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Thursday, June 16, 2022

What is BBQ sauce made of?

Another food post? You betcha! I have been craving some BBQ sauce, normally I'd just grab a bottle from the condiments section at the store, I don't eat it enough to warrant keeping a supply at the SkyCastle, it just goes bad before I can finish it... So as I was saying, I normally just grab a bottle from the store and run with it. And by running, I mean I soup it up. I add my own touches to it, adding extra honey is my go-to touch up. 

Since I'm striving to eat healthier, one of the things I'm working to cut out of my "diet" is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I just watched a mini-documentary on YouTube about what a minefield that substance is for your body. Wellllll, no matter what bottle of BBQ sauce I pick up in the store, everyone of them have HFCS as one of the top ingredients, if not the number one ingredient.  Why oh why do the food companies do that to us??? 

I could have gone over to the healthfood store, I'm sure I would have found a healthier bottle of BBQ sauce, I'm also sure it would have been a pricy little bottle, and no guarantees I would have liked it, or worse, if I did really like it, I would have been stuck liking something harder to find and expensive. 
So my next thought, I wonder what BBQ sauce is made from, I'm a pretty good cook, I even make my own mayonnaise (commercial mayo smells like rancid oil to me now), surely I could make BBQ sauce, how hard could it be? 

Sidestory, I didn't tell you before, but I grew up in a family BBQ joint. My uncle Marvin and my dad had the business, I did my tour of duty working there, got pretty good at trimming brisket, I still have the scar on my thumb to prove it. 

I learned a lot about making great smoked meats, but the BBQ sauce, well that was my uncle's secret, I don't know if he ever shared the recipe, he always made it himself. That combined with the fact that we were BBQ snobs, we always said properly cooked meat doesn't need a sauce, you only needed sauce to cover up medeocre BBQ... But if you felt that you wanted a sauce, my uncles BBQ sauce was top notch. 

Back to yesterday, I'm standing in the condiments section of the store, picking up, reading the label, and putting back bottle after bottle of BBQ sauce, I'm sure I picked each bottle twice, hoping the HFCS would vanish from the ingredient list... No such luck. 

I decided to consult chef Google, doing a quick search for homemade BBQ sauce. I didn't need a full recipe, I just needed a guideline, the basics of what goes into BBQ sauce. I read a couple of recipes and had all the information I needed. Turns out BBQ sauce is pretty simple, it's basically a sweetened smoky flavored ketchup, the main ingredient is a can of plain tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce), the plainer, the better, then tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, a few spices, a quick simmer on the stove and voila, almost instant BBQ sauce. 

I was missing liquid smoke, paprika, and a couple of other spices,  but for me, that's part of the fun, the challenge is to make something from what I have on hand or can get now where I am... and one of my challenges is the fact that I'm shopping in a dollar store (the company I work for services dollar stores) and I just don't want to go over to the grocery store. I did find a spice blend that had most of the flavors I needed so I grabbed that too. McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple seasoning

Once I got home, I told PB about my idea to make my own BBQ sauce and he couldn't wait to try it. I don't have a recipe for this that I can exactly write down for you, I tend to cook by the seat of my pants, adjusting as I go. I'll do my best to explain my process. 

It started out with a 15oz can of tomato sauce, half a can of tomato paste, I poured in some apple cider vinegar, it was probably around 3/4 of a cup, I think next time I'll add less, it was a tad too vinegery for my tastes, if you like the Kansas City style, you'd love it! I dumped in around a half cup of brown sugar, I wish I had some honey to add, I really love that flavor in BBQ sauce. Next came a generous few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, 3-4 tablespoons at least, next a few tablespoons of the powdered spice mix. I mixed this with a whisk in a heavy sauce pan, I brought it to a boil, then let it slow simmer, stirring often for about 20-30 minutes. 

Like a lot of things, the longer you simmer it, especially low and slow, the better it tastes, the raw vinegar taste mellowed out, and everything else had a chance to get friendly with each other. 

By then the breaded chicken strips in the oven were done, I know I mentioned eating healthier, no judging 😀😉😂...  The BBQ sauce turned out very tasty. We have eaten it on several occasions now (several days later), on both chicken strips and smoked sausage. It made enough to mostly fill 2 one quart canning jars, one of which has already been fully consumed. I purchased another can of tomato sauce with the intention of making another batch. 

What will I do differently next time? I'll go easier on the vinegar, perhaps a half cup, I might even measure it LOL, I'll look around to see if I have any honey, I might need to buy another jar, that's something that I don't mind cheaping out on since it's not medicinal or anything like that, it's just for flavor in a sauce that will be consumed in short order. 

Everything else about the BBQ sauce came out great, I'm very happy with my first attempt, and I know it will just get better and better each time I make it, and the best part, no HFCS! 

Have you ever tried making your own BBQ sauce? If so, what is your recipe? Let me know if you try this or already do it, bon Appétit! 

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Sunday, June 12, 2022

Salad in a jar

Salad in a jar, have you heard about this? The deal is it's supposed to make the salad last longer, and it's prepped ahead of time, making life so much easier. I'm going to be honest, I'm not a big salad eater, it's not that I don't like salad, I in fact love salad, especially if someone else made it, LOL! While I love to cook and bake, I've just never been a big salad maker, it's always been easier and quicker to make a sandwich or make almost anything else, I suspect that is because I didn't grow up eating salad. That was something that was served at a restaurant before the meal, typically at a buffet or some such place. I do remember as an adult there was this restaurant called Souper Salad, it was just that, it had soups and salads, it was buffet style, you paid first, then you went through the line and added whatever salad fixings and soups you wanted, in the amounts you wanted... It felt like eating healthier, but a little green lettuce with tons of really rich salad dressing, creamy soups with lots of crackers, and don't forget the dessert bar, I enjoyed the sweet breads, pumpkin, blueberry, chocolate... I think what I liked best was the fact that someone else did all the prep work, I didn't mind eating the salads I just wasn't into cleaning, cutting, mincing, storing all that hard work afterward.

So today, I tend to just not think about salad, and honestly it's not something I can buy from the dollar stores that I service, the grocery stores where I could get the fixings for salad are closed by the time I get done with my jobs. Another issue I have with salad, I buy it then I don't eat it quick enough, I do like the pre-made salads in the stores, but those are starting to get more and more expensive. When I look at the ingredients and realize I can buy everything I need for just a few dollars, it's hard to justify spending the money on a mere convenience.

Earlier today, I needed to go to town, my truck was just about running on fumes, I knew I wouldn't have enough fuel to go to church on Sunday AND make it back out to town on Monday to go work. Sure enough, my truck complained about half way to town (about a 22 miles one way trip), I was expecting it, I knew I'd make it, just...

Before I left to go to town, I made a shopping list, I needed to keep things on the frugal side, I had things like plain pasta noodles, rice, and salad. I did a quick search on Instagram for summer salads, I needed inspiration, and I found it, lots of it, then I remembered salad in a jar, I searched for that and found a few good ideas. I don't need a "recipe", just some ideas.

I knew I had several cases of Mason jars in the non-functioning storage fridge outside, at least I thought I did, I hadn't looked in there in a long time, but I was fairly confident that the jars were still in there.

I made short work of fresh veggies there, buying what looked best and was a good deal, romaine lettuce, a head of green cabbage, a red onion, I found 2 packages of fresh pico de gallo, no need to buy and chop tomatoes, white onions and peppers, and they were marked down to 99 cents, I bought the 2 they had marked down. I already had 2 cucumbers at home, and everything I needed to make my own salad dressing. 

Once I got home, I found those canning jars, fortunately my memory hadn't failed me... I cleaned the jars and lids, then began to prepare the veg. I chopped the lettuce into one bowl, the cabbage into another bowl, I thinly sliced the red onion, I did a quick blanch with boiling water poured over the onions, it helps take the peppery bite out of the raw onion. I opened one container of the fresh pico de gallo and got that ready, I diced the cucumber... Next I began to pack everything into my jars, pushing everything down firmly as I went. Starting with the cabbage, layering everything else as I went and ended with the lettuce. I decided not to put any meat or salad dressing in the jars, I'll add those when I'm ready to eat the salad. I screwed the lids and rings on the jars.

Right now, my fridge is full of very pretty jars of salad. I'm very interested to see how long these stay fresh, it's supposed to last much longer than just having it in a bowl. I really hate throwing away fresh foods that have gone south. That's one of the reasons why I so rarely buy stuff like this, I'm hoping this will be the start of a beautiful (and healthier) relationship.

This was my final salad that I ate last night. I wanted to make my own salad dressing, I also wanted to make hummus, so hummus won out, it's so easy to make, let me know if you want my recipe. 

Let me know what you think, have you tried this? If so, do you like it? 

All written text from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute without written permission. You may post a portion of this (or any) message from this blog on another site as long as you include a link back to this site and the original message.


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Thursday, June 9, 2022

Waste not, want not...

Everything is costing more and more, fuel where I live is currently close to $5 a gallon, and since everything where I live is far a part in distance, averaging around 20 miles between our towns, it is really making me think a lot about not wasting anything. 

I also am a child of a parent who was born and raised during the Great Depression of the late '20s and early '30s, you'd better believe I was taught all of my life not to waste anything. That goes double for food.

I will admit to occasionally tossing foods that I could have used, but for the most part, I'm pretty frugal when it comes to food. I like cooking and baking from scratch, give me a well stocked old school kitchen and I can put together a pretty good meal.

Today I was going through my fridge and discovered I had some bell peppers and green onions that were going south, they were still good but weren't going to last much longer. The onions were in worst shape, I had put them in a hidden place in my fridge and forgot about them, but it was easy enough to remove the bad layers, I had plenty left to work with.

I diced up the red, yellow, orange and green peppers and chopped the green onions, I sautéed them in a little butter and pink Himalayan sea salt, low and slow, I didn't want to brown them or cook them to a mush, but just until they were getting tender.

I placed them into 2 quart sized zip baggies that I labeled, I flattened them and popped them into the freezer. They will make a nice addition to whatever I choose to add them too in the future, and bonus, I will not have to sautée them again, just put them directly into the dish. I ended up with approximately 2 cups of sautéed veg in total.


Now, the green onion roots, most folk just toss those in the trash, not in this house, I have been taking the root ends and planting them in a built in planter on the east side of the SkyCastle in what we like to refer to as the "smoking lounge", a small semi-enclosed room just outside of the living room. I have been doing this for a couple of years now and each summer I have a perpetual source of fresh green onion tops to cook with. All from something that is normally tossed into the trash.





I don't generally have any issues with critters messing with the onions, it's too high off the ground for the ground dwelling critters to get to, rodents don't seem to be attracted to them, the only critter that messes with them, typically when I first plant them, are the Towhee birds (Link  Link Link) they seem to be curious about what is in the dirt and will pull them up, they don't eat or damage the onion roots, they just pull them out of the dirt, so when I first plant some I have to cover them for a while, once they start sprouting green shoots, the birds leave them alone after that.




It doesn't take long for the onions to sprout some green tops, they seem to be very happy in their location, anytime I need or want some fresh onion, I cut off some of the green tops from one or more onions, they quickly grow back in just a few days, and I have more than enough in my little onion patch to keep us in fresh onion tops. 

How are you being more frugal now that everything is more expensive? Tell me how you are saving money, reusing things or anything else that is a good tip!

All written text from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute without written permission. You may post a portion of this (or any) message from this blog on another site as long as you include a link back to this site and the original message.


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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Going LED in my truck

Seems I had to change out my headlights, again... Let's go back in time, March of 2015, I had an encounter with an elk cow, did a bit of damage to the front of my truck. PB managed to get everything put back into place, mostly.

Of course after damage like that, unless you are willing to get things professionally repaired ($$$), things are never really back where they belong, and the fact that I drive on unpaved mountain roads, my truck takes a beating every time I drive around my neighborhood. Things vibrate and bounce much more than they did before on the front end. 

I have had to replace my headlights once or twice a year ever since that encounter, regular halogen lights with their spring filiments, they just keep breaking, going out, specifically the passenger side, the bright light on that side blows out over and over, it will last around 6 months, then bam, it stops working. It did it again a few weeks ago, I decided to go with LED bulbs, something with no moving parts. I expected them to be more expensive than the lights I had been using, which weren't cheap, I tended to buy the more expensive lights because I wanted the brightest lights I could get, the better to see the critters with... 

I was pleasantly surprised to find a set of LED lights that were a 1 to 1 replacement for my lights, no need to make any changes to my current system. And they were significantly less expensive that my previous go-to lights. These are for any vehicle that uses the H13 9008 style bulbs, these fit my 2008 Ford F150 perfectly.

I just got to put them in this last week, haven't had any real chances to give them a good night-time test. They do light up, are significantly cooler in color, leaning heavily to the blue side of white. I can tell they are brighter than my former headlights, I can also tell that I need to adjust my lights better. Before it  didn't matter as much, but with these very directional lights, it does matter. Another thing I noticed, there seems to be little difference between the dims and brights, much less that my former lights. I have always thought that on some vehicles, as they were driving toward me with their brights on, once they turned off their brights, it didn't seem to go much dimmer, just a pattern change in the lights. Mine do that now. There is definitely a difference in the light pattern as more LEDs are lit, but little change in the actual brightness, meaning the dims are a lot closer in brightness to the brights.

One thing I definitely need to do next is replace the entire headlight fixtures /assembly. These are the ones I'm looking at, they look nice, I like the dark color, and more importantly , the price is right...
The ones I purchased right after the elk encounter have served me well but are showing their age, the lenses are scratched and look yellowed, I know you can polish them, and I have, but they are getting to the point where that isn't helping as much. One of the fixtures has a broken piece bouncing around, that little metal dome that covers the end of the light bulb, and no, it isn't on the same side as the bulb that kept going out. For now, it's functioning well enough, once more money comes in, I'll be replacing all of those parts. 

Hope your day and week are going well!!!

All written text from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute without written permission. You may post a portion of this (or any) message from this blog on another site as long as you include a link back to this site and the original message.


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