"Every house where love abides and friendship is a guest, is surely home, and home sweet home for there the heart can rest." -Henry Van Dyke

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Making chili powder with garden peppers

Peppers grew well in the garden and I wish there were more. I start all my peppers from seeds indoor and we didn't have enough room for all of them! One of the things I wanted to do was make chili powder. It was kind of an experiment and I enjoyed it. 

I harvested Anaheim, cayenne, serrano and jalapeño peppers. For the chili powder, I used Anaheim. The ingredients vary depending on how hot you want the powder and what herbs or spices to add. You can come up with your own recipe, it's easy and fun. Dry the peppers in the oven or use a dehydrator. Electric dehydrator saves on energy and it's handy to have.  

I love my Presto® digital food dehydrator. I'm not paid to advertise the product but I highly recommend it because it's useful if you're into food preservation like me. The dehydrator was another Christmas present I received that I purchased with a gift card. After doing research, I decided to go with Presto® based on the price and I like that it has a timer that automatically turns off unlike other brands I compared it to. The nesting trays are great for compact storage. I removed the top cover for you to see, Anaheim peppers took around 13 hours to dry at 120° F.    

I also dried onions from my garden so I can add them to the chili powder. It took longer to dry, like almost 24 hours at 120° F. Cooking onions smell wonderful but NOT when you're drying them! We have the dehydrator in the garage for now. It's nice to start it, walk away and go on with my day. While I was at it, I dried some garlic too and they were done in about 6 hours at 120° F.      

I designed the label for this jar, another reason to get creative! :-) The chili powder is more flavorful and intense with a vibrant color. I compared it to store-bought and homemade is definitely the best plus there are no preservatives. Now I can use it for dishes such as chili beans, enchiladas, soups, casseroles, etc. Okay I'm hungry… 

How to make chili powder:
You can use homegrown or store-bought dried peppers. Chili powder is usually made with mild peppers. It will be different for everyone so feel free to adjust your herbs, spices and salt. Below is my recipe using all organic ingredients and it makes about 1 cup. 

6 tbsp dried Anaheim peppers  
2 tbsp dried onions (or granulated onion)  
2 tbsp dried garlic (or garlic powder)
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp paprika 
1 tbsp cumin 
2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or spice grinder. Process until you get a fine powder. My food processor didn't pulverize enough so I used the Vitamix®, that powerful blender can do the job. Let the powder settle for a minute before you remove the lid. 
Store chili powder in an airtight container at a dark place for up to 6 months. Keep in the fridge or freezer for a big batch to extend the shelf life.  

Do you make your own chili powder or spice blends?   

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Preserving food and persevering through a difficult season

We have an abundance of tomatoes from the garden and I'm happy. Many tomatoes are still green but I'm now ripening them indoor. I also picked Anaheim, cayenne, serrano and jalapeño peppers. We're thankful for the vegetables that come from such small space. 

Life is filled with unexpected things, some are joyful and other times can be sad. Just like the garden with its surprises, there are seasons of success and disappointment. Today I'm pouring my heart out and sharing with you our sad news. My husband recently lost his job. It's a stressful and challenging time, my health hasn't been well for months but I'm getting better. I'm grateful for every blessing, strength that comes from God and for the love of my family.

"Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness." 1 Timothy 6:11

The other day I wanted to bake a couple loaves of white bread. I used the same glass loaf pans like I did before and I was excited about my bread turning out beautiful. When I put both bread in the oven, I began to wash the dishes and suddenly I heard this loud noise coming from the hot oven. Crazy. I opened the door and the glass has exploded into a million little pieces. One bread came out nice but the other was completely ruined.  

One of the loaf pans was new but perhaps defective. I looked at the shards of glass, what an awful big mess! For some reason that moment made me thought of how broken I felt like shattered glass… but I knew my hope was in Christ my Savior, who never fails to take care of us. We continue in prayer, there's no giving up.

"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:8

One of my goals as a stay-at-home mom is to pursue a frugal lifestyle while feeding my husband and daughter healthy meals. I'm learning how to store veggies grown from my organic garden and something about that brings satisfaction. I'm canning, drying and freezing food. Nothing is getting wasted. It's wonderful not having to buy from the market when I can simply go out to the garden or open our fridge and pantry.

Last week I dried tomatoes in my electric dehydrator for sun-dried tomatoes. Fantastic especially with pasta. I put a little olive oil, sea salt and black pepper with San Marzano tomatoes to dry. For the yellow pear and moonglow tomatoes, I added the same ingredients but seasoned them with garlic powder and oregano. 

Here are more of our harvests…

Cabbage, I planted them from seeds but not enough. I had no idea how tasty homegrown cabbage were, so tender when cooked.   

Chow mein is better with garden veggies like cabbage, carrots, onions and snow peas we had in the freezer since June. Surprisingly, the snow peas were still crispy and tasted great.    

I didn't harvest that much onions compared to the shallots. I planted many onions in the wrong spot and there weren't enough in the right location. I wanted yellow but got mostly red and white onions. Next season will hopefully be better.  

Russet Burbank and heirloom la ratte potatoes. We have a good amount from the 2 grow bags I planted them in. 

I finally grew cantaloupe successfully but they were tiny. The diameter was as big as my fist. I'm not sure if I planted the seeds too close together or I didn't fertilize enough. Super sweet cantaloupe but we want more! :-)

Sadly my first time growing corn failed because I picked them too late, the corn ended up being chewy. Other than that we harvested dry beans, I have a lot of them to shell and sort. If you remember, our squash and zucchini were severely infested by squash bugs. So disappointing. However, we won't be ungrateful because my garden did very well this year.

"The only thing different about having a green thumb is that you don't get discouraged by failure. When something doesn't work, you try again." -Beth Weidner