Tag - homemade

Homemade Vanilla Cake

I have been on a quest to find the perfect homemade vanilla cake recipe to match the Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake".  When it comes to moist, melt-in-your-mouth texture, no recipe can come close to Hershey's in my humble opinion.  (For those who have tried to make this recipe with failed results, I will say that the most important direction on the recipe states to "mix for 2 minutes on medium speed before adding boiling water."  This is  a MUST to getting a perfect product!)  So don't poo-poo me when I say this is the best chocolate cake recipe floating around on the web.  I challenge you to change my mind by sending me your "best" chocolate cake recipe.

I finally discovered a forum where a person asked the same question I was asking, "How do I change a fabulous chocolate cake recipe into a vanilla cake?".  One smarty-pants baker responded with the whole scientific reason for all the ingredients listed in the original recipe and what needed to be done to compensate when eliminating the cocoa powder.  Whoa!  Here I was thinking all I would really need to do was take out the dry cocoa powder and replace it with another dry ingredient like flour.

WRONG!

Cocoa powder contains fat which effects the final texture of the cake as well as other needed chemicals to react to the baking soda and baking powder.  More sugar is needed with the chocolate cake to compensate for the bitter cocoa powder.  Also the boiling water is needed to enhance the chocolate flavor and "meld" the sugar and cocoa together.

My first try at adapting the recipe resulted in the right texture and taste, but I wasn't happy with the overall thickness of my layers.  My next attempt created a consistent result in taste and texture, but I mixed together 1.5 recipes instead of 1 for more batter.  It worked, but word of warning, it may overflow your pans slightly depending on how deep the sides are.  Future recommendation to myself and others would be to remove a few tablespoons of batter from each layer pan before baking.  (You just have to eyeball it for yourself.)

I love the ease it takes to whip this cake together on top of the amazing texture.  It pairs beautifully with a rich fudge frosting or buttercream frosting since it is not overly sweet.  It's a great "blank canvas" to adding whatever flavors you can think of - like a fresh fruit-filled center with pudding topped with homemade whip cream.  That just screams "SUMMER!!!"


Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1Mix all dry ingredients inside mixer

 

Step 2Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition
Step 3Add melted butter, mix well

 

Step 4Add vanilla, mix well

 

Step 5Slowly add half the milk

Mix like you are making a standard rue adding a little milk at a time so that there are no lumps.

 

Step 6Scrape sides and bottem well before adding remainder of milk

 

Step 7Preheat oven to 350F, prepare pans

Mix batter on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Preheat oven and prepare pans.

Step 8Pour batter evenly between 9`` pans

After pouring batter, remember to eyeball to see if they are too full.  If so, remove a few tablespoons from each.  Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes or until done.  Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack before removing from pan.

As you can see, this cake is super moist and "fudgy" (well in a vanilla-version of fudgy).

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Canning Chicken

Our friends at Fishnet Ministry ran into a huge problem recently.  They received two shipments of chicken days apart from each other adding up to a total of 63,000 pounds of frozen meat.  The problem for Fishnet was that they didn't have the freezer space for all the food.  Every walk-in frig was converted into temporary freezers and calls sent out to churches and organizations begging them to come as quickly as possible to take the food off their hands so it wouldn't be wasted.  Our family was given so much frozen chicken breasts after working our volunteer shift last week that I had no extra room inside my home freezer for anything else.  What a perfectly wonderful problem to have!  Haha!  So this week I went into "can-everything-inside-the-freezer" mode in order to make room.

Although the thought of canning raw chicken might seem daunting to most people, it really is quite easy.  Honestly, I think it's easier to can chicken than it is garden green beans.  The benefits to being able to can your own chicken are numerous.  My favorite are the quick meal preps when needing diced chicken for a casserole or whipping together a cold chicken salad for lunch.   Just pop open a jar and you are ready to go!  It's the convenience of store-bought canned chicken but way less expensive.  Stock up on chicken breasts when they go on sale (or when given a trunk full!) and save money and freezer space by canning it all.

The "juice" in the jars is 100% chicken broth since no liquid is added before processing in the pressure canner.  You can either use the juice in the meal prep with the canned chicken, or set aside and store inside the refrigerator for 3-4 days.


Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1Prep your pressure canner and lids

Pour 2 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar into pressure canner.  Place lids inside a small pan of water to heat on stove.  Do not boil the lids!

 

Step 2Pack raw chicken

Fill clean, sterile jars halfway with chicken then pack down.  Fill remainder of jar with chicken leaving a 1 1/2 inch space at the top.

Step 3Add salt

Add 1 tsp. salt per quart jar (1/2 tsp. for pints).

 

Step 4Clean rims

Use a clean, damp cloth to clean rims and check for any dings or cracks.

 

Step 5Place lid and band

Place lids on jars tightening with a band.

 

Step 6Place inside canner

Place up to 7 quart jars inside your pressure canner.  Cover and lock lid.  Process quarts for 90 minutes (up to 20 pints for 75 minutes)  at *11 pounds pressure.

*Check your canner instruction booklet to ensure correct pressure based on your altitude.

Step 7Remove jars

After canner has cooled enough to remove the lid safely, take jars out and place on a towel to rest for 24 hours.  Remove bands checking to see if each lid sealed before storing in a cool, dark place.  If processed correctly, canned chicken is shelf-stable for 2 years.  If a lid didn't seal, place the jar inside the frig and use within 5-7 days.

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Homemade Yogurt

If you own a slow cooker and happen to have some plain yogurt hiding in the back of your fridge along with some milk, you're in luck!  You can take the dwindling remains of your yogurt and multiply it into a fresh batch of plain yogurt to be further changed into Greek yogurt, sour cream or a variation of cream cheese (aka Yo-cheese).  The health benefits are substantial and the ways to use homemade yogurt are only limited by your lack of imagination.

The process alone is so easy and only takes up three chunks of time throughout the day (2 1/2 hours, 3 hours, 8 hours).  I love being able to eliminate two items off my monthly grocery list - sour cream AND yogurt.  My brood loves yogurt and typically consumes about 12-24 ounces a day.  I could easily spend more than $20/month on flavored yogurt, so it's a blessing that I can make it from scratch for a fraction of the price and still have yummy flavored yogurt.


Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1Pour milk into slow cooker

Pour 8 C. milk into the slow cooker and heat on low setting for 2 1/2 hours.

 

Step 2Unplug slow cooker

Unplug the slow cooker, leave the cover on, and let sit for 3 hours.

Step 3After 3 hours have passed

After 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 C. of the warm milk and pour into a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 C. live/active culture plain yogurt along with the 1/2 C. powdered milk.  After combined, dump back into the crockpot and stir to combine with the rest of the milk.

 

Step 4Wrap with towel

Replace lid (leaving unplugged!) and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the slow cooker for insulation.  Let set for 8 hours.

 

Step 5Strain out whey

To make either Greek yogurt or Yo-cheese, pour the finished yogurt into a strainer lined with cheese cloth or a thin linen napkin/towel that is placed over a large bowel to catch the whey.  Place inside the refrigerator until enough whey has been strained off to reach the consistency you desire.

 

Step 6Blend with flavors

Blend with your favorite fruit flavors for fruit yogurts or add spices to your Yo-cheese and spread on crackers for a yummy snack.

 

Step 7Store in refrigerator

Store in containers in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.  Set aside 1/2 C. in a separate container to use as your starter for your next batch of yogurt.

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Homemade Flour Tortillas

Whether you’re a taco fan, enchilada lover, or breakfast burrito guru, homemade tortillas are the best way to enjoy your favorites and save a little extra in your pocket book at the same time.  Or simply make them because you forgot to pick up a pre-made package at the grocery store and find yourself on Taco Tuesday without the needed shells.  Aaah!

You can make these in bulk and freeze until you're ready to eat.  Either lay the shells out in a single layer on cookie sheets inside the freezer and once frozen place inside a gallon zipper bag or layer with parchment paper and place inside a gallon zipper bag.  When you are ready to use for a meal, take out as many as you need and warm inside the oven at 225 degrees for 10-15 minutes or place inside the microwave with a damp kitchen towel covering the plate for 1-2 minutes.

The money saving breakdown.... Ten tortilla shells in the store cost $2.99 for the good ones (29.9 cents each).  You get 12 shells out of the homemade recipe.  Compared to the store, the homemade recipe is equal to the savings of $3.58.  If you go the inexpensive generic route at $1.29 for a package of 10, it still saves you $1.54.


Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1Wisk Dry Ingredients

Whisk together all the dry ingredients.

Step 2Add Shortening

Add shortening by mixing in with fingers until you have little pea-sized balls of shortening.

Step 3Add Water and Mix

Add water and mix until a dough ball forms.

Step 4Lay Out Dough

Lay dough ball out onto a lightly floured surface.

Step 5Knead

Knead a few times.

Step 6Let Rest

Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Step 7Divide and Roll

Divide dough into 12 pieces and roll into ball (if you want smaller shells, divide into 24 pieces).

Step 8Flour

Lightly flour your work surface.  Flatten your ball into a disk.  Flip the disk over so that both sides are floured.

Step 9Roll Flat

Roll with floured rolling pin and turn disk.

Step 10Cook in Skillet

Place shell in an ungreased 10-inch cast iron skillet (or non-stick skillet).  Cook on one side until it bubbles up some and is slightly browned.

Step 11Flip and Repeat

Flip and cook on the other side.

Step 12Cover Until Served

After cooking, place on a plate and cover with a kitchen towel until ready to serve.  I placed these in a zipper bag and put inside the oven until it's time for dinner.  The steam keeps them warm and soft!

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