Orange Julius from Scratch

ID-10020975I love how, in the Old West, the Native Americans demonstrated industry and thrift by using all the parts of the buffalo they hunted. Besides making jerky and pemmican from the meat, they also used the dung for fuel, the hides for clothing and shelter, and the bones to make tools. I like to think that in my own small way, okay, very small way, I’m following their example. I often buy oranges, but my family rarely just peels and eats an orange. I usually end up juicing them. We don’t like much pulp in our juice, so I always strain it out. But I felt bad at how much of the orange’s insides seemed to go to waste.

I hit on a simple idea that solves that problem. I slice the oranges in half and scoop all of their insides into a blender and blend them up. I strain out the juice to drink, then I freeze the remaining pulp. On another day, we will put the frozen pulp into the blender with milk and sugar to taste and make an orange julius. You can add a few ice cubes if you want to thicken it more. Pretty good if I do say so myself.

Of course, if you really want to go Native American, you can also use the peelings for the orange zest called for in many baked goods or chopped up in orange marmalade. I do like orange marmalade but don’t make enough of it to use all my orange peelings.


Easy Peasy Pizza

Easy Peasy Pizza

Want an inexpensive, quick dinner for those busy days, and maybe eating out isn’t an option? Try my Easy Peasy Pizza. The basic ingredients are ones that, if you don’t keep them on hand, you really should so that you can always have a cheap, tasty dinner that’s also popular with kids. And you can even dress it up with various leftovers you need to use up.

Preheat oven to lowest setting (about 170 degrees F.)

Pizza Dough

2 1/2 cups flour

1 T. yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 T. oil

1 cup hot water

Mix all ingredients and knead for about one minute (really, that’s all). Place dough in oil-coated bowl and turn over so all of dough gets coated and place in warmed oven. Turn off the heat and leave the oven door ajar. Let rise for 20 minutes. When you take the dough out, start preheating the oven to 450 degrees F. Then use your fingers to spread the dough out in a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet that’s about 15 x 10 inches and coated with cooking spray. Don’t stretch the dough because you’ll get holes in it. Just gently press it outwards from the middle till it fills the pan. It won’t seem like it, but this dough really will fill the whole pan. Top with pizza sauce.

Pizza Sauce

3 oz. tomato paste

3 oz. water

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. oregano

Mix all ingredients together and cover top of pizza dough. Top with 8-oz. package of shredded Mozzarella cheese and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

The basic pizza is yummy enough, but here’s where you can have some fun. Raid the fridge for goodies you can add to personalize your pizza. You can do pepperoni, sausage (cook first), olives, onions. I did one we loved that included thin-sliced zucchini, Roma tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese in addition to the Mozzarella. For another one I used some shredded chicken seasoned with garlic powder and oregano. The one pictured above has julienne-cut ham and red, green, and yellow peppers on it. It’s a great way to use up leftovers you don’t want to throw away but which there are not enough of to serve your family. Bon appetit!



Recession-era Kitchen Wisdom: Use What You Have

BreadsMy favorite scene in the 1995 film Apollo 13 is when, in an effort to save the astronauts in the troubled spaceship, the team at Mission Control has a mountain of objects dumped on a table in front of them and are told, “This is what the astronauts have on board their ship. Use it to figure out how to fit this round tube into this square hole.” The team didn’t hesitate, didn’t say it was impossible. They all just grabbed stuff in front of them and started experimenting with it. Lives were at stake, and it was up to them to save them.

While we may not find ourselves in such a dangerous situation, the lesson is still a valuable one in all areas of life. Use what you have. Make it work. With food prices soaring like a rocket, and incomes nosediving, I like to apply this in my kitchen. I was raised to believe that throwing away food was one of the Seven Cardinal Sins, but with just a little ingenuity, you can keep yourself pretty much on the straight and narrow.

For example, one day I made what was meant to be a beautiful gelatin salad. No, not green Jell-O with fruit cocktail. This was orange Jell-O with fresh pineapple, pears, mandarin oranges, and pomegranate seeds. Primo stuff. Well, how was I to know that when you put fresh pineapple in your gelatin that it won’t gel? (Canned pineapple works fine. It’s only fresh that won’t work.) So I had this very colorful and attractive liquid in the fridge and, well, we just didn’t want to drink that. Out came the blender. I blended it smooth, then heated it up in a saucepan and added a little cornstarch mixed with water to thicken it. The resulting syrup was delicious over pancakes. A very sweet and tart concoction that my family loved and actually wanted me to make again.

Some other random ideas here: For goodness’ sakes, don’t ever throw out dry, stale bread. If it doesn’t have green mold growing on it, it’s still fine. Besides the usual French toast or bread pudding, it makes good stuffing for your chicken. If you crumble it up fine and toast it, you have crumbs for your meatloaf or for breading your chicken or pork chops. And you can make dang fine salad croutons by tossing bread cubes with oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and oregano and toasting it in the oven. My family likes to eat those as a snack, even without salad. Hint: Leftover hamburger and hot dog buns make great croutons.

Somebody once gave me a large package of Ranch dressing mix, enough to make a gallon of dressing. Not sure how many years it would take us to use a gallon of Ranch dressing, but I discovered it makes a tasty flavoring for several things. I put some in the crockpot with chicken breasts and cream of chicken soup and served that over rice. It also made a yummy flavoring for homemade mashed potatoes.

Got bananas turning black? (They’re probably still good inside, you know.) Mash them up and put them in your waffle or pancake batter. Or freeze them in chunks (do this with any fruits you have on hand) and blend them with milk and sugar, or yogurt and juice, for a refreshing smoothie.

And do you keep cornmeal on hand? If you don’t, go get some and make some pioneer-era cornmeal mush. Mix one cup of cornmeal with one cup of cold water. Add this, along with one teaspoon of salt, to three cups of boiling water. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, then pour into a greased loaf pan and refrigerate overnight. Turn it out onto a plate and used a greased knife to cut into ¾-inch-thick slices. Fry on both sides in butter and serve with maple syrup for the cheapest breakfast on the planet, and one of my most favorites. Creativity in the kitchen these days isn’t just a necessity; it can be fun!

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