired of store-bought salsa, can some for the colder months. An unusual salsa recipe you can enjoy with fresh from the garden tomatoes also has mangos, onion, jalapenos and avocado.

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3. Eat them while they’re green – Many Southerners love fried green tomatoes, some people from other areas of the country do, too. Slice the tomatoes, bread them and then fry them up for a tasty treat.

4. Stuff them – Slice the top of the tomato off, scoop out the seeds and fill with your favorite egg, tuna or chicken salad. Not only will this be a great way to avoid having to wash an extra dish, it will look wonderful and you can eat it when you’re finished with the salad.
5. Make tomato soup – Canned soup from the store might be good in a pinch but homemade tomato soup is super! Use your family’s favorite tomato soup recipe and can it for the winter months.

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6. Break out the dehydrator – Tomatoes are easy to dehydrate. Cut off any bruises, slice them up, put them on the dehydrator rack and turn it on. Before long you’ll have dried tomatoes which can be used in various recipes throughout the year.
7. Add them to salads – Cut the tomatoes into cubes along with onions and cucumbers. Add a nice vinaigrette dressing and you’ll have a different salad. Of course, you can also cut them up and add them to typical tossed salad, as well.
8. Make homemade ketchup – Ripe tomatoes, garlic, cider vinegar, brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves make awesome ketchup your family will love.

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9. Shish kabob them – The next time you get a nice cut of meat that is the perfect size for a shish kabob, skewer the meat along with tomatoes, red onion and mushrooms. Brush them with olive oil and grill them.

The above are a few of the many unique ways to use extra tomatoes from your garden. If all else fails and you still have too many after trying these ways, give them away to friends, family or local food banks. They’re sure to be appreciated