Roast Beef and Barley Build the Best Cold Weather Soup

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2015. Since most of us have been experiencing bitter cold temperatures lately, we thought a good, hot soup is just what we need. Enjoy!

After a frantic few weeks of holiday cooking, you’re probably ready to put together some meals that are nearly heat and eat. Beef Barley Soup can do that for you, putting roast beef leftovers to good use, and adding barley for more protein and staying power. We usually plan for a chuck or arm roast that will allow us to have a pound or so of meat left, and we usually freeze a fourth to a half batch of the beef and barley soup made from the leftover beef. Continue reading

Real Food, Real Life: City Girl Churns Butter

Alison and her husband Jacob.

Alison and her husband Jacob.

This might be the coolest blog post I’ve written in a long time, if not ever. It’s all about the magical, real essence of butter. Continue reading

Real Mince Pies Recipe, Straight from Olde England

mince-pie

My younger sister spent a year of her college career as an exchange student to Leeds, England. There she learned many life lessons, including how to drink lots of tea, how to drive on the left side of the road, and how to make these rich mini pies, which are now a Christmas tradition in her household (and which I am lucky enough to devour when we visit her). Continue reading

Are You Ready? September is National Preparedness Month!

A potential lifesaver in emergencies, and a helpful light on countless other occasions. This bright LED flashlight never needs batteries, so it's always ready to use. A best-seller at Lehmans.com.

A potential lifesaver in emergencies, and a helpful light on countless other occasions. This bright LED flashlight never needs batteries, so it’s always ready to use. A best-seller at Lehmans.com.

Are you ready? We’re in the thick of seasonal change, with summer sliding into fall. Hurricane season still has a month to go. Although many weather sites say tornado season ‘ends’ in July, folks in the Plains states may beg to differ. And in the upper northwest and the mountains, there could already be some snow.

Throughout the month, we will feature preparedness articles so that you and your family can stay safe. We’ll take a look at Lehman’s best preparedness products too–the ones my fellow employees and I have in our own homes.

And don’t forget: the National Weather Service, the American Red Cross, and Ready.gov are all available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The advice on these sites is time-tested and reliable. Let’s all do something to be better prepared for emergencies this month! Stay tuned.

 

 

Simple Tricks to Keep Apples and Pears Fresh In Freezer!

 

pear-and-apple-1318146-1279x846

Canning apples is wonderful, but sometimes you just have too many apples to get processed before they start to go bad. That’s when the freezer comes in awfully handy!

Step by Step Guide on How to Freeze Apples

  1. Fill a large bowl with cold water
  2. Sprinkle enough table salt in the water to cover the bottom of the bowl (this is done to keep the apples from turning brown while you are cutting the remainder of the apple)
  3. As you cut the apples or pears, drop them into the bowl of salt water
  4. Once bowl is full, strain fruit and drain water out of bowl. 
  5. Place fruit into Ziploc bags or freezer safe containers
  6. Place fruit into freezer

How I learned how to Freeze Apples

One of the great things about freezing apples is that you can thaw them for a pie, toss them with sugar and cinnamon for baked apples, or even save them to can when it’s more convenient.

There’s a trick to freezing apples, though. Do it wrong, and they’ll turn a completely unappetizing shade of brown.

In the past, I’ve tried following the recommendation of soaking apples in a bowl with lemon juice added to prevent the slices from turning brown as I processed them. But that never did really work well for me. They always seemed to turn brown no matter what I did.

Adding citric acid, or Fruit Fresh, can also prevent your chopped fruit from turning.

Ball Fruit Fresh

Fruit Fresh is another thing you can use to keep preserved fruit looking good. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

But I just hate to have to stop and run out to get just one thing.

I’d finally given up on trying to freeze fresh apples and pears, until one day when I happened to meet a woman who taught me her secret. My family had taken a day trip to the mountains, and we stopped at a quaint little Mom & Pop Diner for lunch. As I got my four children seated in the little booth, I smiled at the sweet elderly couple who sat at the table adjacent from us.

My husband was up at the front placing our order when the nice lady leaned over and said, “What beautiful children you have!” I thanked her, of course, and the ice was broken for a conversation to ensue.

I told her we were looking at some property for sale in the area, and she began telling me all about how much she loved the area and about her own home there. She shared that she had fruit trees…My ears perked up when she mentioned her trees, and I asked her if she canned her apples and pears.

She shook her head. “Oh no, I don’t do much canning anymore. I just freeze my fruit now. It’s much easier.” Curious, I asked how she managed to keep her fruit looking nice in the freezer. And to my delight, she shared the trick she’d learned from her mother growing up.

Ball Preserving and Pickling Salt

You can use Ball’s Preserving or Pickling Salt too! Rinse well. At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Before she starts cutting up her fruit, she gets a large bowl and fills it with ice cold water. Then, she sprinkles enough table salt in the bowl to cover the bottom (she doesn’t ever use any measurements).

As she cuts her apples or pears, she drops the slices into the bowl of salt water to keep them fresh as they wait for the rest of the batch to join them.

When the bowl is full, she strains off the fruit, rinses and drains it well, then packs it into Ziploc bags or freezer-safe containers to be stored in the freezer. I asked her if the fruit ever tastes salty, and she said it never did, you just have to rinse it well.

As I eagerly listened to her explaining her method, I could hardly wait to give it a try myself. Before we headed back home, I found some locally grown apples and pears, and determined to freeze them using her instructions.

And guess what? It worked beautifully!!

Freezer bag of frozen apples

My apples, frozen and gorgeous! It just takes table salt and a good rinse.

I couldn’t have been more excited. My fruit looked just as white and crisp as it did the moment I cut it. And it stayed that way for months, until I was ready to whip up my favorite fruit crisps.

If you’ve ever wondered how to freeze apples and pears… now you know! Like I said, canning fruit is a lovely thing to be able to do, and I highly recommend that everyone learn how.  But when you need a little change of pace, freezing is the way to go!

Editor’s Note: This post was first published in November 2013.

Water Bath or Pressure Canners: What Works for You?

Ball Blue Book Food Canning Guide

Ideal for beginning or experienced home canners–The Ball Blue Book has the best and most up-to-date home food preserving information. Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

When folks new to canning start out, one of biggest questions asked is this one: which kind of canner should I use? And the answer most often heard is this one: “Well, it depends. What are you canning?”

As frustrating as that might be, that fuzzy answer isn’t out of line.

It really is important to know what you’ll be canning. Depending on the acidity level of the food, different processes and methods are used. Continue reading

Six Simple Tips for an Allergy-Free Picnic

 

Party Trays

A durable and reusable helper for parties, picnics and barbeques.

A picnic should be a fun gathering of family and friends where everyone can relax and have a nice time together. However, for many people attending a picnic can cause stress and panic. No, I am not talking about the dreaded conversation with your awkward uncle or the pressure from grandma to find that special someone. I’m talking about coping with the spread of dishes put out for meals.

For many, the serving table full of its tasty fare, chock-full of traditional picnic dishes can cause stress. In a time when there are so many fad diets, intolerances and medical needs involving food, there are many people that can’t just eat what everyone else is eating. At our typical family gatherings there are folks with food allergies, diabetics and vegans all needing to eat. So here are six simple steps we always use to help everyone have a nicer mealtime. Continue reading

Our Favorite 100% Whole Wheat Bread (Glenda’s Secret Recipe!)

Glenda Lehman Ervin, our vice-president of marketing, swears by this ‘family secret” bread recipe.

“My mother baked bread for us each week. How many times I came home to bread still rising in the dough pan, lightly covered with a damp cloth. Better yet, the smell of freshly baked bread, wafting through the kitchen.”

“I don’t have time to bake bread each week,” she says, “but I want my daughter to have those memories.  So I use this recipe and we bake together, on lazy Sunday afternoons or cold winter evenings. Because if I don’t teach her how to bake bread, how will she teach her daughter? The last time we baked bread, the entire loaf was gone by bedtime!”

Our pure Clover Honey is processed just a few miles from our store in Ohio. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

Our pure Clover Honey is processed just a few miles from our store in Ohio. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

Favorite 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 4 loaves.

2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons yeast
2 eggs, beaten
7 to 8 cups whole wheat flour, warmed in the oven

In a large mixing bowl, pour boiling water over powdered milk, butter, salt and honey. After cooled, add dry yeast and beaten eggs. Beat mixture with 3 cups flour. Stir in 2 1/2 cups additional flour. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. Add flour sparingly as needed to keep dough from sticking. Cover and let rest 20 minutes. Punch down and shape into four loaves. Let rise until doubled. Place doubled loaves into greased bread pans. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes.

Editor’s Note: This recipe was originally published in October 2013.

Quick Cheater Chicken Broth

Stainless steel 8 qt stockpot

Find this 8 quart, sturdy, even-heating stockpot at Lehman’s in Kidron or at Lehmans.com. For conventional or wood ranges.

You want to make your own homemade soup, but you just feel like you don’t have the time to make your own chicken stock. Is that what’s troubling you, Bunky?

Fuss no more. This “cheater” chicken broth is simple, quick and is great for the busiest households. Next time you buy (or defrost) uncooked chicken for a meal, snag an extra 4 to 6 bone-in breast pieces, or 2 to 3 whole breast portions with the bones. Skin chicken if you want a lower-fat, clearer broth. I always skin my chicken and trim the fat off the meat when I make this broth.

Bones are what give great flavor to broths and stocks. This recipe is a broth–a hot liquid made with just the chicken pieces and few other ingredients. Stocks include bones, but also add veggies, usually root vegetables, for added flavor.

Cheater Chicken Broth
(makes about 8 cups)
4 to 6 bone-in chicken breast pieces
8 cups water -OR- 4 cups water and 2 cups white wine
Spices to taste: salt, garlic powder, poultry seasoning

Pour liquid into large stockpot, and add chicken pieces. Season with 1-2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and one teaspoon poultry seasonings.

Blunt-End Stainless Steel Slotted Spoons from Lehmans.com.

Long handles and perforated bowls make Blunt-End Slotted Stainless Steel Spoons perfect for soup-making sessions. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio or at Lehmans.com.

Simmer mixture at medium heat until chicken is done: 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken breasts and how long your stove takes to warm the liquids. Stir occasionally.

Use a slotted spoon to remove chicken to plate and cool. Adjust seasonings in broth to your taste. Take broth off the heat to cool.

When the chicken pieces cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones, shred meat and return to broth.

At this point, you can serve the broth as is, add veggies to whip up a chicken soup, add dumplings, or pop the broth into the fridge for a day or two (no more, it won’t hold more than that), or freeze the broth for later use.

No matter what you do, you’ll have a tasty base for soup, stews, or dumplings.

• White wine will give you a big punch of flavor, and all the alcohol will steam off during the simmer. If you’ve not cooked with wine before, use 7 cups water and 1 of wine. You may want to increase the amount of wine you use as you get used to cooking with it.

• A squeeze of lemon juice will liven up a water-only broth. If you just use water, add the juice from 1/4 of a lemon as the simmering just starts. It’ll help tenderize the chicken too. If you think it needs more “oomph” add a bit more fresh lemon juice just before serving.

Best breads: With this simple broth, whole wheat saltines or regular saltines do well. My grandad used to float little bits of buttered bread in his chicken broth, and that’s pretty tasty too. Croutons can add texture if you have them handy.

Should you prefer your broth meat-free, use the poached chicken breast sliced in sandwiches, shredded and warmed with Old Carolina Barbeque Sauce, or mixed into this favorite dip.

Spicy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip
1-12 oz bottle Frank’s Original Hot Sauce
2-8 oz packages cream cheese, cut into cubes
1-16 oz bottle Ranch Dressing
1-28 oz can Lehman’s Canned Chicken (or about 3 cups cooked chicken)
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Mix all the ingredients together. Cook in a crock pot or slow cooker for an hour or two, stirring occasionally.

You can also bake it at 350°F for 30 minutes if you don’t want to wait! Serve with tortilla chips, crackers and celery.

Craft An Upcycled Christmas in 2015

I loved how the jar lid tags came out! Underneath, you can see my festive gift bag fabric.

I loved how the jar lid tags came out! Underneath, you can see my festive gift bag fabric.

It’s no secret that our landfills are overflowing. I take every opportunity to reduce the amount of waste I produce by reusing and repurposing whatever I can. Over the holidays I get to exercise my creative muscle to make beautiful wrappings and tags from what would otherwise be junk into decorative items that can be reused year after year.

Canning Jar Lids:

One thing I have an abundance of canning jar lids. They can only be used once, no matter how perfect they look. This year I also had a huge supply of jar labels.

Put the two together with some spray paint and you have lovely gift tags. These were so much fun to make; the process became a family affair akin to making gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies.

I gathered several dozen jar lids and gave them a good wash then let them dry completely. I had a lot of cans of spray paint left over from other projects. I found the color really didn’t matter. Although red and green are festive, the black chalkboard paint looked great too. It can be written on to which is a plus but I had trouble making the letters small enough with the large chalk I had on hand. I preferred the look of the labels. I considered poking holes in the tops so I could string ribbon or raffia through them but decided to go with some rolled tape I had that was losing its stickiness.

Make Gift Bags
I scored a bolt of red and white striped fabric at a tag sale so I now have a collection of cute gift bags that look sweet with my upcycled tags. They were easy to sew. (Editor’s Note: Pick up lots of great ideas on making your own gift bags via this Pinterest page!)

This week, I will pack up the leftover bags and the tags. Like Christmas snow, they’ll make an appearance at Christmas 2015, bringing some magic and happy memories to this special season.