Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

When I think about how much money I spend on those little packets on seasoning mixes, it makes me cringe. Not to mention that I don't really know what is in them. After looking at several recipes for DIY taco seasoning mix, I decided to give it a try and see if I could taste a difference. 

Here is what I discovered...
1) This stuff is so easy to mix together
2) The flavor is so much better that the packets!!!
I will not go back to the store bought stuff. Ever.

There are lots of seasoning combinations out there, but here's the recipe that I settled on.
What you need:
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Simply mix all of the ingredients together and store in an airtight glass container. Feel free to make several batches to fill whatever size container you use. Use 1-2 tbsp of mix per pound of meat depending on how seasoned you prefer it. Let me just tell you- you will taste a huge difference. This recipe is so packed with flavor! I just love finding better ways to do things, and less expensive with more flavor seems like a double win to me :)

Pressure Canning The BEST Spaghetti Meat Sauce

I believe that my mother's spaghetti sauce recipe is the BEST in the whole world. It was my favorite food growing up, and when I was first learning to cook on my own in college I thought mine would never turn out as good as hers. When it did, I was thrilled! Now it is also one of DH's favorite dishes year round. I have tried to freeze some on several occasions so that I can pull it out when I have a spaghetti craving, but it nevers turns out even close to the same (I really don't recommend it). So naturally, my mom's spaghetti sauce was the first recipe that I tried out in my new pressure canner! It turned out beautifully!

What you need:
1 lb. ground beef
2 cups onion
12 oz. tomato paste
8 oz. tomato sauce
4 cups water
3 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried basil
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. brown sugar

Cook the ground beef and onion until all pink is gone. Add all of the other ingredients, stirring well together. Cook on low for 45 minutes. 

Prepare your pressure canner and jars. Fill the jars with hot sauce mixture leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top. Cook in the pressure canner for 90 minutes with the pressure required for your altitude (10 lbs. pressure for 1,000 ft. or less).

This recipe is in increments of 1 lb. of ground beef. When I 4x the recipe it is just enough to make 7 quart jars of sauce, which exactly fills my pressure canner. Multiply the recipe by whatever number you need to make or can.

Now you can serve delicious, homemade spaghetti sauce with just a twist of a lid any time you have the urge! What an easy way for a quick homemade meal when you just don't have the time :)

Homemade Hot Sauce

I had a bunch of peppers leftover from my mini pepper plants over the summer, and I have been debating what to do with them. I used some to make pepper jelly, but it was SO spicy. I tried adding just a few into a jar of salsa, and talk about some KICK! They were too hot to really do anything with, so I decided to make a batch of good ole' homemade Louisiana hot sauce :)

I adapted this recipe from one I found in the book Little House in the Suburbs (great book, btw).

What you need:
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup tabasco peppers with the stems cut off
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp garlic

Simmer the salt, peppers, and vinegar for 5-10 minutes. Make sure to do this in a well-ventilated area.
WARNING: It is best not to breathe at all if possible during this step. If you must breath, you may want to put your shirt over your nose and mouth. You probably also want to turn off your AC or heater, because when that thing kicks on in the middle of the project and those potent fumes start swirling around, it's not good! (Not that I know from experience...)

Next, take the mixture off the heat, cover it, and let it cool. Take this time to air out the house. Or just go outside and take some deep breaths without feeling like your throat is burning.

Once it is room temperature, add the garlic and blend the mixture in a food processor until sludgy. When you open the top of that food processor, it is another good time not to breathe.

Then pour the sludge through a fine sieve to strain out all of the skins, pulp, and seeds.

Then pour it into a bottle and keep it refrigerated. It should stay good indefinitely! I made three batches, which gave me 1 3/4 olive oil bottles. I guess I could have measured it in cups before pouring it...oh well.

I was just curious to see if my chickens, who eat literally anything, would be interested in the leftover pulp. It smells so strong!

Yep, they ate it all...

Garden Fresh Basil Mint Pesto

Oh, how projects get started...Someone asked a question on one of the other posts about drying mint,
      ...which made me think about all of the mint in my garden that I haven't used ONCE yet this year
          ...which made me google what I could do with all this mint
               ...which is when I ran across a recipe for a pesto made with mint!

I get to use more basil and the mint at the same time? Score! The recipe also calls for sunflower seeds, and I just happened to have a sunflower ready to be harvested. Love it when that happens!

As you can see, the birds have already been munching on my sunflowers, and I was planning on giving the rest to the chickens. They will be disappointed that I found this recipe. So, I gathered the sunflower seed into a bowl.

The I harvested the mint and basil (making sure to pick extra as a treat for the rabbits- it is so easy to get side-tracked when playing in the garden). By the way, I do not recommend for anyone crack open all of the little sunflower seed shells to get the seeds out. It takes forever, and my fingers still hurt. Next time, I will give the sunflower seeds to the chickens and buy the seeds already shelled even though it was fun to use our own seeds.

The recipe goes together quickly and I love how it turned out. It uses very little oil, which makes it light, and the sweetness of the mint balances out the slightly bitter taste of the basil for a great combination!

If you want a pesto to use with pasta, I recommend the Basil Parsley Pesto, but if you are looking for a dip for crackers or veggie chips, this is the one!

I found the original recipe on the Meghan Telpner Nutritionista's blog, and then tweaked it a little.

 Basil Mint Pesto
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pecans, toasted on 350 degrees for 10 minutes
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Yep, it's that easy!

What else do you use mint for???