Thursday, March 27, 2014

Make It From Scratch: Jerky

Welcome to our first installment of the Make It From Scratch series!


Let's all admit it: you like jerky.  Everybody likes jerky.  Easy, fast protein, great for hikes, road trips, and camping, you can stash it in your bag to have for emergency protein whenever and wherever hunger strikes.  To most people, this is a food item you always buy if you want to eat it.  The time and equipment involved to make your own jerky is not appealing at all, especially if you have a job and/or kids.

I honestly felt the same way, and also felt I could not justify buying a huge hunk of beef to just dry it out, since we prefer to buy grass fed beef (which is a tad on the spendy side.....).  But we stopped buying jerky a couple years ago when my oldest was diagnosed with her food sensitivities, because one of her no foods is!  Which is in pretty much every single commercial jerky in the form of soy sauce.  That delicious, savory, salty flavor that IS jerky forbidden.  Bummer!  In those type of food situations I tend to just say:

"Oh well, no jerky.  Moving on!  Find an alternative and just forget about jerky forever." 

But then a couple months ago I decided to give homemade jerky a try, just to see if it was easy or affordable or doable for me.  And boy was the result amazing!  Have you ever had homemade jerky?  Oh man, oh man.  It is so good!  The flavor is better, the texture is better, everything about it is better than store bought!

I used a recipe from a cookbook I have.  You can find recipes for homemade jerky pretty easily, but below are the basic steps to making homemade jerky.  It is totally worth your time; this is one convenience food that you will be glad to have in your repertoire.


Cutting board
Sharp knife (If it ain't sharp, just go make something else.  Really.  Any knife less than super sharp is worthless for cutting food.)
Medium bowl
Wire rack
Sheet pan/jelly roll/cookie tray that above wire rack fits into
Foil or parchment paper


1 pound lean meat (beef, chicken breast, turkey breast, etc.  I use a cut of beef usually labeled London Broil.  It is nice and lean so perfect for jerky)
Sea salt
Soy sauce, Tamari, or coconut aminos (we use coconut aminos)
Seasonings of your choice like garlic powder, onion powder, honey, paprika, chili powder, etc.


Place your protein of choice on your cutting board and proceed to slice it with or against the grain of the meat, depending on your desired end result.  If you slice it with the grain your jerky will be chewier and not fall apart, which is how I prefer it.  If you slice it across the grain it may fall apart after it is dried, but it will be much less chewy.

See the grain of the meat running left to right on the piece to the left?  I am going to cut with that grain for nice chewy jerky.

 Slice your protein about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Try to be as consistent as possible so all of your meat will dry evenly.  As you slice it place it in your medium bowl.  It can help to freeze your meat for about 30 minutes prior to slicing it to firm it up a bit.

Slicing 1/8 " thick

Pile 'o' meat

 Once all the meat is sliced, wash your hands.  Now add your seasonings!  Use anywhere from 1 to 3 teaspoons (or more!) of your choice of seasonings.  I use a teaspoon each of granulated garlic and onion, plus a heaping teaspoon of pepper.  Add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and then slosh in about a third cup of soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos.  Mix it all up with your hands to get it evenly coated.  Wash your hands again!

Adding seasonings

Marinated jerky

Place your marinating meat in the fridge or leave on the counter for one hour.  Go catch up on emails, sitcoms, laundry, whatever.  After an hour, set your oven to 200 degrees F.  Get our your sheet pan and cover it with a sheet of foil or parchment.  Place the wire rack over it and begin to place your strips of meat on the rack, close together, but not touching.  You may need a second rack and sheet pan.

See, I needed two trays for my batch of jerky.  More jerky!

Now, gaze upon what you have created...the hardest part is over!  Oh, wait, scratch that, the next step is the hardest.  Put your jerky in the oven and smell it's deliciousness for 2 hours, then check it to see if it is dried out so you can just eat a piece warm from the oven.  Mmmmm, so good, right?!

This has been drying two hours, it is just right for me.

If you want it more dried out, check it every 30 minutes or so until it is dried to your liking.  Let cool completely, then put in an airtight container and store in the fridge.  Yes, yes, I know.  You want to be able to keep it in your bag for emergency protein.  Well, go right ahead!  Just be sure to actually eat it that day or the next.  Trust me, you won't be able to help yourself anyway.

This amount of jerky will last us a few days, maybe a week if we ration it out.  The kids even like it which is amazing.  Now go forth and make jerky!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Weekly Series: Make It From Scratch!

Hello, friends!  I am launching a new weekly series here at TGN, and I am super super excited about it.  Every week I will be blogging about a different food that many people typically buy at the store, and sharing how you can make that food yourself, from scratch.  Some will be a bit more involved, like pickles or tortillas, and some will be super easy-not-really-even-a-recipe recipes.  You are going to love it!

Something I love to do is cook, and I look at making my own crackers as a fun project with tasty results.  Since we discovered Big Sis's food sensitivities we have been making even more foods from scratch than ever before.  Honestly, it is so very satisfying, and the girls love to help out.  As The Hubby and I are both cooks (no longer professionally, but still...) we are making it a priority to teach the kiddos how to cook.  And kids love to help!

I will be doing a mix of original recipes as well as directing you to other blogger's awesome recipes that I make over and over at home.  There are a lot of great and talented people out there, so I'm going to share the love! 

Check back soon for the very first Make It From Scratch post!


As if the world didn't already have enough information out there about bacon: how to cook it, how to cook with it, how to make it into dessert, jam, candy; how to decorate your home or adorn your body with versions of it.  But I can't help myself; I need to add a little something to that bucket of bacon knowledge.

You see, like most meat-loving humans around here, we love our bacon, too.  In fact, if I cook bacon for breakfast, I may as well not bother cooking anything to accompany it for the kids.  They don't even look at anything else on their plates, having eyes only for that crispy, succulent portion of the "pig meat!".  That is what they sometimes call it; I am trying to teach them that the meat we eat comes from animals, not just from the store.  More on that another time.

I thought I would share how we cook our bacon when we have it for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner, for that matter.  If we cook it when Hubs isn't home, then us girls get to eat more of it.  Shhhh, don't tell him!  Mu wa ha ha ha!).  We bake our bacon in the oven, not just because it cooks more evenly, but because we can cook a whole pound at once, and the stove isn't splattered with bacon grease either.  I also don't have to babysit it, I can be preparing the other breakfast dishes (not that there are ever multiple breakfast dishes, I'm talking some kinda vegetables, and perhaps throwing a bowl of sliced apple on the table).

Our kids prefer almost perfectly cooked bacon, as in "squishy ones", which the Hubs and I find disgusting.  Now, don't get all worked up, we are certainly not serving our children raw bacon!  As if.  They just prefer the deliciously crispy and unctuous fatty parts of the bacon, over the meaty bits.  And in our oven, our bacon cooks a bit unevenly.  The 4-6 slices of bacon in the center of the tray are a bit less done than the perfectly rendered slices on the ends of the tray.  So, kid bacon in the middle, grown-up bacon on the ends.  It works out perfectly for us.  And the grown-up bacon is especially good when you crack some black pepper on top of it before you bake it.

The bacon we love and splurge on is sold at our local natural market.  It is Beeler's, (Beeler Pure Pork)and they make a garlic pepper flavor as well as uncured hickory bacon.  We have tried it and it was delicious, but the kids do not like pepper bacon.  So we just pepper our own slices of bacon, and everybody is happy.  If you have never tried Beeler's bacon, you really should.  We have tried many of the "natural" bacons over the years, and this one is consistently the most delicious and the best price.  Now, we do buy Applegate when we have seen it at Costco, but it really pales in comparison.  We also love Beeler's hot dogs and pepperoni sticks.  Great for once in a while quickie kid protein, and mom-on-the-go protein, respectively.

Without further ado, here is our method for baking bacon.  We have a gas oven that heats from below, so your oven may cook it quite differently.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Get out a jelly-roll pan, baking sheet, sheet pan, whatever you call it.  Lay out your bacon directly on the tray.  Crack some fresh black pepper over some or all of the bacon, or none!  Place your bacon in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes.  Check it to see how far along it is.  If it still looks raw or not done, set the the timer for 5 minutes and check it again.  You should also rotate the tray when you check it after 15 minutes.  It is very easy to forget about your bacon in the oven and it could get over done on you.  We despise over done bacon, but some folks like that sort of thing.  We like our bacon to have the fat about 95% rendered, and the slices nice and caramelized.  Our oven takes a total time of 25-35 minutes to cook our bacon to our liking.  Plenty of time to make some hash browns and coffee, and maybe saute some mushrooms and peppers to go with it.  If you can eat eggs, obviously, those would be perfect.  Us girls here are unable to eat eggs, but the Hubs certainly has them.  Just keep checking on your bacon every few minutes to get it exactly the doneness you like.  When it is cooked to your liking, place the slices on a paper towel lined plate or tray, and serve.  Save that bacon fat to cook with!  Liquid gold!  We use it especially for fried "rice", sauteed green beans, and for oven fries.  Delicious!

I'm sure you have seen someone say that the best way to bake bacon is on a rack in the oven, and I do agree that that works very very well.  But not for us.  Number one, I hate hate hate washing that rack!  So difficult to get scrupulously clean, the way I like to clean my dishes.  And I have found that washing the tray itself is much easier and faster.  A quick soak in hot water to loosen the brown bits, scrub scrub scrub and it is clean!  Lots of hot water, soap and clean it right after breakfast, not the next morning.  It is much easier to clean pots and pans right after the meal, before the food particles have dried on.

So there you have it, my little bit of bacon knowledge for the home cook.  I hope you found it helpful, or at least somewhat informative.  So, how do you cook your bacon?  Perhaps you can try a different way next time and see if it works better for you!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What We Don't Use or Buy

I thought it would be fun to share with you all some of the things we do not buy and do not use at our house.  I'm sure there are some things I forgot, since I don't use or buy them, but...oh well! 

Don't Use:

microwave (we use the stove or the toaster oven)
answering machine (thank you cell phones!)
deodorant (I just don't stink, people)
shaving cream (soap works for me just fine)
martini glasses (my gin and tonic doesn't go in one of those)
non-stick pans (cast iron instead, because I prefer less toxic chemicals in my food)
plastic produce bags (I bought and love reusable produce bags)
pizza wheel/cutter (first, we don't eat pizza, and second, when we did, we used a chef knife)
phone books (thank you internet)
a wristwatch (use my cell phone)
a paper dictionary and thesaurus (might have to buy these for kids to use for school, though...)
make up like blush (my cheeks is always rosy), foundation and powder (too much fuss), lipstick (never liked that stuff)
dryer sheets/fabric softener (we prefer cotton clothing so no static anyway.  Though I would love some dryer balls!)
                                                     Ack, totally adorable dryer balls!

Stuff that may be tossed since I haven't been using it lately:

box grater (I use the grating disk on the food processor)
scrap booking stuff for photo albums (I have been doing this digitally, on Shutterfly; totally love this!)

Don't Buy:

books (library!)
gifts tags, bags (I make them and receive and reuse them, respectively)
paper napkins, plates, cups (except for birthday parties; we use cloth napkins)
regular lotion (I use coconut oil or hard lotion bars)
food items like crackers, granola bars, frozen convenience foods, ice cream, fresh rosemary, chives, parsley, bottled dressings, jam, pickles (we either make or grow our own or just don't eat these)
bottled water (so expensive and wasteful!)
DVD sets of TV shows (of every DVD set of a TV show I own I have only watched them ONCE.  Now, movies are a different story...)
vases (aka clutter, but I do have a few, just no need to add any more)
cable TV (we use Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, and have an antenna for other shows)
The Hubby doesn't pay for haircuts (I cut his hair)
newspaper (thank you internet)
cold cereal (just too expensive and not nutritious enough for the first meal of the day)
Kindle or ebooks (I have the free kindle and get free ebooks!)
commercial cleaners (use homemade or this natural type for cleaning everything)
CDs (haven't bought a CD in years!)
manis/pedis (a once in a great while thing with a sis or friend; like less than once a year)
canned broth (make homemade!)
juice and soda (cavities waiting to happen)
fast food (yuck)
child care (stay at home with kids, have family babysit if needed)
shampoo and conditioner (for me and The Hubby only, girls get shampoo)

So do you have anything to add that you don't buy or use?  I'd love to hear!