Homemade Onion Rings

You may have noticed that I am a big fan of onions. They’re an ingredient in just about every savory recipe I’ve shared here, and in fact in just about every savory recipe I make, shared or not. I love their taste, I love their texture, and I especially love their versatility. They work with just about every flavor profile and cooking method.

Every once in a while, I get a craving for FRIED onions. Specifically, onions shaped like rings and covered with crust. A lot of people would just dash out to the nearest fast “food” place and pick some up, or maybe get some premade ones from the freezer case at the supermarket. But I’m sure you know me well enough by now to know that that’s not how I roll. And I’m here to tell you that homemade onion rings are SUPER easy.

You will need:
– onions. I generally use one small-t0-medium onion.
– two forks, a medium bowl, a sharp knife and a cutting board
– a cooling rig – paper towels are fine, a rack on top of the paper towels would be better.
– batter, see below
– oil – an inch or so deep in your cast iron skillet – put it on the burner first so it can get hot while you prep the rings

Here’s your batter.
3/4 cup flour, 2/3 cup milk, 1 egg, 1 tbsp oil, 1/4 tsp salt.
Mix these together in a bowl. Stir until smooth and unlumpy. Feel free to adjust the texture as you like. More flour will give a thicker batter, more milk will thin it (obviously). You can leave out this salt if you are concerned about sodium, but seriously this is not health food. Just leave it in – it tastes much better.

Slice the onion(s) into a big ol’ pile of rings. Separate them gently with your fingers. The center of the onion will be too small to make decent rings with; just put that part in a container and use in your next meal. If the outer layers have green veins (like the one on the left side of this photo), they won’t taste very good, so discard them.

Dip the rings into the batter and swirl them around to coat them. This particular batch has extra milk and is a little thin. Lift them with one of your forks and let the excess drip off. If your oil is ready (I think 350 degrees is the temperature, but I never actually use the thermometer for this. I actually take a drop of the batter and put it in the oil – if it immediately starts to sizzle, it’s ready), drop in the rings, one at a time.

Sorry for the fuzzy photo, lol. Make sure not to crowd your pan or add too many at one time (so that the oil temperature doesn’t fall too much). If your rings are not bubbling like mad from the second you put them into the oil, they’ll absorb the fat and be horrible and gross. Take them out if this happens, and crank the heat.
Watch the edges of the rings for the telltale color of Golden Brown and Delicious. It usually takes around a minute for each ring, but it’ll depend on the thickness of your batter and of your individual onion. Use your second fork (or a frying spider) to flip them over.

When they’re done, evacuate them to your cooling/draining rig. If your oil is hot and you don’t let them overcook, and you allow them to drain properly, your onions will retain very little oil. They’ll not be healthy, but they also won’t be balls of grease.
If you get drips of batter in the oil as you fry, try to remember to get them out, or else they’ll burn and then stick to the rings, which is why you see those black dots on these rings. :/
Salt them while warm (if you want) and serve. I like ketchup with mine, but just about any dipping sauce will work here. Onions are versatile, I told you. 😉

I don’t have a pretty staged food photo for you this time. I was too busy devouring my onion rings. What are you still doing reading? Go make some.

Advertisements

How to Make Homemade Butter

I was a voracious reader as a child (still am, at that), and was always fascinated by the prairie housewives who made their own butter and bread and cheese. (And clothes and everything else. Seriously, Caroline Ingalls was amazing.) It’s been a running theme in my life to learn how to do things “from scratch.” You will never ever see a boxed cake mix in my home. I’m working on producing a perfect sandwich bread, and frequently make artisan loaves. I’m a bit of a snob, I guess. (I do hate making pie crusts though. Despise.)

A wave of Pins about homemade butter went around a few weeks ago, reminding me that I’d never yet tried this one. I calmly pick up a pound of butter every couple of weeks, no big deal. Well, that has now changed.

All you need for this food project is heavy cream (possibly labelled as whipping cream) and a bottle or jar. I used a Nutella jar because of the wide mouth. After the actual churning, you’ll need a bowl and probably a colander and a jar for storing the buttermilk.

Please learn from my mistake – do NOT do so much at one time. You’ll want to do this with a much smaller amount. I did this again later with about a third of this volume and it came together MUCH quicker.

Shake shake shake, baby. My preschooler could do it in the early stages. She wasn’t strong enough for the whole process, but this is a great project for older kids. Also a pretty good arm workout!

After a little while, you’ll have whipped cream! You actually can add sugar (and maybe a dollop of vanilla extract) in the beginning and use this method to make a quick batch of whipped cream without dragging out your beaters. This stage was quick and easy to reach, even with this too-large volume. I can’t give you a specific time on any of these stages because it will depend on the amount of cream and the size of your jar.

Keep on shaking. Feel the burn. Its starting to get grainy now.

This is the part where you’ll regret it if you put too much cream in the jar. It will take an insanely long time to get past the grainy stage and into the part where the liquids separate from the solids. I took to hitting it against the frame of my couch – the thickened cream inside just was too much for my puny arms.

But hang in there! Soon it will do this. You’ll be shaking/banging away and suddenly hear a “flop.” The solids have finally clumped together into a blob and will now hold their shape and be a lot easier to shake through the final stage.

Shake it for a few more minutes. The butter will become more and more yellow as the buttermilk separates. I am unsure if it is possible to “overchurn” your butter, so use your instincts. This here seemed to be a good place to stop.

This is why I chose a wide-mouth jar – I knew I’d have a big blob at the end, and the big opening made it much easier to get out. You do not have to keep the buttermilk, but you should because it’s a delicious ingredient. Set a colander over a bowl and drain baby drain. I happen to have a tiny colander (aww so cute) and a salsa bowl, but you can of course use whatever you have on hand.

Plop the butter into a bowl and press it with your fingers. You’ll see more liquids come to the surface. Press and rinse, press and rinse, until there are no more liquids coming out when you press. Shouldn’t take too long.

Save the buttermilk! I started with a partial container of cream (left over from something) so I don’t know how much I started with, but I ended up with a fistful of butter and half of a molasses jar of buttermilk. (That’s my clay crafting supplies in the background, fyi.)

You’ve now got a nice clean blob of butter. You could, if you wanted to, press it into a form and refrigerate it to use later as an ingredient. I always use unsalted butter, but you could salt it if you wanted. I’m not sure how that works or what amount you’d need.

This is your final product. A beautiful, pale-yellow blob of milkfats. It’s very satisfying to spread the soft fruits of your labor onto a slice of fresh baked bread. I’m not sure that I’d want to do this all the time, for all my butter needs, especially since I bake a lot. (Although maybe with a mixer?) But for a fancy event? Heck yes. I want to experiment with adding things like herbs or garlic to the cream for fancy flavored butter. It was really easy to reach a smooth creamy whipped cream stage, and I actually have used that trick already – cream and sugar and vanilla, shake shake shake, pour on top of strawberries.

What is is that’s so impressive about “made from scratch”? I don’t know, but I know that it’s very personally satisfying to be able to make a final product, something that we all take for granted like butter or bread, all by myself, from a few basic ingredients.

Have you ever tried to make butter?

(My husband will be having surgery today so I don’t know if I’ll be around. All comments this week are entries in my Giveaway, though! Please check out that entry if you’re interested. If you don’t want to enter the giveaway, you can still leave a comment – just make a note that you don’t wish to be entered. There is also another giveaway here, in case you’re interested.)

How to Make Body Wash

Recently, I’ve read lots of articles about how “bars of soap are cheaper and greener than bottles of wash,” and, more worrisome, “the BPA in your plastic bottles will kill you.” I’m not entirely sold on the BPA-is-evil campaign, but, well, they do have a bit of a point. And an argument that involves my wallet? Well, I decided to try bar soap. It comes in a friendly paperboard box that I can reuse. And it definitely is cheaper than a bottle of wash. You’ll see at the end of this whether it lasts longer. 😉

So anyway, I bought a bar of soap (actually two bars). I got a little box for it so it didn’t get all mushy in the shower. It didn’t fit in well with my shower routine. Hard to get the soap onto my pouf. Guess I’m just too ingrained in the liquid wash thing.

But I didn’t stop there, oh no. No way did I buy two bars of soap just to let them go to waste. I did a little poking around on the internet. I didn’t exactly find what I was looking for – a recipe telling me exactly how to turn this solid bar of soap into some liquid body wash – but I found enough articles and posts close enough that I felt confident to get to it.

I grated up the soap first, the exact same way I did for my laundry soap. I grated it directly into a pot. I also decided to go ahead and do both bars of soap at one time, because why not.

Then I added 2 cups of water to the soap flakes and turned on the heat. I stirred it a bit with a whisk, which I definitely WOULD NOT do again. If you decide to follow in my footsteps (and I highly suggest you do), DON’T STIR. Just let it melt.

It’ll only take, like, 30 seconds for the soap to melt. Turn off the heat and let it cool a bit. Assemble a collection of bottles for your new wash. Glass is the obvious choice if you’re wanting to avoid BPA. You could also recycle your old squeezable wash bottles, if you like. Use a funnel and a ladle to get your warm soap into the bottles. Voila! You’re done!

…Oh, I forgot to mention, I made a bit of a mistake. 😉

I didn’t add enough water to the soap. As it cooled, it solidified into a foam. This would probably be excellent if it was in a squeezy jar, but I’ve never yet found squeezable glass jars. So now I had 3 jars of soap that I couldn’t get out! Crap. I planted them in a big pot, surrounded them with water, and started heating. I needed to soften the soap up again so I could get it out.

It took a few minutes, but it softened right up. I poured my too-thick wash into the saucepan again. I rinsed out each bottle with water to get all the soap, and added a lot of water. Maybe too much. I didn’t measure, so I can’t tell you an exact amount, but I’d definitely say it was at least 2 more cups. The soap mixture was approximately the consistency of low-fat milk – not entirely watery, but pretty dang close.

I warmed it up again and stirred it again (should not have done that). I got the funnel and ladle again, and a couple more glass bottles, and filled them all up. As you can see, I have a lot of bottles of body wash now. The foamy bubbly part at the top is why I shouldn’t have stirred. It did settle eventually. That lonely bottle with only a bit in it got poured into one of the other bottles, giving me 3 Snapple bottles and one giant orange juice bottle full of body wash.

I’ve been using it ever since I made it and I like it. I started with a Dove bar with pomegranate and lemon verbena (and 1/4 moisturizing cream), and was surprised to discover that the scent and color didn’t get diluted much. It has a delicate fresh and slightly flowery scent, that actually lingers on my skin for a little while (most washes don’t do that on me). You can, of course, choose any soap your little heart desires. I just put the bottle on my shower shelf and leave the cap off (so I don’t have to twist it off with wet hands). It has thickened up since it was made, partly from cooling and partly, I think, from evaporating into the air. It’s now approximately the consistency of cream, which is exactly what I wanted!

When these bottles of soap run out in a hundred years, I think I’m going to get even braver. I’ll buy some plain Castile soap and add my own scents!

One more thing. You know how Snapple has those “Real Facts” printed on the inside of their lids? One of the bottles I used for this project says “The average bar of soap lasts twice as long as a bottle of body wash.” I kid you not; I couldn’t even make up a coincidence like that. This definitely seems to be a great way to save some money.
A similar soap (just a different scent) sells on Drugstore.com for $4.19 for 2 bars. I think I paid less than that, probably in the 2 to 3 dollar range.
The “matching” body wash sells on Drugstore.com for 8.99 for 24 ounces. As you can clearly see, I got more than TRIPLE that volume from my two bars of soap, saving me something like 20$. With coupons or sales, you can probably do even better!

Are you worried about the cost of cleanliness, or the perils of plastic packaging? Have you thought about making your own cleaning products, and have you actually done it? How did it go for you? Have I inspired you to try it? It’s okay to mess up and try again!

Chicken Marsala

We don’t often go to Olive Garden (and an Actual Italian Restaurant is directly out). It’s a bit pricey for our budget (we are sooooo cheap), and it’s not very preschooler-friendly. But every time we do go, I get the Stuffed Chicken Marsala. It’s gloriously delicious. I’d always kindof assumed that it was a difficult recipe, so I’d never tried it. But if there’s one thing that food blogging has taught me, it’s that the fancy recipes that we think are difficult are actually easier than takeout.

Chicken Marsala has a very small ingredient list, and many of them are things you already have. If I want to make this, I do need to plan ahead because I don’t generally keep mushrooms or Marsala wine in the house, but they’re both easy to obtain. I based this on the recipe in my BHG cookbook (they don’t seem to have it online) – the main difference is that I stuffed the chicken with cheese and herbs and they don’t.

Here is my ingredient list:
– chicken breasts (I used 2 big ones – in the future I’ll use smaller ones)
– 1/4 cup flour
– 1/2 tsp dried marjoram (or substitute as you like)
– 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper
– 2 cups of sliced mushrooms
– 1/4 cup sliced green onions
– shredded Italian cheese (a single kind like parmesan or a mix, as you prefer)
– 3 tbsp butter
– 1/2 cup chicken broth
– 1/2 cup Marsala wine

For equipment you will need:
– small bowl
– something to pound chicken with
– cutting board
– plastic wrap
– skillet (cast iron is, of course, recommended)

Watch carefully; this recipe is so short that you might miss it.

Step one: Mix the flour, seasoning, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl.

Step two: Lay the chicken on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, and pound it until it’s around 1/4 inch thick.

Step three: Careful now! Use a sharp knife to cut a “pocket” in each piece of chicken. Stuff this pocket with cheese and any herbs you may want (I used marjoram, to match the breading).

Step four: Dip the chicken in the flour mixture (step one) and shake off excess – they only need a light coat. Set aside.

Step five: Melt one tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Saute the mushrooms and green onions in it, over medium-high heat, until they’re softened. Remove from skillet. (I just put them back into the measuring cup.)

Step six: Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet and allow to melt. Add the chicken breasts (don’t crowd the pan) and allow them to brown on each side. This’ll take about 6 minutes or so.

Step seven: TURN OFF the heat. Move the skillet to a different burner. Add the mushrooms and green onions back to the pan. Make sure there are no flames about, and add the Marsala wine to the pan, followed by the chicken broth. (I actually mixed the two together in a measuring cup.)

Step eight: When the liquids have calmed down a bit, put the skillet back on the heat and bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. The liquids will thicken into a lovely sauce.

Serve! It’s really good with pasta, but I suspect it’d also go well with rice! You can put it on a plate and stage it all pretty if you want, or you can just devour it, your choice.

I was absolutely amazed at how SIMPLE this recipe really is. It took less than 30 minutes, only a few ingredients, and the hardest part was pounding it out! (Bonus for doing it on a busy weeknight: take your frustrations out on the chicken.) Seriously: this is how difficult it was to make:


That’s right: wearing a Legend of Zelda hoodie, one hand in the pocket. You can practically do it in your sleep. (That’s also how glamorous it is to be a nobody food blogger.) This is only marginally more difficult (if at all) than any of the typical “weeknight” recipes you’ve got in rotation, and definitely adds a touch of class to your Wednesday night.

Do you have any restaurant recipes that you love, but are afraid to try at home?  (Make a suggestion and maybe I’ll try it for you!) Have you ever tried a “fancy” recipe and been surprised by how easy it was?

Cornbread

Quick breads are one of the easiest things to make. And if they’re made well, they’re impressive and delicious. They only require a few pantry-staple ingredients, and take only a few moments to throw together. If you’re from or have visited the American South, you’re definitely familiar with cornbread. If you’ve never encountered this delicious beast, I pity you.

I make this recipe following the one in my BHG cookbook. I don’t always love their recipes but this one is pretty hard to get wrong. 😉

Now, if you’re a fan of Alton Brown or are a knowledgeable baker, you’re familiar with the Muffin Method. You have a group of dry ingredients, a group of wet ingredients, and you stir them together. That’s what we’re gonna do.

Here’s your dry goods:
flour – 1 cup
cornmeal – 3/4 cup
sugar – 2 to 3 tbsp
baking powder – 2 1/2 tsp
salt – 3/4 tsp


And here’s your wet goods:
eggs – 2
milk – 1 cup
oil – 1/4 cup
You’ll also need a tablespoon of butter.

In your cast iron pan (that’s important), melt the butter. It’ll only take a few moments. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Combine your ingredients into two bowls. Mix both thoroughly.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir gently. You do not want to produce a perfectly smooth batter – it should be a bit lumpy. (This picture is NOT stirred – it does need to be stirred more than this.)

Pour the batter right into the cast iron pan. The butter on the bottom may travel up and lay around the edges – that’s okay. Slide the whole pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Perform a standard toothpick test to make sure it’s done. (Just poke a toothpick in near the center. It should come out dry.) If it’s not, put it back in for a few more minutes.

Cut it and lift out a wedge. The bottom of your cornbread will be a glorious golden brown and delicious color.


When you open it up, it’ll have a lovely spongelike texture. Can you see the steam rising? Does it make your mouth water? I like mine with a bit of butter, preferably next to a bowl of slow-cooked beans.

Fried Mozzarella Sticks

I love fried cheese sticks. I don’t love weird preservatives and high prices. I love to make my own yummy things. I don’t love dumping something from the freezer into the microwave. So, it’s pretty obvious that I make my own cheese sticks. I started with this recipe from Allrecipes, and it’s pretty much the same. But I have pictures! 😉

These are a great, easy introduction to frying, and nearly impossible to mess up.

You will need:
– string cheese (look for coupons for these, I scored a great deal on mine!)
– crumbs
– herbs and seasonings
– an egg and some water
– flour and cornstarch
– lots of oil
– three bowls, two forks, a pair of tongs, and a heavy frying pan

First, mix up your crumbs with the seasonings. I used dried parsley, dried oregano, dried basil, and some garlic powder. (I used saltine crackers, but any kind of crumbs you have on hand would be acceptable.)
Then, beat your egg a bit with some water.
You’ll need about 2 parts flour to one part cornstarch (say, 2/3 cup and 1/3 cup) as well.
Line all these bowls up, assembly-line style. This is a pretty standard setup for frying – a series of bowls full of coating materials, ending at the hot oil.

Speaking of the hot oil, get it hot, preferably in a cast iron pan (it helps keep the temperature steady). You can use a frying thermometer for this, but usually the pan is too shallow. You’ll need the oil to be about the depth of the cheese, more or less.
I usually take a tiny drop of water on my hand and fling it (from a distance) into the oil. If it immediately sizzles and pops, you’re ready. (NO, that’s not safe, but I’m being real here.)

When the oil is hot enough, take a cheese stick and roll it in the flour mixture.

Then, dip it in the egg mixture. Let it sit there for just a moment, so that the flour soaks up some of the egg. Make sure the whole cheese stick is coated thoroughly.

Now, fish out the eggy cheese and roll it in the crumbs. Roll it and pat it (and mark it with a B if you wish) and make sure the whole cheese is covered.

Drop your cheese into the oil (use the tongs to protect your hands). It’ll only take a few seconds to cook. Since it’s just cheese, you don’t need to worry about “internal temperature” like you will with meats – just judge the doneness by the color of the crumbs and the amount of leaking cheese you can see.
Don’t crowd the pan with too many cheeses, and don’t walk away – this is a quick and dangerous process.
If the cheese doesn’t immediately begin bubbling like crazy when you put it in, take it out again and let the oil get hotter. If it just sits in the oil and isn’t furiously bubbling, it’ll absorb the oil and get gross.

When they’re done to your satisfaction, pick them up with the tongs and place them on a few layers of paper towels. The paper towels will soak up some of the remaining oil, leaving them crispy instead of soggy.

Serve them hot, with marinara sauce.
Now that you’ve mastered this process, you are ready to move on to more complicated fried items (although none of them are especially hard except for chicken – there is a *secret* to chicken).

Do you have a favorite appetizer? Are you afraid of frying? Are there any cooking methods that you’ve been afraid to try?

Laundry Soap

April from Red Dirt Mama is one of my closest friends. A few months ago, one of her blogfriends made laundry soap, and she decided to follow suit. Her post about it is here. When she made it and raved about it, I decided to take a spin of the wheel.

This “recipe” is really easy. Actually, it’s pretty much idiot-proof. It’s also a million times cheaper than store-bought, pre-made laundry detergent. It has a lovely “clean” scent, not an nauseating fake floral or fruit scent. It also seems to be non-irritating. My daughter and my husband are both sensitive to certain kinds of laundry soap, and both of them are doing just fine.

One of my fears about making it was that it wouldn’t be worth the effort – that I’d have to make it every week (or make a ton of it at one time), or that it wouldn’t smell good, or wouldn’t work as well, or something. Let me tell you – it’s definitely worth it. I put in about 20 minutes of work, and got a good supply of it. I made it almost a month ago, and I’ve barely made a dent in it.
This is suitable for HE and standard washers. Anecdotally, my washer smells better too – it doesn’t have that gunky smell that front-loaders are notorious for getting.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Super Washing Soda – 1 cup
Borax – 1 cup
1 laundry bar soap (Fels-Naptha is common)
Baking Soda – 1/4 cup

I also added a cup of Oxy-Clean to the mix, but it’s not necessary, and not pictured.
I also should mention that I still have a TON of the baking soda, Borax, and washing soda left. Next time I make this, I’ll only need to buy the bar of laundry soap. All these items (except the baking soda) are found on the laundry aisle of your store.

You’ll also need a container. I buy those dishwasher “pod” things, and I had an empty tub from those that works just fine (yes I am one of those crazypeople who saves every container, but I really do use them), but you can use whatever. An empty peanut butter jar, whatever.

Here’s the hardest part – you have to grate the bar of soap. Just sit on the couch with your favorite show and get at it.


Watch your fingers when you get it down to a little nugget.


This is what it looks like when it’s done. Reach in there and crumble it up a bit.

Get out your measuring cups and dump in the other ingredients, and stir it up with your hands. (If you shake it, all the soap will work its way to the top – just stir.)
I always add a bit of Oxy-clean to our laundry, so I made my life a bit easier and added the Oxy-clean to the soap mix.


This is what it looks like. I put 1/8 cup (that’s 2 tbsp) in the soap compartment of my washer (I have a front loading HE washer, by the way). Our clothes are clean and smell great, and none of us have itchy skin! Not to mention how nice it is to not have to buy it so often.

Do you make any of your own cleaners? Why, or why not?

Previous Older Entries