Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chicken and Artichoke Soup

It's a chinook wind here today.  It is blowing straight from the mountians, making it so warm out that it is melting.  The below zero cold air inversion that we've been living in is blown clean away.  The warm air can now get across the mountain and down into our valley.  Although we are grateful for the reprieve from the cold, we know this warm wind will drag with it a storm front, so we are getting prepared for that.  We are bringing in extra wood for the stove, and going to do chores early before it hits. 
On days like these, I like to have something warm for supper.  Tonight it will be Chicken and Artichoke Soup.  This is a version of my mother in law's soup.  She knows we like it, so she always makes it when we visit. I usually make it with chicken, but since we had turkey left over from the holidays, I'll be using that today. 
My pantry "star" in this recipe is canned artichokes.  I like to keep them on hand in my pantry for just such occasions.  I do enjoy the frozen artichokes, but for some reason, we have a hard time getting them here in Wyoming.  I like to buy the cans of quarters, just because I don't use them for any recipes that require them to be whole, and whenever the pieces of food are small, you get more of them.  It is a little cheaper to buy quarters.  I use artichokes in dips for quick entertaining of unexpected company, and also in pasta sauces, but the best way is in this soup. 
Besides the fresh onion, carrot celery, the rest of the ingredients are things I always have in the pantry, so this is an easy go to for lunch or dinner at our house. I don't like the salty slimy liquid that comes in cans of chickpeas, so I pour them out into a sieve, and rinse them well before adding them to this soup. 

Chicken and Artichoke Soup

2 T olive oil
1 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch cubes
1 onion chopped
3 stalks celery chopped
2 carrots chopped and diced
1 small can/pint of diced tomatoes and their juice
1 can artichoke quarters chopped and their juice
1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 box/quart chicken stock
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
pinch red pepper flake
salt and pepper to taste

In a stockpot, brown off chicken pieces in oil.  Remove chicken to a plate to add in later.  Add onion celery and diced carrots and cook until onion is translucent.  Add remaining ingredients, and scrape off browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add chicken back in an bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to a simmer for twenty minutes. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sourdough Orange Butterhorns are a favorite treat around here.  they are much like a cinnamon roll, but with a brown sugar orange filling, and an orange glaze on top.  These are whole wheat rolls, and are made with Splenda Brown Sugar,  and Splenda glaze, but you could certainly use regular brown sugar, and white powdered sugar instead.  I made these for family, but also gave a big plate of them to our paper carrier as a gift.  If you make them in a muffin tin, they raise up like a sheep horn in the middle, hence the name butterhorns.  I like to bake them in a 9 x 13" pan, as they seem to stay more moist. (Recipe below) 

Christmas is such a busy time.  I was very glad to have canned goods already done.  I made lots of pickled spiced peaches, and jam and salsa, so I just had a few batches of candy to make, and then my gift bags were complete.  I made homemade gumdrops this year, and candied orange peel dipped in chocolate, plus some Ritz candy.  The orange peel recipe is in a previous post, but I will share the other two here: 

Ritz Candy
1 box Ritz peanut butter filled crackers.  You'll want the tiny ones.
3 squares of chocolate almond butter candy coating
2 heaping T of swiss baking chocolate

In a double boiler, (I use a glass bowl above a saucepan of simmering water).  heat candy coating and chocolate until they are smooth.  You can also do this in a microwave, but the probability of the chocolate seizing is high, so I prefer this method.  Dip peanut butter filled crackers into chocolate coating mixture, and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet to dry.  Top with sprinkles if desired.  These are suprisingly good, and you'd never know they were only crackers. 

Homemade Gumdrops
2 C sugar
1 1/3 C applesauce
2 pkg jello gelatin( either cherry, lime, or orange flavored)
2 pkg Knox unflavored gelatin
Flavoring:  2 drops Clove oil (for cherry) 1 tsp mint extract (for green) and 1 tsp orange extract (for orange)

In a saucepan, heat all ingredients until dissolved and they come to a boil.  Boil for one minute, then pour into a well greased chilled 8 inch baking pan.  Add 2 drops of clove oil for red, 1 tsp of mint extract for green, and 1 tsp of orange extract for orange.  Stir with a spatula encorporate flavorings.  Refridgerate for 3 hours.  With a spatula to coax the jello out, turn onto a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Cut into one inch strips, and with a sharp kitchen scissors, cut into small pieces in a single layer on the wax paper.  Top with an additonal 1/3 C sugar, and roll in the sugar to coat all the sides.  Let dry for 24 hours before packaging.  These are delicious, and so much softer than store bought ones. 
These are so pretty mixed together in a serving dish for a Christmas buffet.  For gift giving, I had gift bags shaped like Christmas trees tied with curling ribbon.

Sourdough Orange Butterhorns
1 C buttermilk
1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C butter
2 T yeast
1/4 C tepid water
2 eggs
1 C sourdough starter
6-7 C flour (I use 3 C white and about 3 C wheat)
1/2 C brown sugar
1/3 C butter
the peel of 1 orange grated

juice of 1 orange
enough splenda, or powdered sugar to make a thin glaze

In a bowl or large measuring cup, microwave buttermilk, sugar, salt and butter until milk is hot, about 1 minute.  Cool.  Proof yeast in tepid water.  In the mixer bowl, beat eggs.  Add starter, bloomed yeast and milk mixture.  Add 3 C white flour, and with the bread hook attachment, mix on medium speed for 4 minutes to develop the gluten.  Slowly add wheat flour 1/2 C at a time and allow the flour to be incorporated before adding more until the dough collects into a ball and starts to clean the sides of the mixing bowl.  The amount of flour needed will vary according to the humidity on that day.  It should be a soft tender feeling dough.  Turn out into a greased bowl and cover with a dampened tea towel.  Let raise in a warm place for two hours, or until doubled.
Meanwhile, mix the brown sugar with the orange peel and set aside.  It helps to do this now, as the orange oil in the peel flavors the sugar. 
Punch down  the dough, and on a lightly floured surface roll out into a large rectangle.  Spread butter evenly over the surface, and then add an even layer of the sugar/orange mixture.  Sarting at the long side, roll up the dough into a log, and slice into 1 inch rolls.  Place in a greased 11x13 inch pan, and let rise 1 1/2 hours covered.  Brush with melted butter, and bake at 375*F for 15-20 minutes, or until rolls are golden and sound hollow when tapped.  While they are hot, drizzle with glaze.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Making Candied Orange Peel, and Orange and Beet Salad

I made candied orange peel for the first time yesterday.  It's a pretty long process.  You have to boil the peels in water and let them simmer for ten minutes, pour the oranges and water into a strainer, and start over again three times. Then, you make a syrup from 2 1/2 C sugar and water (for the peel from six oranges).  Bring that to a boil, and let it simmer until almost all the syrup is gone.  The peel goes on a rack inside of a baking pan to get cool, and become sticky, and then you roll them in sugar.  The longer you cook the peel in the syrup, the stiffer and more chewy it will become.  I'll dip the bottom ends of the candied orange strips into melted chocolate, sprinkle a litte colored sugar on, and enclude a little bag of them in my gifts this year.
That leaves me with six oranges that are now peeled to use up.  So, I made this orange and beet salad with walnuts.  It used up four, and we ate the other two for snack time.

Orange Beet Salad

3 peeled oranges sliced into 1/4" rounds
1 can/pint of sliced beets drained
Red leaf lettuce
1 chopped shallot
Tajin Seasoning
1/2 C toasted walnuts

1/4 C italian dressing (I used leftover mushroom marinade)
juice from 1 orange
Tajin seasoning

This is an arranged salad.  Greens on the bottom, then the beets, then the sliced oranges.  Toast walnuts in a dry skillet, or in the oven at 400*F just until you can smell the nuts.  Sprinkle nuts and diced shallot over salad and season with a little Tajin.  If you don't have tajin, you could use the juice of one lime, and a little cayenne pepper and salt.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not for Everyday Brown Sugar Waffles

I am on a quest to be better about baking, so I've been trying out some new recipes.  Now, you can follow the recipe exactly like it was written, but for me that is no fun.  I want to have my own personal stamp on things, so I like to play around with ingredients, and make my own recipes.  Sometimes, like Martha, it's a good thing, and sometimes it's a big ole fail.  That just means I need to go back to the drawing board, and look at it a little differently.
Mostly, at our house, if Don wants waffles for breakfast he has to buy them in a box, and heat them in the toaster.  He gets up sometimes as early as three AM to get to where he needs to be that day.  I cannot function well enough to make waffles at three AM.  He's lucky if I manage coffee and eggs.  I can, however make them for the kids, and save him back some leftovers for the next few days, and he can heat them up like store bought ones.  We've kind of got in a rut of either yogurt and fruit, or hot cereal for the kiddies in the morning, so waffles will be a welcome change to them I'm sure.
This morning's breakfast fare was a fairly good success.  Not only did Joel and Little Bit like it, but the dog did too apparently, because just minutes after taking this picture above, she helped herself to one.  She was wolfing it down (no pun intended) under the table  when I came back in the kitchen after changing Lainey.  She has been hiding in the basement ever since I found her and scolded her.
This is one of those recipes that aren't good for every day, but during the holidays are a treat.  The reason being that they are so sweet they make your teeth hurt just reading the recipe.  There is no need for syrup, which made them wonderful for one year old Lainey to eat, and they make the house smell amazing, like the holidays. 

Brown Sugar Waffles

1 T vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 C buttermilk
1 C packed brown sugar
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.  Add more buttermilk if necessary to make the batter to your liking.  Melt a couple T butter in the microwave, and spread with a basting brush on the hot waffle iron for each waffle.  Ladle  onto grill, and cook until the steam is almost gone.  Because of the high sugar content of these waffles, you won't be able to get a crispy waffle.  Makes about five or six cakes.  Brush with melted butter and serve hot.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Apple Cider Gingerbread with Yogurt Lemon Sauce

Last night was meatloaf night.  We had a meat and veg loaf this time, with lots of chopped mushrooms and grated onion, carrot and a granny smith apple.  It turned out ok, but next time I will increase the breadcrumbs, as it didn't hold it's shape when serving it.
We also had whipped potatoes.  I don't often make mashed potatoes, but I do definitely know how.  When I was in high school, I had aspirations of becoming a dietician, so I got a job in the hospital kitchen.  We had the biggest kitchen aide mixer you've ever seen, and cooked the potatoes in a tilt table pot.  I got really good at making fluffy whipped potatoes.  The key is to have your buttermilk and butter hot and your potatoes hot, and use the ballon whisk attachment to get them fluffy. 
We don't often have dessert other than just fruit, but I am on a quest to learn to like baking, so I tried out this little cake.  You can actually mix it in the cake pan if you like, and then there's no mess of a mixing bowl.  The yogurt lemon sauce is brilliant and I'm sure I'll be using it for fruit salads and scones.
P.S. My new stoneware came in the mail yesterday.  I am so excited!  It is called Winterberry, and is made by Pfaltzgraff.  Now to wait until payday to start getting the casseroles and sugar and creamers is going to be hard!  It's nice to set a proper table with enough plates that are the same. 
Making this cake will be easy from what I have on hand.  We always have apple cider, because I like to use my glass percolator on the stove, and make hot cider with cinnamon and cloves.  This recipe was so easy, it will get made often this winter.

Apple Cider Gingerbread

1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 C apple cider
1/3 C vegetable oil
1/4 C molasses
1 T cider vinegar

Lemon Sauce
1 C Vanilla Greek yogurt
grated zest of one lemon
2 tsp lemon juice

In a greased 8 inch cake pan, mix dry ingredients with a fork.  Make a well in the center, and pour in the remaining ingredients.  Mix with a fork just until you don't see any dry mix.  Bake in a preheated 350*F for 28-30 minutes.  
While cake is baking, mix lemon sauce ingredients, and refrigerate.  Serve over warm gingerbread.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pepper Cookies, Marinated Mushrooms, and Waffle Sandwiches (It's a Crazy Mixed Up Day)

It has come to the time of year when we have impromptu "mini parties".  You know, a couple friends drop by, and you pull out whatever you have in the pantry. We make some mixed drinks, or brew a pot of coffee,  and viola, you have a party.
I love having a well stocked pantry, because it affords me the tools necessary to entertain in a pinch.   I have pickles and salsa and pickled vegetables, cans and jars of olives, spiced fruits I have canned, dried fruits, a bowl full of fresh fruits.  We keep flavored crackers, and dried soup mix.  I stock up on cream or Neufatchel cheese, and keep sour cream on hand for making hors d'oeuvres. 
I have gotten my Christmas platters out, and washed them.  They are stacked at the ready in my white cupboard in my pantry.  Thanks to my decision to bake for the holidays this year, I have a ready stash of cookies.
It's not so much about what you serve to company, but how you serve it.  If you are well stocked, you can lay out a spread, and be relaxed in doing it.  It makes people feel at home, whether it's salsa and tortilla chips warm out of the oven, or a scones and honey butter, and people will enjoy themselves. My mother made me a quilted nine patch table cloth out of Christmas fabric.  In the center of the squares, she quilted snowman, and bells and gingerbread men.  That and a few candles in the window, and already it feels like a party.  It's those things that make the holidays seem cozy.   
We spent our Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin's house.  I took a couple cold salads, and a red hot apple jello.  I also took a jar of these quick marinated mushrooms.  You could use whole mushrooms, but I always have a couple containers of sliced mushrooms in the fridge. 

Marinated Mushrooms

1 boxes fresh sliced button mushrooms
Equal parts fat free Italian dressing, rice wine vinegar, olive oil.  I started with 1/2 C each.
Fresh thyme leaves

In a clean quart canning jar, stuff as many mushrooms as you can.  Heat marinating liquid in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.  Pour over mushrooms.  Press down mushrooms to release air, and add more mushrooms, then marinade if necessary.  Let stand at least 2 hours or longer.  After marinating, I spooned out the mushrooms into a covered jar, and topped with a little of the marinade.  We are enjoying the leftover marinade on salads, it is an excellent dresssing.  The mushrooms will keep a good week in the fridge.

This next recipe uses the waffle iron.  To heck with Pannini presses, I've already got a waffle iron!  My old iron does have removeable plates that reverse to a flat surface, but I like the look that the waffle iron makes on the bread. 

Waffle Sandwiches

Small rounded loaf of wheat bread
1 brick Cream cheese (goat cheese, boursin cheese, etc)
1 T Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning
Sliced fresh pears or apples
Thinly sliced ham or turkey

Heat waffle iron.  Butter one side of the bread pieces.  It will take 8 slices to fill the waffle iron.  On the other side of four slices, spread cream cheese that you've mixed with seasoning.  Add sliced fruit and meat, and top with the other four slices of buttered bread, butter side out.  Grill until golden brown and crisp, and cut into triangles. Really good served with some homemade jelly, or cranberry relish.

Spiced Black Pepper Cookies

2 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 C shortening
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 C sugar
1/3 C molasses
1 egg
1 T milk
Raisins or currants

Sift dry ing.  Cream shortening and spices with sugar.  Add molasses.  Beat in egg and milk.  Add dry ingredients, and drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheets.  Top each with a raisin and bake at 350*F for fifteen minutes or until browned around the edges.  Cool on wire racks.  Makes 3-5 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the spoonfuls.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I've Washed My Cookie Jar, and Vow to Keep It Full

I have decided to devote time this month to baking cookies.  It 's almost hard for me to say.  I am not a baker of cakes and cookies.  It is fussy work, all that measuring and such.  It's not that I'm not a good baker, I just avoid doing it.  I have a conventional stove, much to my distress as I THOUGHT it was convection (at least that's what the wretched salesman told us before we bought the dang thing and hauled it all the way home).  That means, it only bakes well right on the center rack, so it takes a coons age to bake a batch of cookies.  Oh, that and I usually burn myself handling cookie racks.
I think if you don't stretch and grow past your comfort zone, you miss out on so much in life that is good. You would have never discovered certain things just staying in your safe way of living.  Maybe I am missing out on something by avoiding baking cookies, as it seems to be a popular thing to do.  Also, my daycare bunch is getting a little older, and they are starting to notice that Nanny Tina never has any goodies like that.  My Nilla Wafers, and graham crackers are getting old for them.  
Since I always make my own gifts at Christmas time, I have decided this year to have that be cookies.  I don't eat cookies, I'm diabetic, but I sure do appreciate the plates of cookies and fudge etc...that friends give our family.  It is such a commitment in time to bake those different varieties of cookies, and hey, it takes the pressure off of me!  I will be baking and freezing to keep them fresh until time to assemble my gift platters. 
I have rehomed all the dried fruits that have been living in my saddle shaped cookie jar, and have it washed and ready for use. This cookie jar was the one my mother used as I was growing up. I think my auntie Letha had one just like it as well.  I swear even when it's clean it still smells like Winter's Gingersnaps, and Snickerdoodles (my personal favorite as a child). The horn was broken off and glued back on years ago, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
My dear sister Nancy used to let me help her bake, and I have treasured memories of standing on a chair, looking at the cool pictures in the Betty Crocker Cookie Book, and helping her make cookies to fill that old cookie jar. She has passed on, but I still have those memories, and my childhood cookie jar to remind me how wonderful and sweet she was.
So I invite you to join in my quest for the true meaning of baking!  I'm kind of easing into this, and I have posted my Snowflake recipe before, but I started my Christmas baking with this recipe.  It is kind of "fake baking", in that it is made from a mix, and only has a few ingredients and none of them really need measured (my kind of cooking for sure!).  My mother gave me a new recipe for a similar recipe, so I'll post it here also.  It only has three ingredients.  :o)

Lemon Snowflakes

1 lemon cake mix (best without pudding in it)
1 egg
2 1/2 C whipped cream or cool whip
some powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350*F, and spray cookie sheets with butter cooking spray. 
Combine the first three ingredients and drop by spoonfuls into some powdered sugar.  After coating with powdered sugar, place on greased cookie sheets.  I can fit a dozen on each of my airbake sheets.  Bake until slightly browned.  About 10-12 minutes.  Cool on a rack.

I am so out the door to buy some spice cake and pumpkin to try these today! Thanks Mom!

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Spice Cake Mix
Canned pumpkin (smaller size can make sure it's not pie filling but just plain pumpkin)

Preheat oven to 350*F, and spray cookie sheets with butter spray.  Mix all ingredients, and drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on racks. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Salads for the Brown Bag

With my husband commuting to work, and working out of town every week, we make lots of cold lunches.  On days when he is in his office, I can send leftover foods, as he has access to a microwave oven.  On the days when he is in the oilfields, he has to have foods that are good cold.  There are no cafe`s or mini marts in the remote areas where he goes.  I have to have salads and deli type foods on hand to send with him. 
Being Polish, my husband loves kraut, so I am making this salad to send with him.  It is a very old fashioned one, and often served at branding or picnic meals as it stands the heat well, and has no mayo. 

Kraut Salad

2 C sugar
1 t caraway seed
1 t salt
1  quart/jar sauerkraut drained and rinsed
1 red pepper chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1/2 onion chopped or grated

In a saucepan, heat sugar celery seed and salt over medium high heat until it boils.  Boil for 2 minutes and then remove from heat.  The sugar will melt, and make it's own liquid.  Cool before adding it to remaining ingredients.  Best if refridgerated overnight, or at least a couple hours. (Can't be made with splenda, it gets bitter when you cook it too long)

This carrot salad is an old time favorite also.  You can keep this in the refridgerator for up to two or three weeks.  I haven't made it in a long time, so it will be a welcome substitute for the same old same old.

Copper Penny Salad

2 # peeled and sliced carrots
1 large green pepper seeded and chopped
1 onion grated
1 small can Campbells Tomato Soup
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 C sugar or splenda
1/2 C red wine vinegar
1 t Worchestershire
1 t stone ground mustard
1/2 t dried thyme
salt and white pepper to taste

Cook carrots in water to cover and a pinch of salt until tender crisp.  Drain and rinse.  In a large bowl combine cooked carrots with green pepper and onion.  In the same saucepan now empty, combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Pour soup over vegetables and refridgerate for at least 24 hours. 

Don likes potato salad, so I often make my mother's salad

Mother's Potato Salad

6-8 potatoes, peeled and diced
4 eggs
1/2 onion grated
2 whole dill pickles diced finely
3 T yellow mustard
3/4 C mayonnaise
salt and white pepper to taste
dust top of finished salad with sweet paprika

Cover peeled and diced potatoes with cold water, and nestle in eggs in the top of the pan.  They will get hard boiled while the potatoes cook. Cover and bring to a boil.  Potatoes are done when the fall easily when stabbed with a fork.  Drain and remove boiled eggs to a bowl of cold water. 
In a large bowl mix cooled, peeled and crumbled eggs with drained potatoes and remaining ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with a dusting of paprika. 
My mother always uses white pepper in cold salads.  It makes a prettier dish without the black flakes of pepper. 

I don't make jello often, but this old fashioned jello is so tasty,  I remember eating this when I was little.  It was originally made with red hot candies, but I am not able to find them anymore.  I use hot tamale candies instead.
Red Hot Apple Salad

1 C hot tamale candies chopped
1 C boiling water
1 3 oz package of sugar free cherry jello
1 C unsweetened applesauce
pinch of cayenne pepper

Add candies to boiling water and stir until they dissolve.  You may need to nuke them for a minute to get all to melt.  Strain out any unmelted bits if you like. Stir in gelatin until it dissolves, and then add applesauce.  Pour into a square baking dish, and chill until set. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Only Joy in Baking: Pie

My husband loves pie.  I love to make pie.  It's a marriage made in heaven! 
Seriously, I have enjoyed making pie since I was very small.  I gave my very first 4-H demonstration as a first year 4-Her on how to make good pie crust.  I have mad skills making pie. 
My pie making has evolved over time.  At first it was the basic Crisco pie crust recipe. I would calculate the amount of water the shortening would displace and measure the shortening in water to equal one cup.  My mother was very smart, and in making it more like science and less like fussy measuring, it became fun for me.  I used only ice water, and my grandmother's pastry cutter to make my crust, because that was the way Mom did it.  These pies were mostly filled with store bought filling. 
I am not a fan of store bought filling.  It seemed that the contents of one can were not near enough to make a sufficient pie.  Also, the goop to fruit ratio was in the wrong proportion, favoring the goop and not the fruit.
Once I was out on my own, I started making pie filling from scratch.  I found it is easy to do.  If I use canned fruit like cherries or blueberries or saskatoons (I have a tree in my yard),  I make cooked filling.  It is the same method I use to make gravy for savory dishes:  Fruit and liquid, sugar, spices, and a couple big spoons of either corn starch or flour to thicken it.  I like to add a splash of brandy, or other flavored liquor at the end after the fire is off.  Remember, always cool your filling before putting it in the pie, otherwise your bottom crust will be soggy. 
Fresh fruit pies are easier still.  Peeled and sliced fruit goes in a big bowl with a cup of sugar (or splenda) spices, and a couple big spoons of flour or cornstarch.  Once it is piled up in the pie, I dot it with pieces of butter to make a custardy like thickener when it cooks with the fruit juice, and flour. 

Experts will tell you that you should cook your pie filling, so that when you bake it, you don't end up with hollow spaces from where the fruit cooks down in the oven.  When I bake pie, I put absolutely as much raw filling in it as I can get.  I get no complaints about hollows!
I have experimented with different pie crust recipes, and like the ones with vinegar in them, or my mother in laws one that has a gillion different ingredients.  I mostly just use the old Crisco recipe. I have it committed to memory, and don't have to fiddle with finding a recipe.  There are just two things to remember when making crust:  don't cut the shortening in too well, or you will lose out on all that flakiness, and always use really cold water and cold hands.  It helps to chill the dough, but I am not patient enough for that, so it honestly never happens here.  I still have good pie crust.
I still use my grandma's old pastry cutter.  It does the job, and I don't have to wash the food processor!

Two Crust Pie
2 C flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 C lard or shortening
6 T cold water

I often use storebought pie crust anymore.  It is a good product, and encourages frequency of pie baking, as I don't have a huge mess on the cupboard. That makes Don very happy!
When picking ingredients to make pie, use your imagination!  I had a fruit bowl full of apples and some ripe pears right at their prime.  I also always have dried fruit of all kinds in my pantry that I can use.  I chose dried cherries to add to my pie, but I could have used chopped apricots, or even cranberries, and they would have been delicious. 

Apple Pear Dried Cherry Pie

6 MacIntosh apples peeled and sliced
4 Bartlett pears peeled and sliced
2 C dried cherries
2 T lemon juice
1 C sugar or splenda (to taste,  mix it all up, and then adjust sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
splash of brandy or apple juice
2 heaping T flour or cornstarch

To peel pears, scald them for 30 seconds in boiling water, and then plunge them in a cold water bath to cool.  After all the fruit is peeled, add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Taste, and add more sweetener if necessary.  Pile filling in pie crust as high as you can get it, tucking fruit in here or there where there is a spot for it.  Top with 2 T cut up butter.  Put on top crust and moisten bottom crust with cold water.  Pinch to seal.  Poke top with a fork to make vent holes.  I used to get in trouble if I decorated the top crust like my mother did.  She considered it her signature.  Too bad, Mom, I do it like you did still!  Bake at 425*F until filling is hot and bubbly and crust is browned, about 1 hour.  I always place a baking sheet below the pie to avoid cleaning my oven from overflow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Turbo Cooking: Meatball Mixture

I like to "turbo cook".  I like to buy bulk items, like a five pound package of ground beef, or a whole pork loin, and make several entrees out of it.  Yesterday, I thawed out a huge package of ground beef I bought this summer when it was on sale.  Out of it, I made a meatball mixture.  Out of this general recipe, I can add ingredients and make several different meals.
My batch of meatball mixture made enough meatballs to fill a jelly roll sized pan for cooking, and extra to make stuffed peppers.  I cooked off all the meatballs, and now that they are cooled, I can put them on a baking sheet, and freeze them, and then pop them in a zip lock bag and they will be seperate instead of frozen in a big lump.  I can pull out just enough for a meatball sub sandwich, or enough to make sweet and sour meatball dinner, or spaghetti and meatballs for a quick supper meal.
I use only grated onion in my meatballs, and I get this using the largest holes on the box grater.  You could certainly just waz up wedges of the onion in the food processor until you have a watery pulp.  It seems to make a moister more delicate meatball than chopped onion.
I usually don't measure when I make meatballs.  The meat is sometimes drier than others, and it is about getting the correct texture of a sticky "dough" that has enough bread crumbs in it to hold together and keep it's shape.  I may start with only 1 cup of breadcrumbs, and gently mix, and then add more breadcrumbs to make it the right consistency.  If you get your meatballs too dry, just add more Worchestershire, or a little beef stock, or more tomato paste. 

Meatball Mother Recipe

5# ground beef
small can of tomato paste, or 1/4 C catsup
3 T Worchestershire sauce
1 yellow onion, grated
2 T minced garlic
2 eggs
about 2 C Italian bread crumbs
1 tsp adobo seasoning
salt and pepper, or I use Mrs. Dash

Mix all ingredients until you achieve a sticky "dough" that will hold it's shape.  Fashion into golf ball sized meatballs, and  place in a greased pan.  Drizzle with more Worchestershire sauce, and 2 C red wine.  You can also top with v-8 or tomato juice.  You only want the liquid to come up no more than 1/3 of the way on the meatballs.  Cover with foil, and bake at 400*F for one hour.

I had about two pounds of meatball mixture left over, after filling a jelly roll sized pan with meatballs.  I can do several things with it: 
Creamy Cabbage Rolls:  I can add raw rice, and more tomato paste, and some marjoram, thyme and red pepper flakes.  I can roll this mixture up in blanched cabbage and cover it  with a can of evaporated milk mixed with a package of onion soup mix and parmesan cheese to top it.  It goes in the oven covered in foil, and bakes at 400*F for one hour. 
Salisbury Steak:  I can form the meat into oblong patties and fry it in the skillet.  This would get topped with a beef and mushroom gravy for Salisbury steak.
Oat Meatloaf with Waterchestnuts:  I can add another can of paste, a C of rolled oats, and a drained can of waterchestnuts that I have chopped to make a great meatloaf. Bake in the oven at 400*F for one hour.
Stuffed Peppers:  Last night, I chose to make stuffed peppers.  I shaved a small bit off the bottom of cleaned whole peppers that I took the tops off of, and filled them with the meatball mix.  After the peppers were full, I added 1/2 inch water to the bottom of the pan.  Cover with foil, and bake at 400*F for one hour.  There are many ways to top these.  I kept the lids intact, with the seed part removed, so I just cooked them with the tops on.  I could have topped them with buttered breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, or I could have placed a piece of good swiss cheese over them the last few minutes of baking. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Burgundy Beef Ribs

I have no stamina for shopping any more.  I used to be able to go all day, and still have energy left to burn when I got home.  Now, we go to one or two stores, and I'm done for. 
It didn't help that we went out to lunch yesterday before we went shopping.  We ate at our favorite Chinese place.  They have a buffet at lunch time, so it is a quick lunch with awesome food.  Only problem is, I ate carbs, and was so sleepy by the time we left, I lost my passion for shopping.  I only got half my shopping done for the next couple weeks. 
I'll have to finish up sometime this weekend, which will be tricky, as we are teaching horsemanship at the college.
I like to sit down with the sale circulars on Wednesday, and make my menu and list for shopping.  I have done this for so many years, it is a quick bit of work to get it done, usually.  Sometimes I struggle to come up with ideas for something different, but if I browse through a couple cookbooks, I can usually find something. 
I sometimes make a special trip to another grocery store to pick up good buys on things, but I mostly shop at the Safeway down the street.  I did some cost studies on a typical grocery list a couple years ago, and although I could get items cheaper by traveling to Riverton to buy them, the savings was lost in time and travel. 
At Thanksgiving time, there are some incredible specials, so I made an exception yesterday, and went to another grocery store to get a few things.  They had frozen turkey breasts on sale for $1.89.  We buy a lot of rotisserie turkey at our grocery store, to make sandwiches, and to make stock from the bones.  These frozen ones are significantly cheaper, so I bought as many as I could.  No one wants to cook a whole turkey often, but it is no problem to just cook these breast portions.  They also had leg/thigh portions for cheaper.  They make wonderful turkey enchiladas, and the bones yeild a lot of stock for every day cooking. 
Along with the turkey, they had boneless beef ribs on special sale.  We brought home a family sized package, and I made this dish for supper.  It made way more than we could eat, but it is so tender from long cooking, and I will be able to use the leftovers for more meals. 
I love the flavor of meat cooked in wine.  Luckily, my favorite brand of wine, Bogle is on sale this week, too!  I picked a full bodied Merlot to use for this dish.  Any good red wine that you like to drink would work, too. 

Burgundy Beef Ribs

1/2-1 C flour
1 tsp grill seasoning, or salt and pepper to taste
2 # boneless beef ribs
2 onions sliced thinly
1 bag frozen pearl onions
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 T minced garlic
2 T Worchestershire sauce
2 1/2 C beef stock
3 C wine
2 T dredging flour
Frozen peas

Dredge ribs in flour mixed with grill seasoning.  In a large deep sided skillet, or dutch oven brown ribs well in oil.  Set aside.  Add sliced onions and brown.  In a measuring cup, mix 1 C beef stock with 2 heaping T of the dredging flour.  Whisk until smooth.  Add to pan to deglaze, and scrape up bits.  Add remaining beef stock, and wine.  Heat to boiling, and adjust liquid to make a medium bodied gravy.  Add pear onions, and herbs and garlic.  Carefully slide the browned ribs back into the pot, and cover and move to the oven.  Bake at 350*F for three hours.  Adjust seasoning before serving, as this will change in flavor and salt level during the long cooking. 
I served this with some homemade style pasta.  I placed a half a bag of frozen peas in the colander, and poured the cooked pasta and water over it.  The boiling water is just right for defrosting and warming up the peas without making them taste starchy and lose their color from overcooking.  Top the pasta and peas with the wine gravy, and a couple falling apart tender ribs. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hot Hamburger Remix: Lowfat Oven Baked Turkey Burgers and Gravy!

My husband is the King of Gravy.  When he picks a place to eat out, his main criteria is that they have gravy.   In trying to eat a healthier diet, we have had to remix some of his favorite foods to fit what is acceptable in fat content and calories. 
This is a super easy recipe for a wonderful comfort food supper.  We wrapped some small firm Yukon Gold potatoes in foil, and roasted them in the oven along with the Turkey Burgers and Gravy.  We could have also boiled a head of cauliflower, and mashed it with some hot chicken broth and salt and pepper to make a low carb substitute for mashed potatoes. 
My husband always has the option to have it "Diner Style",  on a couple pieces of bread. 
Along with the hot hamburgers and baked potatoes, we had a big green salad of romaine lettuce, tomatoes and some avocado.  I think this will be an often requested recipe in the future (which makes me happy, as Turkey Burgers haven't been received well in the past).  Cooking these burgers along with the lowfat gravy makes them come out moist and more flavorful.

Lowfat Oven Baked Turkey Burgers and Gravy

In a 9x13 baking pan, pry apart frozen raw turkey burgers and layer overlapping.  I put the whole bag into the microwave on defrost until they would come apart.  
In a medium size mixing bowl,  combine the following:
1 box/quart of chicken stock.
2 heaping T corn starch
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper, or Mrs. Dash to taste
Whisk together and pour over burgers.  Top with thinly sliced onions and bake at 375*F for one hour and fifteen minutes.  The burgers come out moist and delicious.

Leftovers reheat beautifully, or you can crumble leftover burgers, and add stew vegetables to burger and gravy,  to make a great second meal turkey stew. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pasta with Clam Sauce and Baked Acorn Squash, Lentil Soup with Ham Hock and Leftover Squash

My husband loves red clam sauce.  I love it too in that I don't have to remember to get the hamburg out of the freezer, and it is easy to get supper on the table in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta. 
We took the kids to the Son Harvest Pumpkin Patch, my cousin's farm outside of Riverton.  The kids all picked out a pumpkin, and we got several kinds of squash.  Among them were two huge white acorn squash.  We all love acorn squash, so we took it home and cooked it for supper. 
Acorn or any other squash is super easy to cook.  I just wash the outside with warm soapy water, and cut it open lengthwise.  I have an old silver serving spoon that is very sturdy, and I use either that, or the icecream scoop to remove the seeds and strings.  I then place the squash halves in a glass baking dish, cut side up, and season with salt and pepper, and a T of butter in the cavity.  I put that in the oven, and fill the glass dish with water at least 1/4 of the way up the sides of the squash.  Bake for at least 1 hour at 350*F.  To serve it, just scoop it out and top with a little butter and pepper, or even some grated cheese.  It is sweet and delicious! 
We only cooked one acorn, but had half of it left over, so I used it in the Lentil and Ham Hock Soup.  It adds lots of vitamin A, but also makes a great thickener.  I have also used it in my cheese sauce for Mac and Cheese.  It is a great vegetable for that, because kids eat it without ever knowing it is in there.
Below are two great examples of easy meals that rely on pantry staples.  I could cook either one anytime, as I always have dried pasta, canned clams, tomatoes, dried beans, and frozen ham hocks on hand. 
Even if you think you don't like seafood, try this sauce.  It is delicious!

Red Clam Sauce

2 T oil
1 white onion peeled and chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp old bay seasoning for seafood
1 small can tomato paste
1 T minced garlic
1 5 oz can of chopped clams and their juice
1 quart diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, brown onions in oil.  Add paste and let it brown a bit.  This carmelizes the sugars and makes a deeper taste to the sauce.  Add minced garlic, and juice from the clams.  Scrape the pan to loosen browned bits, and add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer until pasta tests done.  I always serve this with Linguini, and fresh grated parmesan to top it.

I use my crock pot a couple times a week.  It really saves me, because in a quiet moment when the girls are taking their morning nap, I can get supper going.  Then at the end of the day, when I am pooped from chasing toddlers, and doing chores, I can just open the lid, and serve up the meal. 

Lentil and Ham Hock Soup

In a large sized crock pot, place:
1 pound lentils that have been washed in a strainer and picked over (sometimes there are stones)
1 white onion chopped
3 large carrots peeled and diced
1 green pepper diced
1 red pepper diced
1 jalapeno pepper diced
1 C celery diced (including leaves)
1 large ham hocks
2 quarts V-8 or tomato juice
2 quarts water
flesh from 1/2 cooked acorn squash
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp Adobo Seasoning (a blend of salt, garlic, and spices found in the spice section of the grocery)
Ground pepper

Cook on high for 8-10 hours.  Before serving, taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Remove ham hocks, and cool.  Using a fork, remove meat from the knuckle, and return it to the soup.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Scones and Making Dumplings 101

For my friend Sammi:  A new scone recipe.  If you love snickerdoodles, you'll love this moist light scone.   It would be really good with some maple butter, or I liked it warmed up with just a little butter.

Cinnamon Sugar Scones
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 t baking soda
Combine sour cream with the baking soda in a small mixing bowl.  Set aside.
2 1/4 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1 t baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 t salt
1/2 C cold butter
2 t cinnamon
garnish with addition cinnamon sugar before baking
Preheat oven to 350*F.  Combine dry ingredients except cinnamon.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender until it resembles fine bread crumbs.  Whisk egg and cinnamon into sour cream mixture, add flour mixture and stir until it just comes together in a ball.  On a pizza stone, or baking sheet, pat dough ball out into a circle about 3/4 inch thick.  Cut into wedges, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.   

I love chicken and dumplings.  We always have stock on hand, and I have cooked chicken or turkey in the fridge at all times, too.  I just make a thick chicken gravy and add a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, or the leftover cooked potatoes, carrots, and onions from a roast and some peas from the freezer.  Then comes the dumplings, which are so easy.

Butter Dumplings
2 eggs
1/2 C all purpose flour
6 T softened butter
1/2 t salt
1 pinch ground nutmeg

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and add the flour and mix.  Into this mixture, beat the butter, salt and pinch of nutmeg to make a smooth batter.  Bring the soup to a boil,  Drop half teaspoonfuls of batter into the gently boiling soup.  Cook 6 to 7 minutes at least. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Homemade Noodles

I used to make noodles often when we were first married.  We lived on 800 bucks a month, so anything I could do to stretch our budget, I did.  We bought and stored 50 pounds of flour at a time, and we lived on a ranch where there were chickens, so we had access to eggs.  It was a long trip to town, and most of it on unpaved roads, so if I ran out of something, I had to improvise.
Noodles are easy, but require some upper body strength to roll.  I think on my next trip to town, I'll have to invest in a pasta roller, so I can get them to come out thin and smooth.  Even though my noodles today were not what I used to be able to do, (they were a little lumpy and too thick) they were still delicious.  I don't know why I every started using dried!
So here's my noodle recipe.  If the dough is too dry, add a little T of water at a time until it feels the right texture.

Egg Noodles
1 1/2 C all purpose flour  (I use 1 C white, and a half C wheat to make them more nutritious)
3 large eggs
a scant tsp of salt
fresh pepper to taste
Pour the flour on a clean and dry countertop, in a pile.  With the back of the measuring cup, push out the center of the flour to make a well.  It will look like a volcano crater.  Make sure there is flour surrounding the well on all sides, or your eggs will leak out, and it will be infinitely more messy.  Crack the eggs into the well, and season with salt and a grind of fresh pepper.  With a fork, start stirring the eggs, incorporating a little flour at a time until a dough ball forms.  Knead it gently to clean the board of all remaining flour, and cover with a bowl and let rest ten minutes.  On a lightly floured board, roll the dough with a floured rolling pin as thin as humanly possible, (or run it through a pasta roller).  With the dough lightly dusted with flour on both sides, fold it over in thirds to make a long rectangle, and slice into thin noodles.  Separate, and cook in either boiling salted water, or add to chicken or beef soup.  Cook fifteen minutes or until noodles are floating and tender.
You can also put this dough in a colander and pushing it back and forth across the holes to make spaetzle. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pastina (or Glorified Leftovers)

My family likes pasta.  My day care kids especially like tiny pasta shaped like stars.  They will eat anything if it has pastina in it, which is great for me as we eat lots of vegetable based dishes. 
I had a quart of leftover Tomato Basil soup in the fridge which became Minestrone with the addition of a can of white beans, some sliced zucchini, part of a bag of mixed vegetables from the freezer, and some frozen spinach.  This in turn became Pastina, when I reheated the soup, and added a box of tiny Pastina stars to the pot.  This became Pastina Bake when I put the leftovers from that meal into a greased casserole, and topped it with parmesan and baked it in the oven.  Pictured also are the garlic twists I made on baking day.
So, from my lowly jar of leftover soup came four meals, plus the leftovers from the Pastina Bake went into Don's lunch box this week.  Something from nothing, it's a good thing!   

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Baking Day

When I was not troubled with health issues, Tuesday was my usual baking day.  I would make sourdough angel biscuits to put into the refrigerator for the week, and bake bread, and maybe even some other sweet baked goods.  I like to bake bread and biscuits and things like that, but don't particularly like to bake cookies and pies and cakes.  It is fussy cooking, and I don't like to use the old measure and level off.  It's just too much pressure! 
Well, I am trying to get back in the groove.  There have been so many health setbacks, one right after the other, that I am having trouble getting traction again.  I have had to swallow my pride, and just work on adding one thing at a time to what I can accomplish in a day.  Thank God for my son Joel, I couldn't still work and be active in all the things we do if he wasn't there helping me. 
Anyway, I have added baking day back to my schedule this week.  It almost did me in to knead all that bread dough, but I did it!  My arms feel like noodles! 
I just perfected this wheat bread recipe, and it is so simple it will be my new standard.  The bread has wheat germ and two kinds of whole wheat in it, but the texture is very light, and soft.  The recipe makes three loaves, but I held out one third of the dough and rolled it out to make garlic twists to go with our lunch today. 
The bread is a buttermilk bread.  I pulled three cartons of buttermilk out of my fridge, and they were all expired.  The oldest one was dated in May!  I think cleaning the fridge day will be my next goal, because obviously I don't do a very good job of it.  I did have some dried buttermilk in my pantry, but it was no good also!
Did you know you can substitute regular milk and lemon juice for buttermilk?  You just add 1 T lemon juice for each C of milk to sour it.  You can also use vinegar, but I like the lemon juice better.

New Favorite Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

6 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 C warm water
dissolve yeast in water, and wait for it to bubble up, or proof. 

a stick and a half of butter melted
3 C warm buttermilk (or if you don't have any 3 C regular milk and 3 T lemon juice for substitution)
1/4 C agave nectar (can use honey)
3 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 C toasted wheat germ
6 cups whole wheat flour
3-4 C prarie gold wheat flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine the proofed yeast, buttermilk, cream of tartar, salt, butter, agave nectar, wheat germ, and four cups of whole wheat flour.  With a bread dough hook, knead the dough until the gluten forms long strings of batter.  Gradually add in more flour and knead with the dough hook until all the whole wheat flour is incorporated.  Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead in the remaining 3-4 cups of prairie gold flour.  The dough should be very smooth and elastic, but still soft. 
Place in a well greased bowl, and cover with a damp towel and let rise for one hour in a warm place until the dough is double in size. 
Divide dough into thirds, and divide each third into three ropes of the same length.  Pinch the ropes together at the top, and braid the dough:  pinching the ends under and place in a greased bread pan to rise for 40-45 minutes. 
Bake in a 350 *F oven for 40-45 minutes or until browned and hollow to the touch.  Cool on wire racks, and while the loaves are still hot, butter the tops of the loaves.  Makes three loaves

Herb Garlic Twists

Take 1/3 of the dough above, and roll it out into a 12 inch by 10 inch rectangle.  Brush with 1/2 stick melted butter to which you have added 1 heaping T minced garlic, 2 tsp minced basil, and 1 tsp Mrs. Dash garlic and herb seasoning, and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  Fold the dough over in thirds, and seal the edge.  Cut crosswise into 24 strips.  Twist each strip twice and pinch ends to seal.  Place on a baking sheet and cover with a damp towel and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.  Bake in a 375*F preheated oven until twists are golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tuna Puff and Roasted Pork Loin with Onions and Apples in Apple Cider Braise

I am in the thick of canning.  It seems that it all comes at once.  To slow me down further, we spent all weekend on the mountain getting firewood, and hunting.  Not that I'm complaining mind you, I had a wonderful weekend, but it put me in a canning crunch. 
When it gets crazy like this, I am not terribly motivated to cook meals.  I mean, I am already in the kitchen from daylight to dark as it is, I don't really want to be pushing things aside to prep and cook a meal.  The counter today was full as it was with jars of pickled vegetables, and spicy peach pickles.  
These two recipes are minimal prep, minimal dirty dishes meals.  The Tuna Puff are my husbands particular favorite.  He remembers his Aunt Loretta serving them when he was little, and it is a perfect time of year to have them, as the fresh tomatoes are in season.
I had a pork loin thawed out for this week's menu.  I like to braise them, since they are very low in fat. They come out moist and delicious cooked that way.  It takes only a few minutes to get it ready for the oven, and then it takes care of itself for the hour and a half it cooks in the oven. 

Tuna Puff

2 cans tuna drained
1/2 C mayo
1 C shredded cheese
2 T pickle relish (I used a dill one, but you could use sweet)
Sliced fresh tomatoes
6 pieces of bread

On a baking sheet, place bread and add a couple slices of tomatoe to each slice of bread.  In a bowl, mix tuna with mayo, cheese and pickle relish.  Divide up tuna mixture on top of the sliced tomatoes.  Broil in the oven until the puff is golden brown on top and puffy.  We had these yummy sandwiches with canned green beans, and bartlett pear slices. 

Pork Loin with Onions and Apples in Cider Braise

Pork Loin Roast
1 large onion cut in wedges
2 tart baking apples cored and cut in wedges
4 large carrots peeled and cut in chunks
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp herbs de province
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 C soy sauce combined with enough cider to come half way up the roast's side.

In a large roasting pan, place vegetables and pork roast.  Top the roast with minced garlic and herbs de province, salt and pepper.  Pour in the liquid, and carefully baste roast in liquid, so as to not wash off all the garlic and herbs.  Cover and bake at 350*F for an hour and a half, basting a couple of times.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Salsa Ole'

Drizzly cool morning, and I am in the thick of canning.  I was lucky enough to have access to tree ripe peaches from Utah.  Thanks to my friend, I got two boxes, and will be making quarts of beautiful peach halves, and some pickled peaches today.  Also on the agenda is the bread and butter pickles that I have already started earlier.  The cucumbers and the onion did some time in a gallon jar with canning salt and ice to draw out the excess moisture.  They will be extra crispy and hopefully not shrivel in the canning process.  Bread and butter pickling liquid has a high vinegar ratio, so sometimes it draws out too much moisture from the pickles and they are more like pickle prunes!
My friend Jennifer asked for my favorite salsa recipes, and I have three of them so far.  I use recipes I've found in my canning books, and usually add cumin to the recipe.  I made some this year using dried reconstituted chiles, and chipotle peppers.  It is very beautiful in the jar, and we can't wait to try it!  You can vary the recipes slightly as long as the recipe has an acid added like vinegar and lime juice.  The acid veg/non acid veg ratio needs to stay the same.  Basically, you are making veg pickles.   

Fiesta Salsa
7 C peeled fresh tomatoes (about 4 1/2 pounds) chopped
2 C peeled chopped cucumbers
2 C chopped banana peppers (you can take seeds out for mild)
1/2 C Anahiem or pasilla peppers that you've blistered on the burner and peeled and chopped
1/2 C chopped jalapenos
1/3 C minced fresh cilantro
3 T minced garlic
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp canning salt
1/2 C cider vinegar
2 T lime juice
Combine in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Ladle hot salsa in to sterilized hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe tops with a clean dishcloth, and process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Zesty Salsa
10 C peeled chopped fresh tomatoes (6 lbs.)
5 C Anahiem or Slim Jim peppers chopped and seeded
5 C chopped onions
2 1/2 C jalapeno or serrano peppers chopped and seeded (1 lb)
1 1/4 C cider vinegar
3 T minced garlic
1/3 C chopped fresh cilantro
3 tsp canning salt
1 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp Frank's hotsauce
Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
Simmer 10 minutes. Ladle into sterilized hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe tops with a clean rag, and adjust 2 piece caps. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes (18 here).

Tomatillo Salsa
2 lb chopped tomatillos
1 C chopped onion
1 C Anahiem or other long green chiles chopped
1 T miced garlic
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
2 T ground cumin
1/2 T canning salt
1/2 T red pepper flakes
1 C cider vinegar
1/4 C lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Ladle into hot jars with 1/4 in headspace. Wipe rims with a clean cloth, and adjust 2 piece lids that you've warmed in hot water. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes (18 for my altitude).

Monday, August 22, 2011

My addiction: Canning- Is There a Twelve Step Program?

I remember when Ryan was about four, he came to me in the kitchen and said, "Mommy, stop canning, I miss you!"  My poor children become canning orphans, and my husband a canning widower when this time of year comes around.  I am addicted to canning.  On years that I have a big garden, I just can like a madwoman to keep it all from going to waste.  I have been known to can late into the night only to get up early and hit it again.  I just love canning.  There is something really satisfying about spotlessly clean jars being filled with my own food to feed my family.  I love the smell of simmering salsa, and processing peaches, and the tang of vinegar from making pickles.  I love the beautiful noise of jars sealing on the counter. When I go down to my pantry on a winter day, and can pick out a lovely red quart of my tomatoes and some beautiful peach halves to use for making meals, I feel like I have accomplished some level of self sufficiency.   It is like I bottled up my Summer for safe keeping.
I love to can green beans which requires pressure canning, so I also got into doing that.  I used to make batches of beef stew and ham and beans and pressure can them for lunches.  It is awesome to have already cooked dried type beans on hand, as they can be pretty pricey in the store, and always have that salty slimy liquid on them.  I've made catsup, relish, spiced cabbage, sauerkraut, you name it, if it can be canned, I've done it! 
When I can, I use jars that have been passed down to me by my family.  Some of the jars are feeding a fourth generation, and I know which ones were Grandmas, and Aunt Vestas, or my Moms by the jar design.  I use my Grandmother's pickled beet recipe, and it always makes me remember being in her kitchen helping peel beets with the heady smell of the pickling liquid. 
Canning isn't as hard as it may seem.  It is becoming a lost art, as people get farther and farther removed from the source of their food.  To start out, you don't need fancy equipment to can, just a large pot, some overturned teacups, and a flat rack or plate, and enough room to cover the jars with water by at least half an inch.  My traditional canning kettle has a wire rack that holds the jars off the bottom of the pan, but the set up I described above would work great for jellies or pint jars.  You do need a jar filler, and a jar lifter,  low cost items that are necessary to handle and fill hot jars. Then of course there is the jars and rings, which can be second hand, and new lids.  If you do buy jars second hand, make sure the rim, or sealing edge of the jar is free from nicks and pits.  This happens as jars are pried open, so it is common, but will make your seal unsafe.  
I have been canning a lot lately.  Mostly pickled beans when the store has them on sale, but also some regular pickles here and there.  I bought a twenty five pound box of peaches on Saturday,  and really got into the canning groove.  I wasn't able to do all the peaches, because they just didn't want to peel.  I'll process them in the morning now that they are a couple days riper.  I came across some nice pickling cucumbers, and bought a flat of tomatoes, and got fifteen quarts out of the cucumbers, and two batches of pints of salsa, so fourteen jars. 
The best part of making my own, is that working under some restraints due to the acidity level of certain foods, I can adjust for my own taste, and dietary needs.  I do use sugar to can my peaches and other fruit, but only 1 cup for 10 1/2 cups of water.  The fruit tastes very much like fresh, and NOTHING like what you buy in tin cans.  I added dried anchos and chipotle peppers to my salsa, and extra garlic and little dried hot peppers to my pickles, because that is what my family likes. 
I started helping my mother to can when I was big enough to stand on a chair and peel peaches and tomatoes the process is ingrained in me.  It is not a hard process though.  Acid foods like fruit, tomatoes, and pickles and salsas only need water bath processing.  They are safe and easy recipes.  Sterilize the jars you'll need.  Make the syrup or pickling liquid, etc...  Dip the fruit or tomatoes in boiling water then into cold water so the skins will come off.  Halve, quarter, chop and put in the jars.  Add hot liquid and lids and put in boiling water bath for the time it says. 
Tomatoes are the easiest.  You just keep shoving the whole tomatoes down in the jars until they squish out enough liquid to fill the jar, and add a little canning salt.  There is no addition needed of water or tomato juice, just pure tomatoes.  This is a far superior product to the ones in the tins. 
Next time you come across the Ball Blue Book at the store, take a look at the recipes.  They not only have canning recipes, but also lots of freezer food ideas, and also dried food techniques.  It is possible to teach yourself to can with this book. 
Come on, give canning a try won't you?  That way I am not the only one at the AC meetings.  Hello, my name is Tina and I am a canning addict.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Like a Prince without a Country- I miss my garden!

I have always loved gardening.  Even when I was forced labor for my mother in my school years, I loved pulling weeds and harvesting.  Of course, I made a big deal of it, just because I was a teenager.  I could not wait until I was married, and could have my own garden.
I learned to can at a young age.  I was put to work peeling scalded fruit and beets, as soon as I could stand on a chair up to the sink, and do so  We put up box after box of home canned peaches, pears, plums, apricots, tomatoes, and pickled beets.  I snapped beans and filled jars. I was in charge of keeping the inventory list, a way for my mother to get me to practice writing, I think.  When she sent me to the cubbyhole under the stairs to get a jar of something, I would cross it off the list, so we knew exactly how much we had at any time. 
One of the first things I bought with our wedding money was a water bath canner.  I actually wore out the jar holder part, and the enamel on the inside, and have had to buy another one since then.  It saw almost continual use during the summers.  I used to can all our vegetables, and any fruits I could get a hold of. I bought the biggest pressure canner I could find, and put up lots of green beans and soups and other low acid foods.  
I had no garden last year, and only a small raised bed this year, so the harvest won't be big enough to need canning.  It feels wrong not to be out there every morning bent over weeding.
It is a strange thing, not having produce to pick and take care of.  It is such a part of my everyday life in the summer, to be sterilizing jars, and putting food by.  I am like a prince without a country.  I am lost without my canning fix.  When the day's canning was done, I sat and looked through recipes to plan my next canning project.
We are planning out more raised beds, and will be putting in a new fence to keep out the destructive ghetto deer that plagued me in the last few years.  I want our produce to be for us, not the local deer buffet line!

I was able to get some rhubarb from my Mom, or pie plant as we call it, and the store had a special on strawberries  buy one and get one free.  I made twelve half pint jars of strawberry rhubarb jam.  The easiest of the jams.  I won't be enjoying it, as it is a sugar and fruit recipe, but my boys like it, and I can give it as gifts.  Not only is it awesome on hot rolls or biscuits, but it is a wonderful ice cream topper. Remember, rhubarb leaves are toxic, so cut the leaf completely before bringing it in the house, and don't put leaves in your compost pile.
I use my grandmother's old farm scale to measure the weights for canning, and to weigh out dried beans, ect...when I am cooking.  I like to can by weighing, rather than fussy measuring, so I often convert the recipes from cups to pounds. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
2 lb strawberries (about two clamshells, or 4 cups whole berries)
2 lbs diced rhubarb (about 8 cups diced fruit)
6 cups sugar divided
In a large stainless steel stock pot, place rhubarb and 3 cups of sugar.  Stir together well, and let sit to macerate for two hours.  The sugar will bring out the liquid in the pie plant.  Then add remaining 3 cups of sugar, and the stemmed and diced strawberries.  Bring slowly to temperature until all the sugar dissolves.  Once the sugar is dissolved, raise the heat to high, and boil until the gel point, when a spoonful of jam starts to sheet off the spoon.  I always think it looks kind of like a turkey wattle.  Skim off the foam, and pour into hot sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Adjust lids and rings and process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Bean Pickles
We love bean pickles.  We always put them out for picnics and family dinners.  In my estimation, it's not a proper Bloody Mary without a couple bean pickles for garnish!  I happened on a sale of organic beans, cleaned and with the stems and strings off, on a BOGO buy one get one free sale.  The pickling liquid is an easy mixture of water, vinegar, salt and pickling spices.  I prefer to use Mrs. Wages dill pickle packets for bean pickles.  It is a good quick pickling formula, and I add fresh dill, mustard seeds, chile de arbol pods, and a big spoon of garlic to each jar.  I also add Pickle Crisp which is calcium carbonate, I think, to make the pickles retain their snap after processing.  I was off on my estimation of how many beans I'd need, It was almost enough for a canner load (7 quarts) of pickled beans.  So, I scrounged around my fresh food bins, and found enough big jalapenos for a quart of them sliced in half.  The dill jalapenos are really good with cream cheese piped into the cavity, and topped with chives for an appetizer.  I also found I had two big containers of radishes.  I kept thinking I needed them and bought them twice!  There was enough for a quart of them also.  They are great as a garnish in a drink like a martini, or sliced as part of an antipasto tray.  I like them with a slice of cucumber on a whole wheat cracker for a snack.
I still had pickling liquid left over, as I packed the jars as tightly as I could with beans, jalapenos and radishes. I had some regular cucumbers, the ones with the waxy skin, so I peeled and diced them along with a couple each of red and orange peppers, and two big onions.  I added a whole big bunch of diced fresh dill, probably a cup, and made seven more pint jars of dill pickle relish.  I still had enough left of the relish to put one more pint in the fridge.  

We made a trip to Riverton the other evening, and I got four big bunches of asparagus.  That is my project for today, to make some asparagus pickles, and if there's time some home canned tomato soup to have on hand for the winter. It is a mixture of tomatoes with celery carrot and onion, and has basil and cloves.  It is a pressure canned recipe, so I'll wait until my babies go home to do that.  It requires constant attention, and can be a dangerous thing if not properly attended to. 

I have had people tell me they think it's weird I like to can.  I grew up in a household with a mom who survived the great depression as a child.  Canning, and keeping a pantry stocked full with a whole year's worth of food was how we lived.  If we didn't can it, we bought it in case lots.  That and a freezer full of wild game were our hedge against starving out, if something should happen.  When you grow up in a large family, you learn ways to get by on less money, but don't do without.  It's just a matter of "ass ends and elbows", or hard work!

Besides it being the way I was raised, we have had some lean times in our married life.  As newly weds, we ate a lot of beans, and macaroni to get by.  It became a challenge for me to grow and can our own food, to provide the best of what we could have for the lowest cost.  There is a great sense of satisfaction in standing back to view the rows and rows of filled jars, and know that your family gets to eat a product that was picked when it was ripe, and canned with no preservatives, or additives.  I can everything low salt, and in light syrup because that's the way my mother did it.  Now that I am diabetic, I am learning to can without sugar, too. 

It is definitely a challenge to still can without the benefit of the mounds of garden produce, but I am finding ways to do small projects when things are on sale . I can't wait for cabbage to hit the "cheap" category, so I can make sauerkraut!  My crock is ready and waiting!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Corn Beef Hash and Creamed Corn with Poached Eggs

Help!  Comfort food is needed!  We had quite a day here.  One of those where you keep working, and can't seem to make any headway.  I just got a call from my husband, and he's having a similar day.  He won't be home for another three hours.
That kind of ruined the plans I had to eat at our favorite steakhouse!  I cleaned out the fridge today, in preparation of my biweekly shopping day tomorrow, so I hadn't thawed anything out.  I just don't want pizza, we splurged on that last week. 
I was watching Rachel Rae while waiting for my kids to go home, and she was making a Ratatouille with poached eggs on top, and it reminded me of this dish we used to eat often when we were first married, and had chickens and lots of eggs to use up.  It is so easy, and is a wonderful comfort food.  Just what we need!  It will heat up nicely when my husband finally gets here, too!

Corn Beef Hash and Creamed Corn Casserole with Poached Eggs
In a square baking dish that has been buttered, mix a can of corn beef hash with a can of creamed corn.  Bake in a preheated 350*F oven until it gets bubbly, about fifteen minutes.  Top with raw eggs, and return to the oven just until eggs are set.  Serve with boiled cabbage, or buttered dark rye toast. 
Easily doubled, and makes a great brunch for guys who are coming in from the cold.  It really warms up the tummy!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pulled Pork and Black Bean and Tomato Salad, Homemade BBQ Sauce and Caprese Pasta Salad

I love Independence Day.  We always have family here from out of town, and Lander is quite possibly the best place in America to celebrate.  We have a parade, a buffalo barbecue, the oldest paid rodeo in the world, and a local dentist puts on a patriotic fireworks display that is amazing. 
They broadcast the fireworks program over the radio, and the fireworks are choreographed to the music and the story.  We always drive up on the hill by the rodeo grounds, and sit in lawn chairs with the radio cranked and enjoy the show. Dr. Bills pasture where he shoots off the display is directly across the valley from it.. 
The computer equipment that he uses for the show is so complex only Disney and another company in Japan have it.  It is a world class fireworks display.  I always get so choked up over the story that goes with it.  It definitely makes you think how lucky we are that people sacrificed and stuck to their ideals to create our nation.
My son Ryan was born on the second of July, so I am planning a family party.  I have been busy the last couple days making Cowboy Beans to serve at the party.  It is a recipe that uses dried pinto beans, so it takes two days to make:  one to soak the beans, and one whole day to cook it in the crockpot.
Today, I am making pickled vegetables, and some jelly to go along with the meal.  I had some plums that got a little soft, so I cooked them down and strained the juice through a cheesecloth.  This beautiful pink juice will get enough apple cider added to it to make 5 cups of juice necessary for the recipe for jelly.  I'll be making some giardinera, or pickled mixed vegetables, and some pickled beans for the party.  They only need twenty four hours to be ready.
I'll be partially putting together my Crunchy Asian Coleslaw today, too. I'll not put in the ramen noodles until right before the party so they will still have a little crunch to them.  
On Saturday, I'll be roasting a whole pork loin to serve along with the beans, and we'll have some southwest corn bread to round out the meal.  It will be delicious with butter and a little of the plum jelly I'm making today. 
Ryan is partial to German chocolate cake, so I'll be baking that as well. If I can find my recipe for Aunt Grace's chocolate cake, I'll use that.  Otherwise, it will be a box mix.  I use applesauce in the box mix to replace the oil, and make homemade frosting. 
I always make up big batches of deli style salads to have during the holiday weekend, and that will happen tomorrow.  I have a spare fridge in our garage we use for soda and overflow, so I can pack it full, and then when family is here, I can actually enjoy the company instead of living in the kitchen the whole time.
I have a meat slicer, and I'll cook some beef and slice it thin, along with some cheese to have for sandwiches.  I can thinly slice tomato and onion to keep in a tupperware for salads, too.  I love my meat slicer!
Yesterday, while the beans were cooking, I put a whole pork shoulder roast in my second crockpot.  I don't season my pulled pork until I add the barbecue sauce, as I think the salt draws out too much moisture from the meat, and is a much moister meat if it slow cooks without any seasoning.  Once it gets to the stage where it will fall apart, I pull it out onto a baking sheet and with two forks, I shred the meat.  I then add the hot homemade barbecue sauce.  We will be able to heat this up for sandwiches, or will serve it over hot rice.
Even though I don't add liquid to the roast as it slow cooks, there is always almost a quart of pork juice left after cooking.  I don't throw this away, but keep it and freeze it if neccesary to add to beans or collard greens, or to use to make pork gravy.  After it cools, I'll skim all the congealed pork fat off and throw it away. 

Homemade Barbecue Sauce
1/3 C tomato sauce, or ketchup
2 T yellow mustard
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/3 C cider vinegar
1 T splenda brown sugar
1 T dark agave nectar
1/2 tsp tajin seasoning
In a small saucepan, heat the above ingredients until they are bubbly hot.  Combine with pulled pork, and serve on a bun or over rice. Extra sauce keeps well in the refrigerator. 

Cowboy Beans
2 lbs dry pinto beans
enough water to cover
In a large bowl, soak the beans in cold water the day before cooking them.  I like to change the water once, usually at bed time.  The next morning, I rinse the beans again until the water runs clear, and they go into the crockpot with enough water to just cover them again.  To that I add:
1 quart/box chicken stock
1 cup tomato based salsa, or tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 T minced garlic
3 bay leaves
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 heaping T ham soup base
2 chipotle peppers ( I put them in whole and then remove them before serving)
2 C chopped celery
4 large carrots peeled and sliced
2 onions chopped
Because of the salty ham soup base, I don't add extra salt
Pepper to taste
Cook on high for twelve to fourteen hours.  You want the beans to be tender but not mushy.  Once it was cooled, I put it in the fridge for the party.  On Saturday, I'll pull it out an hour before the party, and put it back in the crockpot on high.

I had a big bowl of tomatoes, and a large cucumber that needed used up, so I made a big batch of this black bean salad.  We will enjoy it with burgers and sandwiches over the holiday weekend.

Southwest Black Bean Salad

5 vine ripe tomatoes chopped
2 jalapeno peppers seeded and chopped fine
1/2 red onion chopped
1 can black beans that have been drained and rinsed
1 can corn drained
1 cucumber peeled and sliced in half moons
Combine all ingredients and dress with Lime Cumin Dressing.  Refrigerate overnight in a covered container.  Serve cold or at room temperature. 

Lime Cumin Dressing

juice and zest from one lime
1/3 C red wine vinegar
2 heaping T cilantro (either fresh, or from a tube)
1 C salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
1 tsp ground cumin 
2 T olive oil
2 T splenda
1 t minced garlic

Another of my favorite salads is a cold pasta salad with tomatoes, fresh basil and boccaccini (small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese.  I love Caprese Salad, which is an arranged salad of alternating slices of ripe tomato with rounds of fresh mozzarella.  It is served with fresh torn basil, and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  It's not complete without a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  I have adapted it to add whole wheat pasta. 

Caprese Pasta Salad
3 ripe tomatoes diced
1 C fresh basil torn into little pieces
1 pkg short cut whole grain pasta cooked and drained
1 shallot diced
1 carton fresh boccaccini balls drained and cut into halves
drizzle with oil and balsamic vinegar and coarse salt and pepper to taste.  Better after it sits covered in the fridge for a while. 
It is great served with grilled chickena or fish, or as a lunch on it's own, with a crusty piece of bread.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bandito Pie, Roasted Jalapeno Peppers Stuffed with Feta

This is a quick recipe that made an awesome lunch today!  Taco like filling with smoky chipotle pepper, and topped with a cornbread crust made from a mix.   I keep Jiffy cornbread mixes on hand to use for muffins along with soup, or as a topper for this pie.
I always have chipotle in adobo in my fridge.  I keep it in an old glass refrigerator container with a glass lid.  It only takes one or maybe two chipotles for a recipe, so it takes a long time for us to use up one little can.  When I open the chipotle in adobo, I always add enough cider vinegar to the container to keep the chipotles covered in liquid.  If they start to get dried out, I'll add more vinegar.  They stay usable for a very long time this way.  As an added bonus, I get more of the tasty adobo liquid to use in cooking that way!

Bandito Pie
1 lb ground meat (I used lamb, because it was thawed out, but equally good with beef or even turkey)
1 large onion diced
2 minced cloves of garlic
2/3 quart/large can of diced tomatoes
1 chopped chipotle in adobo
1 tsp adobo liquid
2 T Mexican chili powder
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

*Preheat oven to 350*F. 
In a large cast iron skillet, brown ground meat with onions on the stovetop.  Add garlic, tomatoes, chipotle and spices.  Adjust seasoning to taste. 
In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix cornmeal muffin/cornbread mix according to directions.  Mine called for milk, but I prefer buttermilk for baking.  It might require a little more liquid than the directions to make a medium soft dough spreadable enough to top the taco filling above.  Spread over the skillet full of taco filling, and place in preheated oven.  Bake for twenty five minutes, or until cornbread is golden brown.

Roasted Jalapenos Stuffed with Feta Cheese
We had some leftover fresh jalapenos that needed used up, so I split them down the middle, cut out the seeds and ribs,  and filled them with feta cheese.  These went on a baking sheet and roasted while the pie baked.  Mild jalapenos pair well with the salty feta, and they were a great accompaniment to the Bandito pie.   

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cheddar Bratwurst, Kraut and Potatoes

I love anything cabbage.  Especially sauerkraut.  I love to make a big old crock of it and put it up in jars.  When cabbage is cheapest I'll be buying it up to can.  I've given up trying to raise it because of the ghetto deer that reek destruction on my garden.  Right now, I am out, so I have to buy it in the store.  Still, it is a family favorite. 
Nothing goes better with kraut than pork;  either a pork roast, some boneless ribs, or fresh sausage.  Today we are having cheddarwurst cooked slow with kraut and vegetables.  The long cooking of the kraut with the pork and vegetables really mellows the flavor.  It is not at all the same as it tastes right out of the jar. Mustard seed needs to be paired with an acid to bring out the flavor, so it is really good in this dish.  Caraway and celery seed just take it to the next level of flavor.  I like the flavor of apple with pork, so I always add some cider.  We drink a lot of it, so I always have it on hand.  If I had some good tart apples, I'd peel them and cut them in wedges to top the brats.  Baked apples taste great with pork sausage.
You can substitute beer for the cider. 
I don't use salt at all, and only add pepper when I plate it, as the long cooking can really make it spicy if you add in the pepper before cooking.

Bratwurst  Hot Dish

2 pkg fresh bratwurst
1 whole onion cut in wedges
3 peeled carrots cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
8 red skin potatoes scrubbed and quartered
2 quarts/jars of sauerkraut
1 tsp whole mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp caraway seed
pinch celery seed
2 fresh bay leaves
1 C apple cider
In a large crock pot, layer potatoes, carrots, onion wedges,  and both jars of kraut.  Top with browned bratwurst, the spices and pour the apple cider over all of it.  Cook on low temperature for at least 6 hours.