Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's a matter of.......Salsa with Clear Jel

(Yes, this is real can see where I spilled Salsa on my towel as I was spooning it into the jars:) ) 

In previous posts, I have shared with you all that Rooster Senior is serving in the Bishopric of a Young Singles Adult Ward....and that I have chosen not to go visiting these young folks in their apartments empty-handed.  Please know that this is a personal decision I have made....not a requirement put upon me by anyone.  These young people are often far from home and appreciate something besides Ramen and Fast Food.  Here is another 'item' I have chosen to have on hand to take with us as my husband and I go visiting.  This is a Salsa Recipe from  Not only was the recipe highly rated, but it also allows you to adjust the amount you wish to make and calculates it all for you. uses a product that I have come to know and love.....namely Clear Jel.  For the recipe, please see this link

In the past when I have canned Salsa 'by the book', I didn't like it.  It was watery, and didn't resemble the types of Salsa my family enjoyed.  So, this recipe sounded and turned out to be like a big name brand salsa that you often see advertised on National TV.....that isn't made in New York City.

Now, I had a box of tomatoes....that were not going to wait for anyone.  So, on the day I processed them...I only had 2 hours to do all of this.  Literally, I had worked at the hospital for a better part of the day, came home (with 2 hours to use for this purpose), and then left home to go and serve hundreds of Young Single Adults a meal for a meeting that evening.  So, again I used my tools to help me do this and do it efficiently.  It is worth having tools that make your task easier and efficient.  You do not have to gather tools all at once.....but just obtain them conservatively over time.

I quartered my tomatoes to get them ready to process.

I placed them in the hopper of my Food Strainer and began to process them.

Using the Salsa Screen on my Food Strainer, this is how the puree came out. If the truth be told, I did strain some of the 'watery' liquid away as these tomatoes were very 'juicy'.  I knew it would take forever to reduce the liquid amount down if I didn't.  Using a hand strainer, I reserved the pulp but discarded the tomato water (a sin to some of you I know). I just didn't have the time to reduce it wasn't an option.

Time spent processing about a half of a bushel of tomatoes...20 minutes. 

This is called an "Alligator". 

You cut the onion in half and push the handle down.

This device chops the onions quickly and they fall into this hopper. Look how uniform they are cut. Time spent chopping a small bag of onions....7 minutes.

I added the onions directly to the puree from the hopper.

In the picture above, I am wearing gloves. This is imperative with onions and cutting Jalapeno protects your hands and you will not smell like peppers for days by doing this. Cutting peppers took me about 5 minutes.

Make a slurry of the Clear Jel Powder and just enough water.  Clear Jel helps your Salsa get a thicker consistency.  In this recipe, you also use Tomato Sauce, which helps with the thicker consistency as well.

Slowly add the Slurry to your other ingredients.  Now, at this point I had to put this pot into my refrigerator as I had to change my clothes and get ready to leave. I did not process the Salsa until the next day.  As the mixture was cold, it took a while to heat up to a small boil before it was ready to process. 

Here are the jars from the first batch and a little surprise.  I love my husband, but he can be a bit of a 'hoarder' at times.  I often park in the garage and hurry into the house as the garage is a bit 'visually challenging' for me.  However, out of the corner of my eye......I spotted another Hot Water Bath Canner.  I asked him why he had this.  He picked it up in his travels somewhere and didn't really remember.  Well.....because of my time crunch....this was a great bonus to me!   I processed 24 pints of Salsa in half the time.

So, what is the take home message here?  There are many:

  • Use your tools to be efficient and save time.
  • Try Clear Jel in works just great!
  • Even busy people can do this....I am proof!
  • I now have something to pair with a bag of chips to take with us as we visit with these wonderful Young Single Adults.
If you decide you can do something.....the Lord will make the way for you.  You can do this and many other things to prepare and care for your family.  You just need to develop the skill sets to do so.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's a matter of.....feeling empty-handed!

In a previous post, I let you all know that Rooster Senior has been called to serve in a Bishopric of  Young Single Adult Ward...and I get to along with him!  We went visiting some of the apartments of this ward....and when we walked in I felt empty handed.  Not that this is necessary, but I just felt like we should have brought something with us as these young people are often far from home. When several of them came over to our home, they commented on how much they appreciated being in a home....with real parents!  This just made me laugh as there were plenty of times that my now adult children would tell me that they were looking forward to moving into an apartment and growing out of the family home.

Well, again, not that it is necessary, but I decided to have things prepared to take with us when we go visiting in the future.  Here is my first 'item', which is Jam.  I made this using Clear Jel instead of Pectin.  For recipes and more information, please see this link

I went to my local Club store and found berries for a really good price.  I bought a lot!  I made 36 jars of jam for just a few dollars as I had all the ingredients to make the jam in my Food Storage and Pantry.

Time is really of the essence for me....I don't have a lot.  I am very serious about that.  I have to plan my time in blocks so that I can get everything done.  So, I decided to puree my blueberries in my food processor to save time....and it literally only took a few minutes.

First I pulsed it and then let it run.

As usual, mix your sugar with your Clear Jel before adding to the puree.

Add the Clear Jel mixture slowly with a whisk to incorporate it without lumps. Notice the color before the Clear Jel sets up.

After the Clear Jel begins to thicken, the color also darkened.

Now, for time saving tip number two,  I have a Food Strainer.  My husband likes Raspberry Jam, but really dislikes the seeds.  So, I purchased a berry screen to use with my Food Strainer.  Here I put the berries in the hopper.

Then I turned the handle.  See the berry juice/pulp coming down the slide and the seeds etc going out the left side of the picture? I decided to put the 'waste' pulp through the strainer a couple of times to capture all the juice I could.  Isn't it a pretty color?

Process per the recipe instructions.

I made 4 different types of Jam in one evening.  I realize I am only showing 3, but 4 gives me a variety to give.  I plan to make bread dough in my Bread maker (again, time is the issue) and have it waiting for me when I come home from work,  Then I can bake it in mini-loaf pans, put the bread in a cellophane bag with a bow and also put something cute on top of the jar to go with it. Every gadget has parts that can be put into the dishwasher to clean while I am doing something else.   I am hoping that these young people can feel a bit of 'home' when we go visiting.  As much as they would probably hate to admit it, they do miss their parents and the sense of home.

My whole point in writing this post is not to show how 'fabulous' I am.  Quite the contrary....I really am not.  However, I am trying to use my gadgets and machines to make the processes faster and more efficient so that I can accomplish as much as I can in a short amount of time.

Consider it!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

General Conference Notebook

Image Courtesy of

I have received several requests for the April 2011 Conference packets from the links that were active during March of this year.  Some of them no longer are active.

I believe this is what many of you are looking for.  I hope you enjoy it!

General Conference Packet from

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's a matter of Earthquake Preparedness......

For those who work and live along the Wasatch Front in Utah, this video from Be Ready Utah is particularly for you.  But, this video also has applications to all of us about being prepared in our homes and in our business's and schools.  Get a pen and may want to take notes!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Queso Blanco....

We recently had a large number of Young Single Adults at our home.  Why?......because we have a new chapter of our lives that has just begun.  Rooster Senior has been called into the Bishopric of a Young Single Adult Ward.....and our Sunday's and some weekday evenings sure look a lot different than they used to.

What does this have to do with Queso Blanco?  Well, read on.  I recently attended a Cheese making class taught by Raylene from Mama Rae's Cheesemaking Supply.  As I sat in this class, I could see the possibilities of this unique cheese and decided to try this application that I will show you below.  First, let's see what you need to have.

I decided to make Cheese logs for this gathering of Young Single Adults.  In the class, Raylene had many different types of flavored vinegars and Spices she purchased from a Latino Food Store. She said the spices that you purchase in these establishments are a lot fresher and less expensive.  I'm all for that.  So, I purchased a couple from her list, along with Malt Vinegar.  I already had Balsamic and White Vinegar.  You will also need Kosher Salt flakes.  (These are so much less expensive than the Cheese Salts that you see advertised.  It is not iodized, which is needed for cheese making according to Raylene).

Simple things are needed for this.  Following Raylene's lead, I used my Hot Water Bath Canner (with the rack at the bottom) and my largest Stock pot.  This makes a large double boiler.  One thing I would do differently, I would heat the water a lot initially, then put in the stock pot in preparation for the milk. This would significantly cut down on the time needed to make heat up the milk.

Pour your milk into your double boiler.  I used 2 gallons of Whole milk.  You cannot use UltraPasturized Milk...FYI.  Read your labels.  (For those of you thinking about your powdered milk, wait until the end of the post).

You will need an actual Dairy Thermometer as the increments are smaller.  A traditional candy thermometer is not as accurate.  Mama Rae's sells this for $7.00.  Heat the milk to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Once you reach 190 degrees, reduce your heat to keep the milk at that temperature.  Now, this next part is not an exact science......which I really appreciate!  Scoop out several cups of hot milk into a bowl.  I started with 5 cups, but quickly increased it to much more on the second and third tries....and you will see why in a minute.

I decided to use a Malt Vinegar....which is readily found at grocery stores.  Now, remember the "not an exact science" part? this slowly.  Pour in a little bit of vinegar and stir.  Do this in small increments until you see curds form and separate from the whey.

This is what it looks like when they separate.

According to Raylene, you need a sturdy cloth for hard cheeses, and she used one for this cheese.  Notice that I only put a corner of the cloth in my colander.  Pour the contents of the bowl into your cheesecloth-lined strainer. You can capture the whey and use it for other purposes by placing a bowl underneath your colander.

Remember the "use a corner of the cloth" comment?  Well, here is why.  Use another corner of the cloth to help you twist the cheese in the cloth to drain the whey.  It is a bit warm, and the corner makes the heat manageable to touch as you twist the ball.

On this step, it slowly and use a little bit of salt at a time.  Sprinkle some on your cheese, then knead it. Taste it to see if it has the amount of salt you prefer.  If not, sprinkle in some more.  You can always add salt, but you cannot take it away in this process.

Here is the cheese made from 5 cups of milk.....not a grand enough amount for a cheese log. So, feeling a bit more confident, I used more milk on the subsequent attempts at this same process.  If you choose to use herbs to flavor your cheese, put them in as your milk warms up.  If you choose to use spices, put them in a little at a time before you add white vinegar to curdle the milk. 

When I formed the first cheese log and tried some, it had more texture to it than I was used to.  So, I added a half package of cream cheese to each log.  Two gallons of milk made 4 logs.  Each was a different flavor.  Here there is Malt flavored cheese (my personal favorite), Balsamic flavored cheese (darker color), Italian spice flavored cheese, and finally Italian spice and Red wine vinegar flavor (I got creative).  I found that I had to put these in the refrigerator to set for at least 30 minutes.

Next, I took a plate and covered it with plastic wrap.  I then sprinkled some sliced Almonds on the plastic wrap.

I then rolled the cheese log into the almonds and pressed the nuts into the cheese.  I wrapped the log tightly.

Here are the final products.  I left them in the refrigerator over night.

I placed them on trays with a variety of crackers. 

What was the result?

  • The Malt and Italian with red wine vinegar went first.
  • The Balsamic was not preferred initially, however the guys took all the leftovers home with them....including crackers!
Now for the powdered milk comment.  Raylene stated that you could use Powdered milk....but it cannot be Ultra-Pasteurized or Aspic.  If you used Non-fat milk, you would need to add cream to increase the fat content.  I have shelf stable Cream that I may try if and when I do this again.

So, try it!  It is really quite easy.  You may find yourself saying the same thing I did...."Is that all there is to it?"

Addendum (9/17/11): I had a cheese log left in the refrigerator....that I neglected to put out.  It stayed in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  My husband said that it really tasted great!  I tried it as well......and the flavors were really good.  They were fine the night of our event.....but having them sit a couple of days really enhanced the taste.  FYI.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Water the big box store!

I also saw this sight at Wally World the other day.  Look at all the water storage options....and look at the pricing.  Get stocked up.....maybe this big box store knows something we dont' know!

I particularly like the variety being offered.  I have large containers of water.  I also have smaller, more manageable containers as well.  This is so that I can easily transport water in my home, or transport it in my vehicle if for some reason we have to evacuate.

My sister lives outside of Austin Texas.  This week, she had to evacuate because of the fires burning in the area.   In asking her what she decided to take, she said she took her 72 hour kits, photos, legal papers, certain keepsakes..........and her Seminary files!  We all place value on things differently.  Fortunately for my Sister and her family, they were able to return home within hours.  However, it made her think about what was important.  She had a few hours to decide.  Not everyone does. If the fires had taken out the power, she would be really dependent on her stored water.  This is particularly true as the air was very smoky in her area.

Think about it.  What would you do?  What do you have on hand?  Would you be in a position to leave on short notice?  Could you haul water if you needed to? Answer your own questions.....and make a plan!

Canning supplies!!!!

I was in Wally World the other day, and was surprised to see that they were moving in Canning the Pallet.  In years past, during this time of year, bottles were difficult to find.  This is why I was so surprised to see such a large supply.  Either they anticipated selling a lot or people have stocked up and don't feel the need to purchase as many.  Whatever the case may be, go purchase your needed supplies.  Food will only get more precious during our country's fragile economic status.  Food could be considered a type of currency.

So, determine what you need, and go out and get it!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Powdered Dairy....

Image Courtesy of
Previously, we have briefly discussed items like powdered butter, powdered sour cream etc.  The question that traditionally arises with these products is something like this. "How do I store it once I open the #10 can?.

Well, here is a Video by Anitra Kerr from  Simply Living Smart.  It is worth watching and answers many questions that often arise with these wonderful products:  You can view it here:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What is CSA?

Have you ever heard of a CSA? Well, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  And in my case, this wonderful produce is organically grown at Jacob's Cover Heritage Farm.  I purchased a 'share' which entitles me to a fresh box of produce each week.  I just head over to the drop location (in my case Allred's Ace Hardward) on Thursday evening and eagerly see what is new for the week. 

I took everything out of the box and laid it out on the counter to show you everything that I recieved this week.

Here are some lovely tomatos, and yes there are some light colored varieties.  A really yummy snack.
Here is a purple carrot I recieved during a week last year.
Now, I do have a garden as well.  But this gives us an opportunity to support a local farm and be exposed to new things. See the white item at the bottom of the box? It is a Pat-a-pan squash.....something that we have never had before.
So, look around your area and see was CSA is available.  Here is the contact information for Jacob's Cove Heritage Farm:
Jacob's Cove Heritage Farm 1526 South Geneva Road Orem, UT 84058
Phone:  888.880.8039
01 09 10