Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

" Christmas day is a day of joy and charity, may God make you rich in both."

-Phillips Brooks

I want to sincerely wish you all a very merry Christmas. Thank you for your interest in my blog. I've had so much fun sharing recipes with you all. Here's to fabulous things coming to us all in the upcoming year!

Every piece of the universe, even the tiniest little snow crystal, matters somehow. I have a place in the pattern, and so do you. Thinking of you this holiday season!

-T.A. Barron

"Nothing I can do will change the structure of the Universe. But maybe, by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes- goodwill among men and peace on Earth."

- Albert Einstein

"Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone." -Charles Shultz

This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year; happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays! - D. M. Dellinger

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Savory Rosemary Shortbread

" First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do." - Epictetus
This post is part of a series, Handmade Holiday Gifts
I'm on a savory shortbread kick. These I served with cheese and olives at a dinner last night. They are exceptional. I couldn't believe how much I liked them. Next year I will be sure to include them with other sweet cookies in baskets.
The rosemary flavor is prominent, they are a touch sweet, but not too much, with a finish of salt. They are just right. I grow rosemary, so the fresh herb flavor is welcome in Winter. If you don't grow the herb, you can of course, use dried. Oh, and if it's too fussy to roll them into shapes, then don't. Go ahead and shape them into logs and refrigerate till firm and slice. Easy peasy.

ready for the oven
Rosemary Shortbread
adapted from this recipe
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter -room temperature
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup powdered sugar (if you don't have powdered, go ahead and use granulated)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped finely, (or use 3 tsp dried rosemary, chopped)
Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat butter, honey and sugar until light and fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary. Beat together flour mixture with butter mixture just until blended.
On a lightly floured surface roll out dough, cut into shapes and bake on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Or instead of rolling them out, form them into 2 logs, refrigerate until firm, (about an hour) then slice with a sharp knife into cookies. Then proceed as instructed.

Savory Aged Cheddar Shortbread

"One kind word can warm 3 winter months." - Japanese Proverb
This post is part of a series, Handmade Holiday Gifts
I'm done with all of my holiday food gift giving. The verdict is in. These savory aged cheddar shortbreads are the thing that people raved over most. Maybe because something savory is
different but welcome among all of the sweets, or because they are delicious, (because they are really tasty.) Or because it is unexpected to have a savory shortbread. Either way, these are super easy, and very yummy.
They make a great as a gift with a bottle of wine, or with other sweets. They would be fantastic with some wine jelly. Or serve them as an appetizer on a tray with salami and olives.

I sliced these from a log, but you can make them more festive by rolling them out and cutting them into Christmas shapes. You can also dress them up by brushing on an egg wash before baking and sprinkling them with sesame seeds, or poppy seeds, or some flaky salt.
This recipe calls for a dry aged cheddar. You can also use Parmesan, or any dry aged cheese.
Savory Aged Cheddar Shortbread
adapted from this recipe
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
8 oz. aged cheddar (white, and dry) finely shredded (mine is an aged cheddar from Costco)
1 cup flour
pinch of cayenne pepper (or a little more if you like things spicy)
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
Using an electric mixer beat together butter, salt, black pepper and cayenne until blended. Add cheddar and flour and mix just until incorporated. Don't overmix. Shape dough into two logs, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for an hour, or freeze for a half hour until firm.
Or if you want to cut them into shapes, at this point form dough into a disc and refrigerate or freeze until firm, then roll out dough, cut into shapes, then continue directions below.
When dough is firm, preheat oven to 350. Slice dough into thin slices, with a sharp knife, about 1/4 inch, or even thinner. The thinner they are the crispier they will be. If they are on the thick side, they will be more like a traditional shortbread cookie. Bake on a parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheet for 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Baking time depends on how thick the slices are, so if they are really thin, check the cookies at 12 or 13 minutes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

White Walnut Fudge

that's the white fudge on the left, all packed up in a basket ready for giving
" May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility."
-Mary Anne Radmacher

This post is part of a series, Handmade Holiday Gifts

I really enjoy white chocolate. If you do as well, or know someone who does, this is for you. It's creamy, soft and rich. I think the quality of the white chocolate is important, I used Guittard Choc Au lait vanilla chips, I love those things, I eat them out of the bag if they are around.

This recipe actually comes off of the back of the package, with a few modifications.

It's really easy to make too!

White Walnut Fudge


1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons butter cut in 1 inch pieces
2 cups white chocolate chips, or one 12 oz bag
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts

Line an 8x8 square pan with parchment paper and grease it.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, heavy cream and salt in a large heavy pot.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, and boil until the temperature reaches 225 on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

When it reaches 225, remove from heat and add butter and chips stirring vigorously until melted and smooth. Mix in vanilla and walnuts. Pour into prepared pan. Cool in refrigerator for an hour before cutting into small squares.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Salted Caramels

" Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
-Norman Vincent Peale
This post is a part of a series, Handmade Holiday Gifts.

Warning! If you make these caramels and give them as gifts, people will demand that you make them and give them some every year.

This isn't really a problem though, they are so delicious you won't mind making them so you can enjoy the leftovers.

In the pan cooling

Pretty simple to make as well. Total cooking time is under a half an hour. They do take patience, and a watchful eye on the candy thermometer. It can be tedious to wrap all of those little gems, but to me it's not a big deal. I just wrap them while watching a movie or TV show. If you dip them in chocolate you can box them up and give them that way. No wrapping required.
I believe the end result is worth it. They are rich with cream and butter, and oh so decadent. If you were to purchase high quality caramels like these, you'd pay a dollar or more a piece.

out of the pan ready for cutting into little pieces

in a bag ready for giving

Salted Caramels
recipe adapted from here
2 cups heavy cream
10 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon fleur de sel or other flaky salt (for sprinkling on top)
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
Line a 13x9 dish with parchment paper, and lightly grease it.
Bring cream, butter and fine sea salt to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
Boil sugar, corn syrup and water in a large heavy pot stirring until sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring and boil until the mixture turns the color of a light golden caramel. Swirling the pan periodically.
.Align Center
Carefully stir in the cream mixture (the mixture will bubble up) and simmer, on medium heat, (if the heat is too high, it will burn before reaching 246) stirring frequently, until caramel registers 246 on a thermometer. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into prepared pan and immediately sprinkle the flaky salt on top. (When I noted 1 tsp above for the flaky salt, I'd say you don't need to measure it, just use enough to sprinkle the top of the caramel lightly, but make sure to cover it all since you are going to cut them into small pieces.)
Cool for about an hour, then cut into small pieces, and wrap with wax paper if desired.
Or you can dip them in chocolate before sprinkling the salt on top, then sprinkle them with salt after dipping in chocolate.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wine Jelly

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening your presents and listen."
-Author unknown, attributed to a 7 year old named Bobby
This post is a part of a series, Handmade Holiday Gifts
This is a good one. It's incredibly easy, and simple. And quite unique. I've given this as gifts for years, and it is well received by wine lovers. It makes a delightful hostess gift as well. Package it in small 4 oz jars, and it can be opened up and used on a cheese plate immediately. I think it would be lovely served with cheese and crackers as an appetizer on Christmas day, or New Years day, since it's sort of special and festive.

I will be making homemade cheese crackers to give with this jelly. I will be posting that recipe soon.

It's also a super easy recipe for those who are new to canning. The recipe itself takes about 5 minutes, and you don't really need to do the whole water bath processing, if you keep it refrigerated. You can give it as gifts and just tell the recipients to keep it in the fridge after they receive it, (if it sits at room temperature for a few hours, it will be o.k.) Refrigerated it will keep for months, like 6 months, literally. I had some in the back of my fridge for about that long, it was fine. The benefit of not preserving it, is that you can use different jars to store it, so if save commercial jelly jars, or other small jars, you can use them. That is something you can't do if you were preserving it.

If you do choose to can it, meaning preserve it using the water bath method, of course you can keep it at room temperature for years.

This recipe is quite unique in that it is not really cooked. It is deliberately this way as to not cook out the alcohol. It uses liquid pectin which is considered "instant" pectin. You are probably thinking (like I was) "is this really going to set up since it's not boiled"? I've made this recipe a handful of times, and it does indeed set up, it is a soft set, but it's set nonetheless.

Wine Jelly

makes 6 or 7, 8 oz. jars

recipe from here


4 cups red wine, Burgundy is a good choice, or any red wine really. I used Cabernet

(a standard bottle of wine is 3 cups, I keep the little bottles around to cook with, so I used the standard bottle plus the little bottle.)

6 cups sugar

2 pouches, 6 oz. total, liquid pectin

1/2 teaspoon butter (this prevents foaming)

In a large pot, combine sugar, wine and butter on medium heat. Stir until it gets warm and sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat and stir in the pectin.

If not preserving-

Pour into hot sterilized jars. When cool, cover and refrigerate.

If you preserving them using the water bath method, pour into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

If you have never canned, read up on it here, you will be using the method for high acid food, (if you are choosing the preserve it, that is.)

Note #1** Powdered pectin and liquid pectin are not interchangeable. This recipe requires the liquid, since it isn't really cooked.

Note #2*** You cannot change the amount of sugar in this recipe, if you do it may not set properly. If you would like to make wine jelly that is low in sugar, you would need to purchase the low sugar type of pectin and find a recipe that coincides with it. Also there is a product called Pomona Pectin that requires no sugar. It is found at health food stores.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chocolate Almond Butter Toffee

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love."
-Hamilton Wright Mabie
This post is part of a series, Handmade Holiday Gifts
.So it was my birthday on the 11th. My husband and I went to Vancouver, BC for one fun night. We went there pretty much exclusively to dine at my very favorite restaurant in the whole world, Le Crocodile. Stay tuned, I'm going to blog about the experience.

So now that all of my birthday celebrations are over, it's time to get off my butt and really focus on the holidays. I'm kicking it into high gear making treats. The next week or so, I'll be posting more often with different food gifts.

all wrapped up

Starting with this buttery, delicious toffee. It's not only absolutely scrumptious, but it also makes quite a lot. I could fill 2 tins with it, or package it in small cello bags to be added to a basket filled with different items.

It's also pretty simple to make and takes, from start to finish, about a half an hour.

before adding the nuts


2 cups (4 sticks, 1 lb.) butter, I used salted, I also used 1/4 tsp salt, if using unsalted butter, increase salt to 1/2 tsp. or so.

salt as indicated above, (1/4 tsp if using salted butter, or 1/2 tsp- if using unsalted butter)

2 cups white sugar

2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips or milk or dark, your preference

1 1/4 cups chopped almonds, toasted


Line a jelly roll pan with heavy duty foil and spray lightly with non stick spray.

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter, with the sugar and salt. Stir until it's melted. Allow to come to a boil over medium to medium high heat, and don't stir from this point on. Only swirl the pan periodically to prevent the bottom of the pan from burning. If the heat is on the highest setting, there is more of a chance of it burning before it reaches the called for temperature, so keep it close to medium. This takes a little time and patience, but it really sucks to have the bottom of the pan scorch. Cook the mixture till a candy thermometer reaches 290-300 degrees, the hard crack stage. It will be an amber color.

When it comes to temperature, carefully pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Wait a few minutes, until the chocolate has melted, then spread the melted chocolate over the toffee using an offset spatula. (or a knife.) Sprinkle on the chopped nuts. Gently press them into the chocolate.

Put it in the fridge to cool down. When totally cool, break into pieces.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Festive and Fruity White Chocolate Blondies

" From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another. The warmth and joy of Christmas bring us closer to each other". -Emily Matthews

This post is part of a series, Handmade Holiday Gifts.

These blondies are so delicious! They are chewy, and crunchy, sweet and fruity. I believe I don't eat blondies nearly often enough. I like that these are unique and festive. Either alone, or paired with your favorite brownies wrapped in plastic wrap in a Chineese takeout box would make a great gift. Or presented in a tin, or wrapped in tissue in a larger box.

They would also be a wonderful thing for a cookie party, or to bring to a holiday gathering.

These call for dried apricots, cranberries and cherries, although any dried fruit would work. The red flavors are good because they are especially festive, but use what you like. Also any type of nut works. I used pecans and walnuts.

all wrapped up

before going in the oven

cooling, out of the oven

Festive and Fruity White Chocolate Blondies

adapted from a recipe out of an old little flip book called, Chocolate Lovers Collection


1 2/3 cups white chocolate chips (my favorite brand is Guittard)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter- I used salted

2 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup orange juice

zest of an orange, or 1 tsp orange zest

1 cup mixed dried fruit-chopped - I used dried apricots and a mixture of dried cranberries and cherries.

1/2 cup chopped nuts-your choice I used walnuts and pecans

1/4 cup light brown sugar


Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 inch square pan, then create a sling using parchment paper, by laying a piece of parchment in the pan the pan one way, folding the paper if necessary to fit, with the paper hanging over, then do it the other way in the opposite direction. Grease the parchment paper.

In a saucepan melt the butter. I cooked it until brown to make brown butter, but I'm not sure I could tell. So either melt the butter, or cook it till brown. Add 1 cup white chips. (save the rest for later.) Stir the mixture until the chips are melted. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat the eggs until foamy, then add the sugar. Beat until thick and pale yellow in color. Add the flour, salt, orange zest, juice and the butter/choc mixture. Beat until combined.

Spread one half of the mixture in the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven.

While that is baking, mix 3/4 cup of the mixed fruit into the rest of the batter. (save the 1/4 cup for the topping) add the remaining 2/3 cup white chocolate chips to the batter and stir. When the bottom layer is done, spread the 2nd mixture on top of it. It's thick, so drop it by the spoonful if you have to, as evenly as you can. (No worries, when it gets hot it will spread out.)

For the topping mix the brown sugar with the nuts, sprinkle that on top of the blondies, then as the final step, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup dried fruit to the top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, check if it's done by inserting a knife inside to check if it's set.

Cool in pan for an hour. Then remove bars using the sling. If you refrigerate the bars first, they will cut more cleanly. Cut into bars.

This is my "pig that cooks food" dressed for the holidays
When my nephew, who is now 19, yikes! was 3 yrs old or so, I was babysitting him. This pig was on the kitchen counter. He saw it when he was washing his hands and exclaimed, "That pig that cooks food is silly"!
So forever more this pig will be my "pig that cooks food."

Street Fair Cinnamon Almonds

" Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort."
-Norman Kolpas
*This post is part of a series, Handmade Holiday Gifts.*
Wow, the holidays are here! We've been decking the halls, and listening to Christmas music, what a wonderful time.
Part of getting ready for me, means cooking and baking for others. These cinnamon almonds make a fabulous gift. They're crunchy, and sweet, but not too much so, this makes them a great gift for someone who doesn't eat the usual Christmas sweets, like candy or cookies.
Ready for giving

They're super easy to make and will last for weeks. That is if they last that long.
Street Fair Cinnamon Almonds
3 cups raw unsalted almonds
1 cup sugar (I used white, you could also use brown)
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 egg white
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 3oo degrees. Grease a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides.)
Beat the egg white. I used the kitchenaid on high which took longer than normal, since there's just that little egg white in a huge bowl, or use a hand mixer, beat the egg white until it's very frothy. Add the vanilla to the egg white.
Mix the sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a separate bowl.
Add the almonds to the egg white and stir. Add the cinnamon sugar mixture to the almonds, and stir.
Spread the almonds on the prepared pan.
Cook the almonds for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Until they are brown and dry.
Cool, then package them up. Or place them in some type of airtight container or ziplock bag.

our Christmas tree

I even decorated my pot rack!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Spice Rack - Spice Organization with Baby Food Jars

"Anybody can make you enjoy the first bite of a dish, but only a real chef can make you enjoy the last."
- Francois Minot
I spoke about my spice cabinet during my show on BTO yesterday, during my talk about
making your own baby food, and this came up talking about reusing baby food jars. So I promised I'd put up a picture.

What you see is a picture of the inside of my pantry door. This is knife magnets, purchased from Ikea with baby food jars holding the spices. The baby food jar lids are metal, so they grasp onto the magnets well.
I came up with the idea when I decided I wanted magnets to hold the spices, they do sell jars that are metal for this purpose, but I didn't want to spend more than a dollar a jar when I knew I wanted roughly 40 of them. So this came to mind. The jars were free since I got them from a mother on Freecycle who saved the jars.

The bottom few racks and jars (purchased at Ikea as well) hold spices that I use alot, since the only real issue with the baby food jars is that they don't hold very much, although you could buy or seek out the larger size baby food jars. The rack above holds the spices I use frequently this time of year, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, (whole only) allspice, cloves and pumpkin pie spice.

The very bottom rack holds extracts and miscellaneous (I don't have a close up of that).
I really love this system. Everything is very readily at hand.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Caramel Corn Clusters

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas".
-Peg Bracken

*This post is part of a series, Handmade Holiday Gifts.*

Oh how I love this time of year! My birthday is in December, (the 11th) and then Christmas. It feels like such a lucky month for me. Speaking of lucky, my wonderful father who is a photographer, bought me a fabulous new camera for my birthday! So if you notice a change for the better in the quality of my pictures, we can all thank my dad. "Thanks Dad"!!

December is wonderful also because it gives me an excuse to make lots of treats. Most of them for giving. This caramel corn is one of the gifts I've been making for people for a few years now. 

This caramel corn is quite easy to make, you need a candy thermometer, because getting it to the correct temperature is crucial. But don't let that scare you. The total amount of time this takes to make is under 30 minutes. And it's inexpensive to boot. Flexible also, instead of nuts you can use pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, raisins, m&m's or a combination of mix ins.

It is well covered with the caramel as you can see in this picture. Hence the name, "clusters". Just break it into pieces. That is something I enjoy about this treat.

making the caramel

Caramel Corn Clusters

adapted from this recipe

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar packed
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp salt (or a little more if using unsalted mix ins) I used sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup salted peanuts, or mixed nuts. Or you may use almonds, cashews, pistachios, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, raisins, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, m&m's, reeses pieces, or pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds. Or a combination of a few of these. Whatever sounds yummy to you.
special equipment a candy thermometer, or an infrared thermometer if you have one of those.

Make the popcorn.
Heat oil with 3 kernels of the popcorn in a heavy pot, covered, over moderate heat until the kernels pop. Remove lid and quickly add the remaining kernels, then cook, covered, shaking pan frequently, until kernels stop popping, about 3 minutes. I have an electric stove, so I would lift the pot, then shake, then put back on the heat. The shaking is important, as I've burned popcorn on the stove if the heat is too high, or if I didn't shake it enough. Remove from heat, uncover and set aside to cool. When cool, remove the un popped kernels and discard. Set the popcorn aside.
Line a cookie sheet with foil and grease it.
Make the caramel.
Melt butter in a large heavy pot over moderate heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until the butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Then cook without stirring, only swirling pan if necessary, until the thermometer reaches 270-280. This is important. It will go from 280 to burnt in a heartbeat. If the temperature is too low, the corn will be softer, it won't dry hard. Remove pot from heat when comes to temperature.
Using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, stir salt, baking soda, and vanilla into syrup, then quickly stir in nuts or other mix ins and popcorn to coat. Immediately spread mixture in the lined cookie sheet as thinly and evenly as possible.
Cool, then break into pieces.

taking the temperature with an infrared thermometer
To easily wash the pan you made the caramel in, fill it with water, put it on the stove and bring it to a boil until all of the caramel is dissolved, wash as usual.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Making your own Homemade Baby Food

Winter squash puree baby food I made from squash from the garden

This post is to accompany my talk on BTO for Friday, Dec. 3rd

Making your own fresh baby food is very simple and there are many benefits. There is a wealth of information out there, so I'm going to provide some great links that are wonderful resources on the subject.

I'm hoping this post will act as an inspiration to make your own baby food if you have a child. But it should not be used as medical advice. I am not a doctor, and only your pediatrician can give you the best advice on what to feed your child.

The Benefits

You control the ingredients. If you keep a garden, you can feed your baby the food you grow yourself. Or you can purchase organic ingredients from a source you trust.

Cost- since you already buy food for your family, you may already have some of the foods you will feed your baby. Also it's is very much cheaper, than buying individual jars.

It's easy and doesn't take alot of time. Storing the finished product in the freezer allows you to make a large batch at once to use throughout the week or month. You can even freeze it in ice cube trays to use as needed.

How ToMaking baby food is essentially making a puree with any fruit or vegetable. To make a puree you need a food processor, blender or food mill to make it smooth. As your child gets older, you may only need to mash it.
For vegetables, steam the vegetables until soft. For example, if you use carrots, peel them, cut them into chunks, then steam until very soft. Put them through the food processor, blender or food mill, add a little water if needed to get the texture you want and it's ready to serve. Store in fridge for a few days, and freezer for months.
Do not add sugar or salt.
good examples of vegetables to puree and feed a baby
mashed potatoes-they wouldn't need much altering
winter squash or pumpkin
green beans
yams/sweet potato
yellow squash or zucchini
or try a combination of a few
Fruit Purees
If making a fruit puree like applesauce, first peel the apples, cut them into chunks, add them into a pan with a little water, cook them until soft, then puree it using a food mill, food processor or blender. Store enough for your baby to consume in a few days time in the fridge, the rest put in the freezer for future use.
good examples of fruits to puree and feed a baby
bananas-you may just be able to mash it yourself with a fork
avocados-you may just mash this with a fork
or try a combination of a few
For cereals-
to make oatmeal baby cereal simply grind oats in a food processor or blender to make ground oats.
To use the ground oats, take 1/4 cup ground oats mix it in a pan with 3/4 cup water bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add water, formula or breast milk to thin to desired consistency, cool a little and serve.
For rice cereal use the same method, grind up some rice (or brown rice) in a food processor or blender, to make a rice powder, use 1 cup water to 1/4 cup rice powder, cook water and rice in pan for 10 minutes, whisking to keep it smooth, add water, formula or breast milk to reach the desired consistency.
As your baby gets older you may be introducing meats like chicken or beef, that is usually done at 8-10 months in the U.S.
The easiest way to feed your baby meats and vegetables is to grind down or puree food you are already eating. For example if you are eating chicken, potatoes, and green beans for dinner, you can take some chicken off of the bone, add a few green beans, a small piece of potato (without the skin) and puree it in the food processor. I would suggest doing this before you season it.
Another example would be to do a riff of a popular baby food, macaroni and beef. If you are eating some pasta for dinner with some ground beef, just go ahead and puree that in the blender or food processor, adding water if necessary to reach the consistency desired.
A great food to puree for your baby would be a stew or soup, if that's what's for dinner for the family, you can go ahead and blend that.
The possibilities are endless. If we just think to the way things used to be before commercial baby food, we can see that families simply adapted what they were eating to suit the younger ones.
I would encourage you to have fun and experiment!
Some helpful links is a great, thorough site with many instructions and recipes for your baby all the way through the toddler years. has some great information

This is a great site from a mom who cooks for her son Andres. She shares what she's learned on her site.
Ask Dr has some great info