Thursday, December 09, 2010

Spicy Cranberry Chutney

Spicy Cranberry Chutney Can Jam Challenge #12

Has it already been a month since the last Can Jam topic? Has it already been a WHOLE YEAR doing this challenge every month? Man, I can’t believe how fast the time went by!

I’m always surprised when I make a new recipe and claim it to be my new favorite, especially since many canning and preserving recipes have the same flavor profile/ingredients, but BOY OH BOY is this good!

Spicy Cranberry Chutney
I wanted to kick-up the heat factor in this chutney (plus I just don’t like garlic in chutneys) by substituting the original garlic for horseradish (this is allowed as long as you don’t increase the total amount of non-acid ingredients). The spicy combination of the gingerroot, horseradish, and cayenne really brought this chutney to a whole new level. The tartness of the cranberries, with the sweetness of the pineapple, orange juice, and raisins balance out the spiciness and make this chutney fan-friggin-fabulous! I can’t wait to try this on a ham, turkey, or deli-chicken sandwich!


So be sure to get your hands on some cranberries while they are still available and stick them in your freezer. Then, you’ll be able to make this amazing recipe at any time during the year. This chutney is going to make some friends of mine very happy this Christmas.

Happy canning everyone!

Kathy's Spicy Cranberry Chutney
Recipe source/modified from: “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving”
Makes 6 half-pints

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 ¼ cups finely chopped onion
1 ¼ cups chopped, candied pineapple
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (Note: original recipe called for 3 cloves garlic, minced)
2 tablespoons fresh gingerroot, minced
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (use zested orange)
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup water
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves (Note: I think this could be reduced to ½ teaspoon…my preference)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large, stainless steel saucepan, combine cranberries, onion, pineapple, horseradish (or garlic), gingerroot, orange zest, orange juice, and red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook till cranberries become soft and burst, about 15 minutes. If you choose to have a less “chunky” chutney, mash about 2/3 of the cranberry mixture with a potato masher.

Add sugar, raisins, water, mustard, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne pepper. Boil gently, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes. Mixture should be slightly runny and will thicken when cooling.

Ladle cranberry mixture into prepared canning jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Process in a BWB for 10 minutes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Apple Pie Jam

Applie Pie Jam Can Jam Challenge #11

Apples and fall go hand-in-hand, don't you agree? I'm so happy that this month's canning topic is apples! This chunky jam is one of my most all-time favorite apple recipes next to my Caramel Apple Butter. I've mentioned it before in the past and it's worth being in the spotlight once more.

Homemade Apple Pie Jam
This jam tastes JUST like fresh apple pie filling and is truly sinful when it's warmed up and spooned over vanilla ice cream. If you really want to gild the lily, top that with some crumbled graham crackers or ginger snaps. Spoon it over some hot oatmeal, eat it with an achingly sharp gorgonzola cheese, or simply spread it on a toasted bagel with cream cheese, you'll love every bite!

Linda Lou's Apple Pie Jam
Makes 5-6, half pints

4 cups tart apples, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 box pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter

Add water to chopped apples to measure 4 cups total. Measure sugars and set aside. Place apples and water into large, heavy saucepan. Stir in lemon juice, cinnamon and allspice. Stir pectin into fruit. Add butter. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in both sugars. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon. Ladle quickly into hot, clean jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands on finger tight. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Fresh Blood

Bucky Sits and Waits The great thing about moving to a new place is “what’s old is new again”. We set the standard low this year as, number one: we are still scrambling to find things, and number two: there’s no place to go from here but up! Halloween was everything I had ever imagined it could have been when we were living in Florida. It was dark (no streetlights), chilly, lots of leaves, pumpkins, lots of giggling kids, and thankful parents.

Bucky is waiting for trick-or-treaters Still, I’m sure there were over a 100 disappointed kids at our old neighborhood on Sunday night. We had established a pretty solid reputation as being the “It House” for Halloween. Bittersweet.

Hubby loves those leaves!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Habanero Gold Jelly

Can Jam Challenge #10

You guys, it’s been crazy around here. You KNOW I must be committed to this Can Jam challenge when I can barely find my shoes and definitely not my iron, but will not let you down without a recipe! We moved to this house a little less than a week ago and I did manage to keep a sharp eye out for my canners, jars, and canning paraphernalia. It was all rounded up somewhere between the garage, basement, and kitchen. Pictures will have to come later because I am just too darn exhausted to photograph any jam/jelly food porn for you today.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed in this month’s canning feature. Chili peppers? Really? I wanted apples, darn it! What is fall without apples! Apple Jelly, Apple Butter, Apple Pie Jam, Apple Chutney, Apple Sauce. APPLES, APPLES, APPLES! Wahhh!

Someone needs a nap, ya’ think?

But in the scope of things chili peppers do work. I’m now living somewhere that is actually cold during the month of October, so maybe a little capsaicin to heat things up is a good thing.

For this month’s challenge, there’s gold in them thar hills! Habanero Gold Jelly. I have literally sold cases of this jelly to friends, family, and admirers near and far. I’m pretty sure it’s a Ball recipe, and it’s a definite star on the Harvest Forum for sure. A few years ago, a few of my canning Jedi Masters put their beautiful heads together and scaled this recipe up to make more half pints. I think the original recipe only made 2 or 4 half pints, but this makes 6.

Big Batch Habanero Gold Jelly
Makes 6 half pints

1 cup minced dried apricots (1/8" dice)
Note: Could use dried peaches or pears instead.
1 1/4 total cups minced red sweet pepper and minced red onion (1/8" dice), approximately half-and-half.
1/4 cup Habanero peppers
Note: For extra-hot, increase Habaneros to 1/2 cup and reduce red sweet pepper/red onion combination to 1 cup total.
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
6 cups sugar
1 3-oz. pouch liquid pectin (I used Ball, which I've decided I like better than Certo.)

Prep apricots, peppers and onion. Place in a large, stainless or other non-reactive pot. Add sugar and vinegar. Bring to the boil and cook 5 minutes. Pull off the burner; allow to cool, cover and let sit overnight. Stir occasionally if convenient.

Note: 4-6 hours would be plenty, so the time doesn't need to be any greater than the soaking time for apricots in the original recipe.

Next day, bring the mixture back to the boil. Stir in liquid pectin. Boil hard 1 minute. Pull off the heat. If necessary, skim foam. (I did need to skim a bit.) Let cool 2 minutes, stirring to distribute solids. Pour into jars. Stir to distribute and remove air bubbles. Process in a BWB 10 minutes.

When jars are sealed, "agitate" to distribute solids throughout the jelly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Leaf Peeping

This is my first time experiencing fall. I mean really living it instead of visiting it from far away. And I am loving every drizzly, frosty, fallen amber-leafed moment of it. I can’t get enough. No more acting like it’s fall in the middle of July.

This past weekend, hubby and I took a self-indulgent, entire day away from unpacking boxes, climbing stairs, and wondering where the drinking glasses are to drive out to the Shenandoah National Park. It wasn’t quite the peak for leaf-peeping opportunities, but entirely breathless and beautiful all the same.

Several years ago, I wrote a Ray Bradbury inspired poem about fall. I hope it inspires you to enjoy this wonderful season, wherever you are.

October
The month of burning leaves.
People bustled into dim houses carrying pumpkins and corn stalks.
Skeletons dancing, bats flying, candles flamed,
Apples swinging in empty doorways.
The acme of Horror.
The month of shadows and ghosts.
Triangle-eyed faces peer into empty October nights.
Masks leering in black attics and damp cellars.
Children giggling and vanishing off among a street of moaning trees.
I can almost see it, even in the scorch of July.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How To Lose 10 Pounds In 10 Days While Eating Anything You Want!

It’s so simple! You’ll see the pounds melt away right before your eyes! All you have to do is follow these simple rules:

Rule 1: For the first 6 days of the diet, find a house 4 states away from your current residence, paint 3 rooms, and sealcoat the garage floor. Return home via a 14 hour train ride.

Rule 2: For the remaining 4 days of the diet, pack-up your entire household for relocation in 4 days or less. Return to new residence via a 14 hour train ride.

Rule 3: During this 10 day period, you may eat anything you want, as much as you want; however, limit yourself to eating once a day, preferably at a time in the evening when you are too exhausted to care.

Rule 4: Climb and descend the 2nd story and basement stairs no less than 1,492 times.

Rule 5: Limit yourself to no more than 5 hours of sleep per night.

Rule 6: Arrange for emergency carpet cleaning, air conditioning repair, and backup moving companies at a moment’s notice. Burn extra calories by keeping your adrenaline revved!

Disclaimer: Due to higher-than-average weather temperatures, residents of Southern California, Arizona, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama will experience the best results from this diet.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The State of Things

How many girls can say their husband gave them the state of Virginia for their 40th birthday? Not many; I know. I’m lucky and very grateful.

Internets, friends, lovers, Maytag repairmen, I’ve been holding out on you. I am moving to Virginia! The big day is only weeks away, which seems like only days, hours, minutes. There are so many things to do!

Also, another secret…I haven’t worked since January of this year! Big reasons for that as well, but I will keep you on the edge of your seat until the time is right.

You see, this has been in the works for months, but I didn’t want to announce it until the line was drawn in the sand. Hubby got a promotion with his company that is requiring us to relocate. Unfortunately, we are having to short-sale our house, which is a very big sore spot for us. We’ve had a contract on our house since April, with a buyer who is willing to pay $20k MORE than what the houses are going for in our neighborhood. We’ve already signed 3 extensions for a closing date, but still the banks drag on.

We can’t afford to pay 2 mortgages, and I don’t even want to entertain renting our house out of state. Every single house that has rented in our neighborhood has been trashed, causing the owners to invest even more money into their house to fix it up. If we lose our buyer due to the bank’s negligence, we are prepared to do what we need to do to move on with our lives to better jobs, communities, and opportunities.

It’s come down to a business decision, plain and simple.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zesty Peach Barbeque Sauce

Can Jam Challenge #9

I remember the first time I made this sauce and spooned it over a home-roasted, pulled pork sandwich with a dollop of homemade cole slaw. I think I exclaimed, “Holy crap, this is GOOD!" although I may have used more colorful adjectives.

I’m a sweet BBQ sauce southern girl, and this Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce is just the ticket! It’s good over chicken, ribs, and would even serve as a wonderful dipping sauce for chicken fingers. It’s sweet, fruity, and has a tiny bit of heat, but I like it that way.

One thing I’ve noticed about many canning and preserving recipes is they all seem to have the same flavor profile in one form or another (cinnamon, allspice, mace, dill, peppercorns, etc.). I try to find different flavor combinations so it doesn’t feel like I have a gazillion jars of the same thing.

Home canned zesty peach barbeque sauceNow I know that BBQ season is almost over, but peaches are at the end of their slurpy best right now, so don't miss out!

Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce
Recipe Source: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Yield: 8 half pints

6 cups finely chopped, pitted, peeled peaches
1 cup finely chopped, seeded red bell pepper
3 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 ¼ cups liquid honey
¾ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons canning salt

In a large, stainless steel saucepan, combine peaches, red bell pepper, onion, garlic, honey, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper flakes, mustard, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a light boil/simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened to the consistency of a thin commercial barbecue sauce, about 25 minutes.

Ladle hot sauce into prepared canning jars, leaving ½ headspace. Process jars in a BWB for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Green Is Beautiful

I am in love, love, luuurve with this Basil Vinaigrette recipe I found on Simply Recipes the other day. Like most of you, I have TONS of basil growing in my garden right now, which require frequent harvesting before they get leggy.

Homemade basil viniagrette dressing
I boiled up some chopped, golden potatoes and drizzled this green jewel of scrumptiousness over them while they were still warm. Total HEAVEN!

Basil Vinaigrette Recipe
Recipe Source: Simply Recipes

Ingredients
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup roughly chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil

Method
Place the salt, sugar, mustard, shallot and basil in a blender or food processor. Pulse several times to combine. Scrape the sides of the blender down with a spatula. Add the vinegar and pulse again.

Turn the blender on low and take off the cap in the center of the blender’s lid. Slowly pour in the olive oil. It may sputter a little out of the open cap, so hold you hand over it to minimize splashing.

When the olive oil is incorporated, turn off the blender and scrape the sides down one more time. Cover and purée everything for 1-2 minutes.

Store covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Makes a little more than one cup.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Give Me A Hand

So, what’s the difference between a bunch and a hand of bananas?

See, this is why I’ve (mostly) stopped drinking coffee. I end up Googling obscure, useless information that will be permanently burned into my brain forever. But on the brighter side, this gives me awesome mingling skills at parties!

But mostly people think I’m some kind of nerd. Anyway…


My next door neighbor brought me this GORGEOUS piece of edible art yesterday and I almost don’t want to touch it. Almost. I had two of the ripened ones yesterday for a snack as I was doing yard work and I was surprised to find that they didn’t really taste like bananas at all. They had more of a neutral, fruity flavor, with maybe just a hint of “banana-ness” and their texture was meatier than the marshmallowy bananas you find at the store. In my opinion, they were exactly what a banana should be.

I don’t know what kind they are, but I know my husband and I will eat every single one!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce

Can Jam Challenge #8

The thing about canning and preserving is when you first start out, you put up almost anything you can get your hands on. After a while, you finally realize and say to yourself, “What am I gonna do with 20 jars of hot-dog relish?” That’s where friends come in, right?

Eventually, even your friends are like, “What am I gonna do with all this hot-dog relish?” So, over time you learn to make the recipes you REALLY like and use regularly, and just as importantly, the ones your friends REALLY like too.

Fresh homegrown tomtoes ready to be made into sauce
There are a gazillion recipes out there for home-canned tomato sauce, but I really like this one from "The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving"; I’ve talked about it before. I’ve used this sauce on pasta, in soups, pizza, even pot-roasts.

It’s a very versatile and delicious sauce, and only the most tasty and cherished home-grown tomatoes get the honor of being used to make it. I don't even bother making other tomato sauces because this is so good!


It's so hard to come by a really good, honest-to-god homegrown tomato down here unless you grow it yourself, which is what I do, twice a year. One of these days, when I have tomatoes to spare (is that even possible?), I'm gonna have to be a little more adventurous!

Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce
Recipe Source: The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving
Yield: 8 cups

8 cups (2 L) coarsely chopped, peeled tomatoes (about 9-12 tomatoes)
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
2/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar (5 % strength)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon pickling salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 6-oz/156 mL) can tomato paste

Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, wine, vinegar, basil, parsley, salt, sugar and tomato paste in a very large non-reactive pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until mixture reaches desired consistency, stirring frequently.

Remove hot jars from canner and ladle sauce into jars to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of rim (head space). Process 35 minutes for pint (500 mL) jars and 40 minutes for quart (1 L) jars in a BWB.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Roasted Corn and Zucchini Salsa

Can Jam Challenge #7

Well, I figured there was going to be a whole lotta’ pickling going on for this month’s Can Jam Challenge, so here’s a little something different.

Since I’m in Florida, our pickling season was month’s ago and local cukes are long gone. I’ve mentioned my pickling trials and tribulations here, here, and here. Good pickle-making is a gift and every year it’s a new challenge. We’re already up to our armpits in pickles, so this month is salsa.

I’ve made this salsa before and it’s pretty good. It's not as good as Annie’s Salsa, but it’s a different spin. The original recipe results came out tasting more like a relish, so I’ve added a few things I thought would give it more of a flavor profile without jeopardizing safety. It can also be served on top of grilled chicken breasts or fish, plus it uses some the hot-to-trot produce that’s in season right now: sweet corn and zucchini.

Kathy's Roasted Corn and Zucchini Salsa
Recipe Modified from: "Preserving the Harvest"
Makes 8 pints

6 medium zucchini, cleaned, trimmed and diced
4 teaspoons canning salt
*4 ears of yellow or sweet corn, husked, silks removed (2 cups of kernels)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cups fresh lime juice (or bottled)
1 cup cider vinegar
4 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced
½ cup minced red onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon canning salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

*Note: Good, quality frozen corn kernels work fine.

Toss the zucchini with the salt and “sweat” for about 30 minutes in a non-reactive colander. Rinse and drain well.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Coat the corn with olive oil and roast on a cookie sheet for 30-40 minutes. Cool. Cut off the kernels and scrape the cobs. If using frozen, defrost corn in the microwave, drain, spread on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and roast. Be careful not to burn the corn, you just want it to lightly brown. If over-cooked, the corn will turn out tough and chewy.

Combine the zucchini, corn, tomatoes, lime juice, vinegar, jalapenos, onion, garlic, and remaining spices in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened.

Ladle into hot, prepared canning jars with ½ inch headspace. Process in a BWB for 15 minutes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Panic at The Disco

I haven't been around here these past two weeks because I've had my hands full with these two little stinkers.

Meet Chuck and Dave:

I'm fostering them until they can get adopted. I told my friend, "Sure, I'd LOVE to foster a kitten or two," thinking I have cute little kitten cuddles, and play time, and purring.

NOT!

I ended up with two feral kittens who where trapped who knows where in the wild. When I got them 2 weeks ago, they had pretty much every parasite that could be tested for on a cat: coccidia, giardia, toxoplasmosis, and a whole host of other "swimmers." Plus they had conjuctivitis, and a highly contagious type of mite to HUMANS! Oh, and one of them also has cerebral hypoplasia.

They were very sick kitties!

So, the past two weeks have been full of god-awful, death-smelling diarrhea, sanitizing, administering 4 meds daily, and mite baths. On top of all that, these babies are wild, so they are pretty much FCUK YOU LADY!

The good news, is they are getting healthier every day. I've never been so obsessed about the consistency of cat shit in my whole life. They are warming up to the thought of treats, and chin scratches, and lap time. I know somewhere, I am banking karma points.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bruised Ego Jam

Can Jam Challenge #6

This month's Can Jam Challenge brings you a fairy tale full of promise and disappointment. Enjoy.


nce upon at time, there was a bee-yoooo-tiful princess who decided one day to collect fresh berries from the forest (okay, a swampy area next to an office building in a business park). The princess knew there was a very rare and secret patch of blackberry bushes that had given her delicious berries in the past, but the harvest was always too small. But a very cold winter and a warm spring had made this year’s blackberry bushes heavy with fruit, and the princess was off to gather the bounty.

After she had collected the luscious, wild blackberries, the beautiful princess wondered what she would do with them. Surely since these were no ordinary berries, they deserved something special and magical. “I know,” she thought “I will ask the fairy Godmother Christine Ferber for guidance!” So, the princess summoned the fairy Godmother and was lead to a recipe of fresh blackberry and blueberry jam. “Oh, how delicious!” exclaimed the princess, “I will make it at once.”


The princess followed the fairy Godmother’s recipe directions exactly. “This is going to be the most scrumptious jam the kingdom has ever tasted,” thought the princess. She envisioned dark, jeweled jars filled with the delicious jam, and how the very taste of it would make the prince fall in love with her over, and over again (okay, my awesome husband).

Suddenly, at the very last moment, two evil sock serpents appeared and whispered in the princess’ ear, “Cook the jam to 240° versus 220°….trussssst ussssss.” The princess was confused and in haste, she cooked the jam at the higher temperature. Immediately, the princess knew there was something wrong. The beautiful jam had become sticky and tough. The once beautiful blackberries were sort of crunchy!


The princess wept and cursed a streak of obscenities that would make a sailor blush. “All that work! All that time! Those beautiful berries are ruined!” she cried. The jam was so terrible, that the princess didn’t even bother processing it in the jars. She left the jars on the kitchen counter as a sad reminder of how important it is to double-check jam processing instructions, even if you have done it a million times.

The End.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Loafing Around

I made this bread the night before last and it was all I could do to keep myself from tearing into it right out of the oven.

I lasted 20 minutes.

Ina Garten's Honey White Bread
I know you're "supposed" to wait until a fresh-baked loaf of bread cools before slicing (as escaping steam will cause the loaf to dry out), but sometimes YOU CAN'T HELP YOURSELF.

I loves me some Ina!

Honey White Bread
Recipe source: Barefoot Contessa At Home

1/2 cup warm water
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm whole milk (110 degrees)
6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick)
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 extra large or large egss, separated
5 to 6 cups AP flour
1 tablespoon salt

Place water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. If the bowl is cold, be sure the water temp does not drop below 110 degrees. Add the yeast and sugar; stir and allow them to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, and honey. Mix on med-speed until blended. Add the egg yolks, 3 cups of the flour, and the salt. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low speed, add 2 more cups of flour. Raise the speed to med and slowly add just enough of the remaining flour so the dough doesn't stick to the bowl. Knead on med speed for about 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary.

Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute, until the dough is smooth and elastic (I didn't need to do this...I just let the mixer do the work). Grease a bowl with butter, put the dough in the bowl, then turn it over so the top is slightly buttered. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.

Grease two 9 X 5-inch loaf pans with butter. Divide the dough into half, roll each half into a loaf shape and place each in a prepared pan. Cover again with the damp towel, and allow to rise again for an hour, until doubled in volume.

Preheat the oven at 350°. When the dough is ready, brush the tops with the egg white and bake the breads for 40-45 min, until they sound hollow when tapped. Turn them out of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Honey white bread

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kool-Aid Pickles: Oh, Yeah!

Can you handle one more pickle post? I think so!

So, I was wandering around the internets last week looking for information on calcium chloride, when I came across a recipe for Kool-Aid Pickles.

Koolaid pickles
Abomination? Food science geekery? Pure genius?

Apparently, they are a deep, deep, I mean DEEP Southern delicacy. I'm talking Mississippi Delta here people! They're a bit like the concept for fried green tomatoes or boiled peanuts: you either love them or are disgusted immediately.

From what I've read, kids looooove them, and I must admit they are addicting. They're messy (think red Kool-Aid on white carpet) and taste a lot like cherry flavored bread-and-butter pickles. Wouldn't these be great to serve at a Halloween party?

Behold: One of the rare times I will actually purchase a jar of pickles from the store (just in case this was a flop...can't waste good, homemade pickles!)...


Kool-Aid Pickles

1, 46-oz. jar of Kosher pickles (whole)
*2 small packs of Kool-Aid powder
2 cups warm water
1 cup sugar

Open the pickle jar and dump the brine. Remove pickles and slice each pickle in half lengthwise. Pack pickles back in jar. Mix warm water, Kool-Aid, and sugar together; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour Kool-Aid mixture over pickles. Cap the pickle jar and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. For more flavor, leave pickles in brine for several days.

*Note: I used Cherry flavored Kool-Aid, as that seemed to be the most highly rated flavor, but feel free to experiment with other flavors. I've heard lemon-lime is also good, but grape is yuck!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Perfect Pickle

Friends, lovers, Maytag Repairmen, I present to you The Perfect Pickle!

Cue the singing angels now…

Perfect bread and butter picklesIt has taken me 4 years to get to this point. Great pickles, even simply good pickles require a delicate balance of three elements: brine, salt, and crunch. Technically, you could say it’s just two elements because salt is an element of the brine, but I digress.

If any one of those elements are not just right, then it’s all for naught. The frustrating part is you never know if you have a good pickle or a lousy pickle until they age a little bit. By that time, pickling cuke season is over and you have to wait till next year to try again. In the meantime, you’re stuck with a gazillion jars of meh.
These pickles are ready to eat in about a week. Trust me...you won't be able to stop once you start!

Kathy’s Perfect Bread and Butter Pickles
Recipe modified from: The Joy of Pickling
Makes 6 quarts

5-6 pounds pickling cukes
8 cups cider vinegar
6 cups sugar
1 tsp celery seeds
*1/3 to ½ cup pickling salt
10-12 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
¼ cup whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole cloves
7-9 teaspoons calcium chloride (aka Pickle Crisp), optional

*Note: Start with 1/3 cup and add salt to taste. I ended up using ½ cup.

Wash cukes and remove the blossom ends. Cut cukes into large slices/chunks. Set aside.

In a large pot, combine vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, and salt to taste. Combine spices and tie up in a cheesecloth sachet or large, metal teaball. Add spice sachet to brine and bring brine to a boil. Lower temperature and simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove spice sachet and set aside. Add sliced cucumbers to the brine and slowly bring back to a boil.

Once reaching a boil, remove brine with cucumbers from stove and add calcium chloride; stir well. Using a slotted spoon, pack cucumber into prepared jars, adding 1 allspice berry and 2 cloves to each jar from the spice sachet. Ladle hot brine in jars, leaving ½ inch headspace.

Process jars in a BWB for 10 minutes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tomato Harvest

While the rest of the country is just getting warmed up for summer produce, Florida has already finished its tomato, cucumber, and corn season for the spring. June brings us fresh blueberries, and the rest of the summer is pretty much survival of the fittest. The good news is we get to do this all over again in about 4 months.

I often compare our summers to winter up north. Locals get smart and huddle inside away from the heat of the day and scorching sun. We know better. We save our “inside projects” for the summer when the weather outside is unbearable. During cooler months, it’s hard to keep a Floridian inside for 10 minutes.

See, just like Northerners. We’re just flip-flopped!

My tomato harvest this spring was very successful. I only grow about 8-10 plants and that’s plenty for the two of us. I’ve played around for the past couple of seasons by not keeping track of what I was growing, but last fall and this spring I kept notes. This season I planted Better Boy and was very happy. I grow only in containers as I have found the plants do much better this way. I have more control over their water content, fertilizer, and pest control. I also found I’ve had no incidents (knock-on-wood) with four-legged critters when growing maters in pots.

Anyway, the best thing to do with a tomato is eat it fresh! My preference is sliced with fresh basil, mozzarella, good olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper. But I also adore a simple little dish I call Tomato Zucchini Gratin, which is basically layers of fresh sliced zucchini and tomatoes with fresh, minced garlic, olive oil, and herbs sprinkled in between the layers. Top with a basic cracker crumb and butter topping and bake for an hour at 350°. Yum!

Tomato Zucchini Gratin

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hot Turtle Love

Last year, I suspected that Barry the Boxturtle might be a Barbara when I spotted him laying eggs. Yah think???

But there was a part of me that said, "Wait a minute, could it be that we have TWO resident turtles?" And this past weekend pretty much confirmed there is indeed a Barry and a Barbara.

Get a room you two!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pickled Asparagus (Again)

Can Jam Challenge #5

I don’t know what the heck happened to the asparagus this season. Usually, asparagus is $3.99 a pound or HIGHER in Florida, comes from Peru, and tastes like shoelaces. But there’s a small window of opportunity every spring where I can buy it for around $1.49 a pound and I could even drive to where it was grown. It would be a long drive, but I digress.

But this year, NADA. Nature’s french-fries never dropped below $2.50 this year and I was lucky if they came from California. Mostly, it stayed around $3 and up per pound in all my groceries. And there’s no such thing as a “farmers market” that sells organic or local asparagus in Florida.

Ahem.

What the heck happened? Was it the hard winter? Are farmers not growing the stuff? Was there a disease or insect problem? Is there a cycle on production?

And I don’t even want to GO THERE on rhubarb. There was ‘nar a stalk to be found in any of the groceries, and the one rare glimpse I did see, wrapped in styrofoam and cellophane, cost around $7.00 for 5 STALKS!!!

Plus, I don’t like the stuff, so that’s no big loss for me (hee-hee).

Canned pickled asparagus
So, in keeping with the sprit of local and available ingredients, I’m afraid this month’s Can Jam Challenge will contain a visit from the ghost of post’s past. Besides, I can’t think of anything I would rather do when preserving asparagus than pickle it. It’s my favorite.

Until next year, I guess I’ll have to pickle more cukes!

Pickled Asparagus
Recipe source: The Joy of Pickling
Makes 5, 12 oz. jars

3 lbs of fresh asparagus (sometimes I need more or less, depending on spear thickness)
5 garlic cloves, peeled
15 allspice berries
50 black peppercorn berries
20 coriander seeds
Red pepper flakes
Nutmeg
2 ½ cups white wine vinegar
2 ½ cups water
2 ½ tsp canning salt
2 T sugar

Trim asparagus to fit inside canning jars, giving ½ inch of space from the tip of the spears to the top of the jar. Prepare jars for hot water bath canning. In a saucepot, mix vinegar, water, salt, and sugar; bring to a boil. When brine has boiled, fill each hot jar with 1 garlic clove, 3 allspice berries, 10 black peppercorns, 4 coriander seeds, a dash or two of the red pepper flakes, and a pinch of nutmeg. Fill jars with asparagus spears, tips up, till comfortably full without packing. Ladle brine into jars, giving ½ inch headspace; top jars with prepared lids, then process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Wait 4-6 weeks before eating.

**Note: If you don't want to process for canning, just pour the hot brine over the asparagus and keep in the refridgerator.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Garden Snacks!

The garden is back to its beautiful prime, including these adorable, little tomatoes I call my "garden snacks." I don't plant these; they grow willy-nilly every year, but mostly concentrate in one area of the garden. I snack on them as I go about pulling weeds, trimming this or that. They're smaller than typical grape tomatoes and they're delicious!


I received the mother plants as a gift in a plant swap years ago at Seminole Springs Nursery. I wish I remembered the name of who gave them to me. All I remember was his name was Tom and something about "friends-don't-let-friends-plant-Tom's-Tomatoes," and here we are.

Every year they sprout up on their own and I laugh. For the longest time, I couldn't grow tomatoes and these babies popped up without any help. They're a welcome, cheerful, and tasty gift that keeps on giving!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Apple Cider and Rosemary Ice Pops

I cannot begin to explain how much I LOVE these popsicles! They are so refreshing and tasty I have to really try hard to only eat just one per day.

Apple cider and rosemary ice pops

Remember that little comment I made about summer being just around the corner? Well it’s here and these popsicles will definitely keep you cool. These would be perfect as a dessert for a grown-up barbeque or summer dinner.

Apple Cider and Rosemary Ice Pops
Recipe Source: Bon Appetit

4 cups apple juice or cider
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 whole cloves
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine apple juice, water, sugar, rosemary, and spices in a saucepan and heat medium-high, till mixture reaches a boil. Reduce temperature to a light simmer and reduce mixture to 3 ½ cups, 20 to 25 minutes. Strain into a 4-cup measuring cup and cool to room temperature. Stir in vinegar and extract. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight or till set.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Good and The Bad - Part II

I’m not sure you can tell in the picture, but that is a bathtub FULL OF CUCUMBERS.

A couple of years ago, I learned the hard way that pickling season in Florida does not equal the same pickling season for the rest of the country. At the time, I experimented with a fermented pickle recipe, which required several days of open air fermenting, adding new brine, and skimming scum.

All my pickle peeps were claiming these pickles were the bee’s knees, so I promptly went out and picked up 3 bushels of fresh cukes. I was anxious to have quarts and quarts of delicious, home-fermented dill pickles, so I gave it a shot.

Now, by the time early-season cukes are ready in Florida (May), the weather is already on the verge of hot-as-balls. As of this past weekend, the temps were already in the mid-to-upper 90’s, so you can imagine what temperatures like this can do to fermenting cucumbers. After the third day of my “pickle experiment,” my husband and I walked into the house to a smell that resembled fresh road kill and rotting vegetables. The fruit flies were having a party, and we weren’t invited.

It took many trips to the compost pile and many hours of cleaning, scrubbing, and disinfecting to clean up the mess. Now, several years later, I know that fermenting vegetables require very COOL temps, and we have a very short, if any, window of opportunity in the Sunshine State. I did; however, successfully make some awesome sauerkraut this past winter!

Pickle season is upon us again, and I am looking forward to another stab at making the perfect pickle. I’m almost there!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thai Basil Pepper Jelly

Tigress Can Jam Challenge #4
A couple of years ago, I had found an intriguing recipe for a Thai Basil Jelly through my beloved Harvest Forum. But as I imagined the end result while reading the instructions, something didn’t seem quite right, like it initially started as one recipe but ended with something else. There were steps missing, ingredients left out, and it was just plain wonky, so I decided to make my own recipe.

After consulting a few Canning Jedi Masters on the Harvest Forum and jazzing up a current Ball recipe for Basil Banana Pepper jelly, I created something that will knock your socks off! My Thai Basil plants are planted and I’m just waiting to get started on another batch. If you can't find Thai Basil, Sweet Basil, or any other fresh basil will work just fine for making the infused vinegar.

But if you can swing it, do try the Thai Basil. It's so exotic that it brings the flavor profile for this jelly to another level.

Fresh Thai basil
I’m a big believer of layered flavors, infused ingredients, and all things macerated. I’ve actually had friends argue over who got the last jar of this wonderful jelly! The preparation for this recipe takes some time, but its well worth it. Besides the amazing taste, this recipe makes a beautiful, jeweled jelly.



Go over to my other post to see how I make the Thai Basil infused vinegar: Thai Basil Infused Vinegar

*Note: You will need at least 2 weeks prior to make the Thai Basil Infused vinegar before making this jelly.

Kathy's Thai Basil Pepper Jelly
Recipe adapted/modified from Ball “Basil Banana Pepper Jelly”
Makes 8 half-pints


1 cup sweet bell peppers (green), uniformly minced
½ cup hot peppers (red), uniformly minced
½ cup red onion, uniformly minced
½ tsp dried basil
1 ½ cups Thai Basil infused vinegar*
6 cups sugar
2 pouches liquid pectin

To make Thai Basil Infused Vinegar: Roughly chop about 2 cups of rinsed, fresh Thai Basil and place it in a quart canning jar. Fill jar with white vinegar, place lid on jar, and let vinegar mixture sit at room temperature (in a cool, shaded spot) for 2 weeks. After two weeks, strain vinegar and discard basil*.

To make jelly: Combine the minced vegetables, dried basil, infused vinegar, and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a full boil, add the pectin, and boil hard (stirring constantly) for 1 full minute. Ladle hot jelly into prepared, half-pint canning jars and process in a BWB for 10 minutes.

*Note: any remaining infused vinegar can be stored in a salad vinegar bottle and used for viniagrette dressing, marinades, you name it!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

For All You Salty-Tooths Out There

Many, many, MANY moons ago, I used to have a part-time job as one of those convention-show cookware chefs. You know the ones who gather groups of people around and demonstrate how wonderful, awesome, and HEALTHY their cookware can put together a 12-course meal in under 30 minutes. Yeah, that was me.

We sold a version of stackable, stainless-steel cookware. For real. One could literally stack a 4-foot high tower of pots on top of the other and cook at the same time.

Ohhhh, the memories…I haz them!

Anyway, my point is, and I do have one, that while I was learning the lucrative trade of being a cookware salesperson, I learned that people either have a propensity for sweet or salty cravings. For me, it’s definitely salt, while my husband has the sweet tooth in the family. If there is a pint of ice-cream in the freezer, meh, but a bag of Doritos? NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS!

So, when I discovered this amazingly simple, and flavorful snack this past week, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It’s an oldie-but-goodie that I somehow managed to bypass over the years.

Homeroom ranch oyster crackers
They’re perfect, very flavorful, bite-sized snacks that will satisfy any salty-tooth. Double the recipe amount; you’ll thank me for it.

Homeroom Ranch Oyster Crackers

1, 1 oz. package of Ranch Dressing mix/powder
1/2 teaspoon of dried dill
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of lemon pepper (optional)
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
5 cups oyster crackers (1 package)

Preheat oven to 250°. Mix the Ranch dressing mix and dry seasonings with the oil. Pour oil mixture over oyster crackers in a bowl and mix well. Spread crackers evenly on a cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes, or until evenly brown. Gently stir about half way through baking.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Caramelized Red Onion Relish

Tigress Can Jam Challenge #3

I’m kind of on the hind end on submitting this month’s Can Jam Challenge.

Onions? Really? Alliums?

I wasn’t really enthused about this month’s canning choice, actually. I know most alliums are low-acid root vegetables, so my options were pretty much limited for a boiling water bath. I knew I could either make a relish, pickle, or some sort of savory jelly/jam, so I decided to go with what I know instead of trying something new.

I know; I’m such a party-pooper!

I’ve been making this relish for years and I guard it as much as I do with my Pickled Asparagus. It makes a small amount and requires A LOT of onions, but when it is piled on a grilled hot dog with ketchup, mustard, and homemade sauerkraut, it’s almost a holy experience. I have also found that it’s great as an appetizer with cheese, crackers, and other yummy nibblers like olives or salami.

Appetizer tray with caramelized onion relish
My notes from past batches mention to watch the original sugar amount because I found ¼ cup of brown sugar was too sweet (I like it a bit more savory-tangy). I’ve also found that doubling the original recipe yields 4 ½ pints, which makes it much more worth the effort.

Caramelized Onion Relish
Recipe Source: “Small Batch Preserving” by Ellie Topp
Makes 2 cups

2 large, red onions, peeled and sliced very thin (I use a mandolin)
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine onions and sugar in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Cook, uncovered on med-high heat for about 25 minutes, or until onions turn golden and start to caramelize, stirring frequently.

Stir in wine and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into prepared jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Curried Popcorn!

So, did anyone watch "The Pacific" miniseries premier last night on HBO? Anyone?

When I was in high school, history was mostly white noise for me. As an adult, I find myself fascinated by Civil War and World War II history. I'm not very good at remembering specific battles, or what event happened before another started, but I'm pretty good at remembering personal stories.

I thought "The Pacific" got off to a good start, but it's hard not to compare it to "Band of Brothers". When "Band of Brothers" started, there was a lot of emphasis on personal stories and backgrounds told up front, but I feel the producers for "The Pacific" tried too hard to wow their watchers with boom and gore from the get-go. I dunno...we'll see how the rest goes.

Anyway, I love rediscovering cookbooks I didn't know I had! A few weeks ago, I found "Perfect Recipes for Having People Over" by Pam Anderson (no, not THAT Pam Anderson) hidden from plain view. On page 116 was this very delicious treasure...perfect for t.v.!

Yum! Curried popcorn!
Curried Popcorn
Recipe by: Pam Anderson "Perfect Recipes for Having People Over"

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt (I omited this)
2/3 cup plain popcorn kernels

Place all ingredients in a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot. Turn heat to med-high and cook, stirring occaisionally, until corn starts to sizzle. Cover and cook, shaking pot frequently at the beginning, then constantly at the end, until corn is completely popped, 4-5 minutes. Salt to taste.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Beware of Strange Bags of Leaves

So, on the way to Leu Gardens to get our membership the other day, I take one of the back roads through one of the urban neighborhoods. Along the way, I spot the BIGGEST bag of oak leaves at the end of someone's driveway, waiting for trash pick-up. I think to myself, "Hmmmm...if that is still there when I come back, I'm going to totally grab it!"

Once I am all set up at Leu, I take the same route home. Sure enough, the huge-ass bag of leaves is still there. So, I pull into the driveway, pop the hatch on my PT Cruiser, put the seats down, and heave this 55 gal bag of the most beautiful, mulched leaves into the back of the car. It barely fit! And to make it more interesting, the people who bagged it used the most flimsiest bag material ever created. Grocery store bags are tougher than this bag was. Wet wonton noodles are tougher than this bag was! So, it tore a little, but AHA! I put a blanket down before lugging this thing in there....GO ME!

So, I'm just proud as a peach at this point. I hop back in the car and cruised on down to 17-92 to go home. It's traffic light after traffic light, and I knew I had a good 30-45 min to get home. At about the 3rd light, my throat starts feeling gritty, and my sinuses start turning on the water-works, I cough a few times and it hits me....WAIT A MINUTE, AREN'T I ALLERGIC TO OAK????!!!!

I panic like a caged animal. What do I do? Do I pull over and redump? How am I gonna drive 45 minutes with the equivalent of a biological bomb in my backseat??!! My frugal mind says, "Tough it out. Roll the windows down. Take the expressway." So, I do, knowing I'd probably be home in half the time.

So, maybe in my urgency to avoid drowning in my own snot, I might have been going a little fast. Maybe the blasting sound of going down the expressway with all four windows open distracted me. I don't know. But, somewhere between 65-75 mph, a tornado of leaves and dirt erupts from the back of my car. LEAVES EVERYWHERE!

Leaves in the console,
Leaves in the dashboard,
Leaves at supper time!

AND DIRT! Holy shitmotherfuckersonofabitch!!!! I pull over, but the damage is done. The inside of my car looks like a compost pile and I curse a blue streak any sailor would be proud of. Thank GOD I didn't get pulled over by the cops!

So, I get back in the car, roll the windows up to a manageable choking level and s-l-o-w-l-y drive home. It took me over 2 hours to clean out all those fucking leaves with our shop vac and the car will still need serious detailing.

Did I mention my husband gets home tonight from a business trip??? I've got some 'splaining to do!

Oh well, at least this wasn't as bad as the time a package of cheese rolled out from a grocery bag and got stuck under the driver's seat....for a WEEK!

Sigh.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake!

I’ve been up to my armpits baking these past two days. Did I say my friend is getting married next month? I meant THIS month! On the 20th even! Ack!

More coffee please!

Whenever I have a big cake event coming up, I bake the cakes ahead of time, wrap them very, very well in parchment and Saran wrap, and then freeze. When it’s time to frost, I take the cakes out, let them defrost (wrapped) at room temp, and away we go. Not only does this save a HUGE amount of time, it makes the cakes more moist! Just be sure to leave them wrapped when they are defrosting. Unwrapping while they defrost will actually dry them out.

The process has been tedious because I only have one set of square pans, so that means I can only bake one cake in that particular pan at a time. The cake is going to be 4 tiers, square, starting at 12”, and graduating up to 6”. So, why just one set of pans, you ask?

Well, number one, unless I go into the wedding cake making business, the chances of me needing two of each pan is slim-to-none, plus I have the time. Number two, you might be screaming, “Torte, torte, torte!!” But alas, this is where I get all soapbox on your ass.

I have a very simple approach to cake, and well, I want the emphasis to be on the cake. I don’t know where or when it became vogue to have 7 layers of “vanilla-bean-English-lemon-curd-chiffon,” alternating with “pineapple-white-chocolate-mousse,” and enveloped in a “hazelnut-rum-framboise-buttercream.”

Where’s the cake? Show me the cake!!

When I eat cake, I want the frosting or filling to compliment the cake, not overwhelm it. It’s wedding CAKE, right? Not wedding FROSTING or wedding FILLING…although I used to work with a lady who would ask everyone to give her their buttercream from the monthly birthday cakes. She’d eat the buttercream, big, goopy spoonfuls of it, and ditch the cake.

Yech!

I make one filling and two layers, maybe 3 layers max for each cake. The cakes are made 100% from scratch, with tested recipes, and don’t need a lot of “buttercream bling” to make it better, or hide what it’s lacking. They’re not particularly artsy, although pretty. I’d rather spend most of my time on substance, not structure.

So, I say, “Let them eat cake!” and save the frosting for that lady I used to work with.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Wafflely

A good friend of mine is getting married next month and I am going to make her wedding cake! I'm nervous because I've never made a cake for someone that really had to count. It's a pretty simple cake, but still....ACK!

I love weddings!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Banana-Cranberry Spice Muffins

A few weeks ago, our local supermarket had Fiber One on sale for buy-one-get-one-free. Well, since one serving of this stuff provides enough fiber to last you for something like, 5 days, I thought, "This might be a good thing."

So we bought one box of the Raisin Bran Roughage, and one box of the original Fiber One cereal. You know, the kind that looks like cat chow or rabbit pellets. I've never liked this stuff, but had heard that you could hide it in baked goods. So, I went to the Fiber One website and found a recipe for Banana-Cranberry Spice Muffins.

Fiber One banana-cranberry spice muffins
These muffins rock, and not just your colon! They actually taste really good! They stay moist for days, they're incredibly healthy, and they're a cinch to make. They're even better than my Hippy Muffins.

So, eat up you hippies!

Banana-Cranberry Spice Muffins
Recipe Source: Fiber One website

1 cup Fiber One® original bran cereal
1 egg
3/4 cup fat-free (skim) milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Heat oven to 350°F (the original recipe stated 400°, but I found that to be too hot and would burn the muffins). Grease bottoms only of 12 regular-size muffin cups with shortening or cooking spray, or use paper baking cups. Place cereal in resealable food-storage plastic bag; seal bag and crush with rolling pin or meat mallet (or crush in food processor).

In medium bowl, beat egg, milk and oil with fork or wire whisk until well mixed; beat in bananas. Stir in cereal; let stand 5 minutes.

Stir in remaining ingredients except cranberries until blended. Stir in cranberries. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately remove from pan to cooling rack.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Before and After

Florida really got hit hard with freezes this winter. Even my "Bedsheet Boogie" attempts at saving a few precious plants did no good. After a certain amount of time, even the temperatures under the cloth/blankets thrown over the plants drop below freezing.

Sigh, this is what my garden looked like last May:


This is what it looks like now:


I know about half of this will come back, but I want to yell, "Hurry up and grow dammit! Look pretty before the weather gets too friggin hot!"

I have lots of seeds planted and plan the scout the PTA sections (Plant Torture Area) of Home Despot and Lowes for their discounted, pitiful misfits.

The garden shall rise again!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Carrot Cake Jam!

Tigress Can Jam Challenge #2

When hubs and I were married, we had carrot cake as our wedding cake. It’s his ultimate favorite cake in the whole-wide-world, and I happen to love it too. I had taken the Wilton cake decorating classes for a whole year before our wedding because I wanted to make our wedding cake. I couldn’t fathom spending hundreds of dollars on a cake and somehow, it seemed like the perfect wedding gift for the both of us. Homemade, made with love, imperfect, and beautiful.

So when this month’s Can Jam Challenge ventured into the world of the carrot, I mentioned out loud, “Hey, I think I’ll make that Carrot Cake Jam I’ve had my eye on.” I didn’t think there would be any objections.

Carrot cake jamThis beautiful jam tastes very much like apple butter, but there’s something else. The flecks of carrot accent every bite with a subtle earthiness. My jam set up to more of a soft-spread, which I prefer to harder set jams and jellies. Definitely a keeper recipe and this jam would make a gorgeous gift for anyone.

Carrot Cake Jam
Recipe Source: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Makes 7 - 8 half pints

1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped cored peeled pears
1 3/4 cups crushed, canned pineapple, including juice
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 package powdered fruit pectin
6 1/2 cups sugar

Combine carrots, pears, pineapple and juice, lemon juice, and spices in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Lower temperature to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add powdered pecting, incorporating well, and bring carrot mixture back to a boil. Add sugar all at once and return back to a full boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 full minute.

Ladle hot jam into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Central Florida Birds of Prey Center

Last week, me and a very good friend, Mary, decided to go visit our two "adopted" children who were living at the Central Florida Birds of Prey Center. For Christmas, Mary bought me a year-long "parenthood" gift for an injured, and wonderfully sweet Barred owl named Merlin.


Merlin's story is a little sad. He was brought to the center in 1987 as a juevenile. He had spent several weeks (illegally) with humans, who took him from his nest, which resulted in Merlin becoming imprinted on human beings. Imprinting means a bird will relate to humans, not their own species, which leaves them with no hunting or other survival skills.

There is a small window of opportunity where birds imprint on their caregivers, whether it is human, animal, or another bird. From that point on, the bird will try to learn the behaviors of their caregiver for survival, and if it is a human versus another bird (in my case, an owl), well it leaves little room for the bird to learn how to live as a bird.


After arriving imprinted on humans, Merlin was place in a large aviary with other owls. Sensing that Merlin was "different" from them, the owls attacked him, leading to the loss of his left eye. So, now Merlin cannot be housed with other owls, but is now an Ambassador of the center and helps teach children and adults about owls.I have to say that he has one of the most espressive, soulful faces I've ever seen on an animal.


My friend Mary adopted a Red Shouldered Hawk named Picasso who also lost an eye. I don't remember Picasso's story, but he sure was beautiful.


We also got to see some of the center's absolutely gorgeous bald eagles. Up close, they are very LARGE and so very stoic. All in all, it was a beautiful day!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Good and The Bad - Part 1

As a foodie, I’m constantly experimenting with new recipes and cooking techniques. Sometimes, recipes turn out better than I had ever expected, and sometimes the results are just plain ugly. I think it’s the challenge that attracts me. The more complicated or unusual a recipe appears the better. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I will reattempt complicated recipes; I know my limits and my talents. But sometimes, even accidents are worth keeping around.

Let me present Exhibit A:

The Awesome Cornbread That Should Have Been Biscuits

Several years ago, I underwent a personal challenge to learn how to make biscuits. Not just any old biscuits, but big, flaky, tender biscuits. The kind you see on television commercials. I must have spent a year experimented with different techniques, flours, and ingredients. Finally, I found an amazing recipe that yielded THE PERFECT BISCUIT.

One morning, as I was mixing up the umpteenth batch, I accidentally added a cup more milk than was called for in the recipe. Now what was I to do? I had this soupy mess that wouldn’t amount to anything decent. So, shrugging my shoulders, I added a cup of yellow cornmeal flour to the batter, poured it into a round cake pan, and hoped for the best.

This is what resulted:

This “accident” turned out the most amazing, tender, sweet, and delicious cornbread I have ever made! It's now a staple in my recipe binder. Now I have something to spread all those jars of fruit "sauces" that were supposed to be jams or jellies. It's all good!

Accidental Cornbread

2 cups of AP flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup shortening, or butter (I use butter)
1 2/3 cups of milk
1 large egg
1 cup yellow cornmeal

Preheat oven to 350°

Mix flour with baking powder and sugar. Cut in shortening or butter until it resembles course meal. Mix egg with milk and stir into flour mixture. Add cornmeal and briefly stir until mixture resembles cake batter. Pour batter into a greased, 9" round cake pan and bake until golden brown on top (about 35-45 min). Cool 5 minutes on cake rack, turn cornbread out of cake pan. Enjoy while still warm!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Winter Manatees!

A couple of weekends ago, hubby and I went to Blue Springs State Park to see the annual cavorting of the winter manatees.

Can manatees cavort? Either way it was flipper-to-flipper action!


Each year, when the weather gets cold, these gentle giants make their way to wamer water for the winter. Manatees are warm blooded mammals that cannot survive when the water temperatures reach 60° or cooler. Fortunately, the water temperature at Blue Springs stays a toasty 72° all year long.


On this particular day, there were 155 manatees counted in this spring alone. It was a very popular place that day for local and out-of-state visitors; it was a little crowded. But the manatees did not disappoint their biggest fans.


The weather was a little blustery and overcast, but the water is always crystal clear. It almost looks like someone's swimming pool, no?

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