Category Archives: Cooking & Baking
Ok, so that’s probably not the most appealing title for a blog post! However, if you will just hang with me, I’m going to show you how to make a homemade version of the cheese-like block that we’ve all bought to make our rotel dips, chicken spaghetti, and casseroles so ooooey and goooooey!
Why would I choose to do this??? I have a hip that bothers me a lot. I’m even seeing the chiropractor off and on to make sure the pesky thing doesn’t go rouge and gets out of place. My hubby and I prefer to do things as natural as possible. The hubs suggested that I start taking collagen to help my joints. We got some beef collagen, and I tried to take it. I put it in broth. I even tried putting some it soup. Y’all, it was SO GROSS! I can’t even tell you how gross! Imagine jello soup!
The collagen ended up setting in the pantry for a long time! I finally decided that my body needed it, and so I determined to find a yummy way to get this stuff in me!
I am a lover of most all things cheese! My husband, staff, and volunteers will verify that I eat nachos almost daily. I can’t think of a day that I go without some kind of cheese or dip! I can turn anything in to a nacho! I began to research how to make my own cheese-like block. We all know the one. The block is a yellow-orange and comes wrapped in foil. I know that the store bought version is full of chemicals, so if I can make this naturally, as well as getting this collagen to my joints… it’s a win-win!
I found a few recipes online for the cheese-like block, but I found that I tweaked them before I settled in on one that I really like. The great thing about this recipe is you can have any kind of cheese-like block you want by varying what type of cheese and seasonings you use. For this recipe, I used a mix of white cheddar and sharp cheddar shredded off the block. I don’t like using pre-shredded cheese. The pre-shredded bags are full of corn starch and preservatives that I can live without. I didn’t put any extra seasonings in this first attempt; however, I believe the next time I make it, I will add some paprika, onion powder, and cyan pepper. I’ve also included a similar recipe that I used to make a cheese spread for crackers. It taste like the squeeze cheese you can get in the cracker aisle of the big box store. I’ve been eating on that every morning since I made the original batch.
Enough of the why… Let’s talk about how! The first step is to line a mini loaf pan with plastic wrap. Let’s be honest here… You can line anything you want with plastic wrap to hold the goodness, but if you want it to resemble the cheese-like block when you’re done, use a loaf pan. The next step is to grate 3 cups of cheese. Again, I used a mix of white cheddar and sharp cheddar. Put your 3 cups of cheese in a blender, so it will be ready for the magic!
In a small pan, pour 3/4 cup whole milk, 2 tablespoons of heavy cream or half & half, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 teaspoons of your gelatin. Put the pan on medium heat. You’ll need to use a fork or whisk to stir the mixture as it warms. It’s important to stir so that the milk doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. When the liquid warms to the point that you can see steam coming off the top (NOT BOILING), you’re ready for the next step.
Just a note here… I use Himalayan pink salt. It’s SO much better for you than table salt. It’s full of minerals that your body needs. Every time you eat food with this type of salt, it’s more heart healthy than normal table salt, and it helps to restore the minerals in your body.
Turn your blender speed on low. Now take the steamy milk mixture and slowly add it to the blender through the top. Once added, replace the doo-dad that covers the top and turn your blender up to medium speed to process. If you find that the mixture isn’t coming together well, you may have to increase the speed of your blender or use a tamper.
Once the mixture is thoroughly combined, stop the mix and get a spatula to help you rake out the yummy goodness. It looks like this, by the way, when it’s done.
Now, scrape everything out, and put it in the loaf pan. Place the loaf pan in the fridge for a couple of hours for everything to firm up, and you’re done!
When you take it out and cut it up, it will look like this:
I just added some milk and rotel, and I heated it in the microwave.
Now, this doesn’t make as much as one of those big orange cheese-like blocks, so you will have to adjust your dip recipes accordingly, or you could always just make more. It will keep for at least a week in the refrigerator. Like I said earlier, next time, I’m going to add a few spices to jazz it up. Just think…. Every time you eat this, you are adding minerals to your body and doing good by your joints!
3 cups of the cheese of your choice
3/4 cup of whole milk
2 Tablespoons of heavy cream
2 teaspoons of Great Lakes unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
Grate 3 cups of cheese and place the cheese in a blender. Add milk, cream, gelatin, and salt to a small sauce pan and heat on medium heat until there steam coming off the top of the mixture.
Slowly pour the liquid over the cheese through the pour spout at the top of the blender. Turn the blender on medium until combined.
Spread mixture in a plastic wrap lined loaf pan and refrigerate for 2 hours. It will remain good in the fridge for up to a week.
1 1/2 Cups Cheese
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt
1 teaspoon Great Lakes unflavored gelatin
1 Cup of Whole Milk
The method is exactly the same as the cheese block.
Adventures in Canning: MARINARA
This is the first year I’ve canned marinara. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to make it from scratch. I always just grabbed a packet of spice mix, tomato paste, and a jar or two of pre-made sauce. This year, we’ve had SO many tomatoes. Like the old woman that lived in the shoe…. We didn’t know what to do! So, we got creative and spunky, and my mom and I set out to figure out marinara.
The First Step: Scald the tomatoes…
We chose to use Travler tomatoes, but you can use whatever kind you like. The main thing is…. They need to be ripe, and you need to leave them in simmering water until the skin starts to crack open. Sometimes, tomatoes are stubborn, and no matter how long you leave them in the simmering water, they won’t break open! (Side Note: Wouldn’t it be nice if the Christ-Followers were that stubborn in their faith…. That no matter what – they don’t break open under heat and pressure.)
If you get one of these stubborn tomatoes, never fear. Just leave it in the water for a while, take it out, and puncture the skin with a spoon or knife or whatever you have.
NEXT STEP: Peel the tomatoes.
I don’t have a picture of this step because my hubby was off in Dumas tearing down a building our church has been given. I couldn’t take it myself because I had on gloves and tomato juice was…. Well, let’s just say it’s not good for the camera! Just take the cooled tomato and use your hands to peel off the skin. This part is MESSY! Not gonna lie to you about it, but the end result is worth it! I peel them in the sink with a trash can close by me. After the skin is removed, I hold the tomato by the top (where the core is located). Then I use my other hand to pull all the tomato goodness away from the core. This tomato wonderfulness goes into a bowl and the core goes in the trash.
You could skip the scalding and coring by hand process by peeling and coring them with a knife. You don’t want to do it that way… but you could.
That my friend is what luscious tomato-ness looks like!
Next for the add ins. We added LOTS of chopped onions. We had 2 5 gallon buckets of tomatoes, and we added 3 pounds of chopped onion. You can add as much as you like. We sometimes add more.
Then, I added 1 tube of Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs Paste (I divided it between my two pans of tomatoes), 1 tube of Gourmet Garden Basil Herbs Paste (again, divide between the two pans), and I added 2 tablespoons of garlic paste per pan. I also added ancho chili powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Now, in my previous batches of marinara, I used herbs from my front porch. I picked most of them, and I didn’t have enough to do a whole recipe, so I got the fresh herb paste from the produce section at the store.
You want to cook it on the stove at a simmer until it reduces by half. It takes hours for that to happen, so don’t get impatient. You will need to stir it from time to time or the tomatoes will start sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Aren’t they just beautiful!!!
Once it’s reduced, you have options! Oh, how I love options! You can leave it chunky, or you can take an immersion blender and blend it up. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender…
Now, it’s time to jar. I’m not a fan of the cold pack method unless I’m canning certain things. We don’t want these tomatoes to cook any more; I mean… We’ve been cooking them ALL DAY for goodness sake!!! So…. Here’s what I do:
- I make sure that the tomatoes are simmering almost to the point of a boil.
- I make sure my lids are in a pan of simmering water. (EVERYTHING MUST BE HOT!)
- I put the marinara in the jar, place the hot lid on the jar, and screw on the ring VERY TIGHT.
- THEN FOR THE TRICK….. ARE YOU READY? ….. I turn them upside down until they completely cool!
WHY? Well, you won’t hear very much of that popping noise that goes on when you can if you do that. Also, we want the heat to concentrate at the seal to make sure that they get completely sealed!
That’s it! I usually leave mine upside down overnight. I like to make sure the seal has plenty of time to get hot. I know that’s not quite the traditional method….. But have we ever known me to be very traditional? Exactly!
I hope you’ll try making your own marinara. Not that I”m trying to sell you on it or anything, but the store bought and powder packet versions always gave me and the hubby heartburn. Not the homemade stuff! Plus, this is free of all those chemicals and what not that companies put in the food… YUCK YUCK YUCK!!! And you’re supporting your local farmers. Now, that’s a good thing!
Here’s the Recipe:
2 – 5 gallon buckets of tomatoes (I used Traveler tomatoes)
3 lbs Chopped Onion
1 Tube Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs Paste
1 Tube Gourmet Garden Basil Herbs Paste
4 Tablespoons Garlic Paste
Ancho Chili Powder to taste
Salt To Taste
Pepper to Taste
Here’s the How To:
Peel and core all the tomatoes. I use the scald and peel by hand method, but whatever works.
combine all the ingredients and stir. Simmer on the stove until it reduces by about half.
Pack and jar while everything is simmering (lids included). Then flip upside down on the counter overnight.
Did you try this? Do you like it? Let me know. Oh, and if you have canning tips you’d like to share, comment below.
I make cakes to raise money for the mission trips I take every summer with John Smithwick Ministries International. People often ask me how I do some of the decorations that are on the cakes.
Here’s a neat stain glass trick I’ve devolped for cakes….
How it’s Done:
Cut out whatever shape that you want in fondant. Here I’ve chosen a cross. Get suckers from your local store – they can’t have any extra candy in the center. You’re looking for something like Safe-T-Pops or Dum Dums. Place your unwrapped candy in a Zip Lock bag. Hit with a hammer until broken into peices. Take the candy peices and place them into the fondant. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and place the fondant cut out on the cooki sheet. Stick the cookie sheet in the oven just until the candy begins to melt. Presto Changeo…. You now have an eatable decoration for your cake….
PS – Watch your creation when it’s in the oven carefully… a few seconds longer and you will have a brown, burnt creation…