Sunday, November 27, 2011

Crostini with Chevre, Sun-Dried Tomato and Onion Jam

Mimi, a friend of many and all-around good gal was generous enough to open her house and host a pot luck for friends Kata and Anton's departure from our small mountain town to the warmer climate of the southern states.  I was excited to attend because I knew there'd be good friends, food and wine, all in attendance.  I ran three or so options through my head and settled on one of my favorites. This crostini goes together quickly and pairs nicely with red wine. I cannot take credit for creation of this recipe as it belongs to Giada De Laurentiis of Food Network.  She refers to it as bruschetta, while I say's all about the bread texture. I have tweaked it over the years to suit my tastes, but feel free to review her version as well.

Crostini with Chevre, Sun-Dried Tomato and Onion Jam

makes 20 or so crostini rounds

Sun-Dried Tomato and Onion Jam:
1 (8oz) jar sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and chopped, oil reserved
2 tbsp reserved oil from sun-dried tomatoes
1 onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 vegetable boullion cubes, preferrably non-gmo
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 baguette, cut into 1/2" slices
2 or more tbsp extra virgin olive oil
thyme sea salt, preferrably from Boja Farms, however Fleur de Sel will work
4 oz goat cheese, room temperature, preferably Amaltheia

Jam Preparation:
Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add reserved oil from sun-dried tomatoes. Add onion and lightly saute. Add garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook until the onions are soft and beginning to brown at the edges. Add the sugar, vinegar, water, vegetable boullion, thyme, salt and pepper. Brind the liquid to a boil, reduct heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.  Remove the cover and continue simmering until most of the liquid is reduced and the mixture is the consistency of jam. Remove from heat and set aside.

Crostini Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the baguette slices on baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the baguette slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme sea salt. Bake until lightly toasted.

Spread the crostini with goat cheese and top with the Sun-Dried Tomato and Onion Jam. Transfer to a serving platter, serve and enjoy!

I also put together an anti-pasto platter of pickled gems (cornichons, kalamata olives and caper berries) found at our local gourmet store, Babcock and Miles...the baguette and sun-dried tomatoes were purchased there as well. As for the wine, the bottles were a present from my sis in Washington state...she knows my tastes well...Terra Blanca Syrah and L'Ecole Recess Red...thanks sissy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Roasted Acorn Squash Salad with Maple Syrup Dressing

I rediscovered the recipe for this salad while I was trying to find another recipe I had made for Thanksgiving several years past.
I keep my recipes electronically in Excel file format. I have separate files for each category..desserts, salads, etc. For me it's an easy way to capture a recipe that sounds appealing while perusing various culinary internet sites. Now having just made that statement, I've realized this is an untruth. I must confess that my recipes are not in the stellar order I would like them to be. I have a book with hand written "keepers" along with typed recipes loosely stuffed inside the front cover, with no particular order. Yet another folder exists with canning recipes, and the list goes on. One day I envision my recipe collection to be in order. Ok, there's another "untruth"...if it hasn't happened now, chances are I probably won't get "it all together". These thoughts bring back fond memories while perusing old cookbooks at an auction, garage sale or antique store....most times the book will have a random recipe cut from a newspaper, magazine or a handwritten card with a smattering of smears and stains stuffed inside the front cover. I find comfort in knowing someone will appreciate my hodge-podge of recipes after I'm long gone!

And yes, I have digressed...back to the recipe.  Inspiration for my salad came from a like named recipe from Emeril Lagasse. His salad had rye bread-goat cheese croutons, of which I did not want to make. I made my version smaller along with a few other each one and decide what version piques your culinary interest!

Roasted Acorn Squash Salad with Maple Syrup Dressing

serves 2

Roasted Squash
1 small acorn squash, cut in half, seeded & cut into crescents
1/2 tsp Essence
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss squash crescents with Emeril's Essence, brown sugar and olive oil. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast 30 minutes, turning squash at 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Maple Syrup Dressing
1 tbsp plain yogurt (Emeril's called for creme fraiche, of which I did not have)
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
3/4 tsp horseradish
kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper

Make the dressing by whisking the first four ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The yogurt in this recipe is the fat and emulsifier...beautiful!

Salad accompaniments
2 oz goat cheese (I used Amaltheia Chevre)
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/4" strips, cooked til crisp (I used Silver Tip Bacon)
4 cups organic mixed greens

To make the salad, place greens in a medium bowl. Add enough dressing to lightly coat greens. Divide greens amongst two plates. Top each salad with roasted squash, chevre, walnuts and bacon. Drizzle with additional dressing if desired.

I served my salad with strips of thyme sea salt scented grilled ribeye steak. This sea salt is produced by Boja Farms. The flavor is exceptional. Check out Boja Farms Facebook Page for more information.

PS. I paired my dinner salad with a glass of this wine my sister brought to me from Washington far one of my faves from Terra Blanca Winery.

PSS. I never found the braised pheasant recipe I was looking for to begin with...whatev...four hours is not an unusually long time to be sidetracked, right??

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

I went to the farm with a few friends three Sunday's ago for fall picking.  The farm had been hit by a frost and it wiped out most of the garden.  While root vegetables like beets, carrots and potatoes were fine, other veggies like okra, peppers and tomatoes were essentially wiped out.  The tomatillos were also hit by the frost, and the plants looked pretty sad, but I think the outer husk saved the fruit.  I was able to harvest almost six pounds.  I made this salsa and am happy to say I like the end result.  Do you know how nice it will be to have pork or chicken enchiladas in the middle of winter with this lovely sauce? Again, I don't have lots of pictures to share...forgot the camera when we were at the garden, thought I had pictures of the fresh tomatillos once I had returned home, was in too big of a hurry on canning day to take pictures as I went, so this picture of the end result is all there is...only if you could taste whats in the jar...

This recipe is loosely based from one in Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen cookbook.  Water bath processing times based on our elevation of 5,500ft and the Ball Blue Book Canning Guide, 2003 edition.

Salsa Verde

makes approximately 6 pints

6 pounds tomatillos, papery husks and stems removed, rinsed
2 tbsp canola oil
3 medium onions, peeled, medium dice
15 jalapenos, stems removed, small dice (seeds and all for added heat)
15 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 bunches fresh cilantro, chopped
4 fresh limes
approx 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt, or to taste
fresh cracked black pepper
approx 2 tbsp agave or honey, or to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  Place tomatillos on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 20-35 minutes, turning occasionally, until blackened in spots and the tomatillos are soft, collapsed and leaking. Meanwhile, preheat a large stainless steel stockpot over medium high heat.  When hot, add canola oil and saute onions, jalapenos and garlic that have been lightly sprinkled with kosher salt and pepper. Cook until translucent.  Add roasted tomatillos and bring to a simmer. At this point I used an immersion blender and pureed the mixture to a consistency of my liking.  I wanted a bit of small chunks to remain. Feel free to puree to the consistency you desire.  If you do not have an immersion blender, you can puree batches of the this in the blender or food processor. Keep in mind the liquid is hot and you will need to have an opening for steam to escape so that you do not have a green volcanic eruption!  Once pureed, return mixture to a simmer, add and mix in half the kosher salt, cumin, chopped cilantro and the juice of four fresh limes.  At this point taste. Balance the flavors by adding more salt if needed.  Use agave  or honey to further balance the flavor should the salsa seem too acidic. When you are happy how the salsa tastes, ladle the hot salsa into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2" head space at the top. Use a clean damp cloth to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar. Screw bands on jars to finger tight. Place jars in a boiling water bath with water covering jars by at least one inch.  Bring to a boil, and process for 20 minutes.  Remove jars from bath and allow to cool on a towel. After one hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn't sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pickled Beets

There isn't alot of photography fluff here...just canning fall's bounty and moving on to the next project to wrap up this year's canning til next season.

I have several canning books and most of the recipes for pickled beets are the same.  I purchased yet more books this summer.  This one in particular caught my eye Canning For a New Generation.  The title piqued my interest.

The book is nice, but as this canning season comes to a close, I've decided what I really want to invest in is the tools to perform my own ph testing so that I can come up with my own recipes. So yep, ph testing equipment and a pressure canner is on the list for next year.

Last year my father made a comment that the beets I canned were just not sweet enough. So this year I perused different recipes.  I started with one from the above mentioned canning book and adjusted the sweetness to what I believe will be my father's liking.  I like this recipe in that it called for honey. Because I added more sweetener, I used agave and organic cane sugar. We'll see if Pops likes the beets more this year! :o)

Pickled Beets

makes approximately 4 pints

3 pounds beets, tops removed and scrubbed
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup agave
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp whole cloves

Cook the beets in boiling water until tender, 20-30 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool.  Rub off the skins, trim, quarter, and cut into 1/2" cubes. Set aside.

In a 6-8 qt stainless steel stock pot, combine the vinegar, water, honey, agave, sugar, salt and spices.  Bring to a boil over high heat, dissolving sugar. Add beets and bring just to a simmer.

Working quickly and using a slotted spoon, transfer hot beets into sterilized jars along with a few spices.  Ladle or pour in the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2" head space at the top.  Remove air bubbles from each jar using butter knife.  Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it's just finger-tight.  Place the jars in a water bath canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1".  Bring to a boil, and process for 30* minutes.  Remove the jars to a towel and do not disturb for 12 hrs.  After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each lid; if it can be pushed down, it hasn't sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Store for at least 90 days prior to eating.

*Add 5 minutes for El. 5,500ft

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

It's that time of year favorite season by far. There is a bite to the morning air, the leaves are a gorgeous mixed array of red, yellow and orange....and there are squash, apples and pumpkins.  With the harvest comes an assortment of seasonally appropriate comfort foods that can be made.  For me, apple pie, curried butternut squash soup and pumpkin chocolate chip muffins are what comes to mind...let's talk about the latter.

My first experience with this muffin was years ago (trust me, long enough that it makes me feel like an "old-timer" to mention) while living in Washington state. There was a bakery open for the early commuters and I would stop by most Fridays for an end-of-the-week treat. The bakery was very progressive for the area and era in that they focused on using whole grains, healthier fats and reduced sugars.  There were over a dozen different muffin selections on any given day along with cinnamon rolls, breads and soups.

For years I longed for the recipe on making these spice scented-chocolaty gems.  OK, again this was before the Internet and google searches. I eventually found it in an unsuspecting, cute little cookbook and I've been using it ever since.  I wouldn't declare this recipe as being particularly healthy, but they're good none the less.  I make these muffins only once or twice a year.  The recipe calls for the use of pumpkin pie spice. I never seem to have this spice blend in my repertoire.  And even though I've read many a substitution list providing the breakdown, did I ever write it down?? No, not until five years ago when I was tired of having to look it up each time. And yes, now I use google :o)  What I finally did was jot it down in the book on the page of the recipe!  Yeah, I know, crazy talk, right?? Seems pretty "normal" at this point in my life, but there was a day that even a butter smudge in my beautiful cookbooks were disappointing. Well, I'll have you know I'm way past that kinda "warms my heart" to stumble upon a recipe in a cookbook with splatters, stains and says...yep, it's a good one!!  So today is two-for one's a recipe for the spice blend and the delicious muffins I adore.

There are many recipes to be found online for this spice blend.  I use as a reference on a regular basis.  Other sites have mentioned cloves in place of allspice.  Make both versions to see what your preference is.


makes 1 tablespoon
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4    tsp ginger
3/8    tsp allspice
3/8    tsp nutmeg
Mix ingredients together.

If you want to make a larger batch, make sure to store in an airtight container.

This muffin recipe goes together within 10 minutes. Just think, in a little over 30 minutes you can have warm muffins with your Sunday morning latte! I provided the recipe just as it appears in the book. I seldom add the toasted almonds as they're perfect without the crunch. Most times I use Wheat Montana's Prairie Gold whole wheat pastry flour. And per the usual, I use organic cane sugar, organic unsalted butter and kosher or sea salt. High altitude adjustments can be found at the bottom of the post.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (I used Wheat Montana Prairie Gold)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease muffin cups or use paper or foil liners.  Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix eggs, pumpkin puree and butter. Add chocolate chips.  Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.  Scoop batter evenly between muffin cups.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until puffed and springy to the touch in the center. Turn out onto a rack to cool.

High Altitude adjustments for 5,500 ft
  • Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees
  • Increase flour by 1/4 cup
  • Decrease baking soda by 1/2 tsp
  • Use half butter, half safflower oil

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Corncakes with Local Huckleberries and Lime Curd for Two

The temperature is sitting at 43 degrees with a predicted high of 51. The ski run is socked in with fog...fall is definitely in the air this morning.   I closed all the windows from being open all night (brrrr!) and had the urge to be in the kitchen and make some comfort food for breakfast.
I had huckleberries in the fridge from our time spent picking in the mountains.  They needed to be utilized so I decided upon huckleberry corncakes and lime curd.  I made a latte to go along with my breakfast.

Lemon and lime both pair well with blueberries. Wild huckleberries are similiar in flavor profile to blueberries, and I had limes on hand so I settled for making lime curd.  The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenenburg is a great book to reach for when unsure about food profiles and pairing "what with what".  I made this first and allowed it to cool slightly while I made the corncakes.  I followed a Gourmet January 2001 lemon curd recipe that I found on Epicurious, substituting lime for the lemon.

Lime Curd

makes approximately 1 cup

1/2 cup lime juice
2 tsp lime zest (~ zest from one lime)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
3 large egg yolks
6 tbsp unsalted butter

Whisk ingredients together in a small saucepan.  Cook over moderately low heat until thick. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least an hour.

I used a basic pancake recipe from Michael Ruhlman's "Ratio" book...2 parts liquid: 1 part egg: 1/2 part butter: 2 parts flour

Huckleberry Corncakes

makes approx 6-3" dia cakes

Wet Ingredients:
2 oz organic skim milk
2 oz full fat yogurt (I used Brown Cow)
1 large egg
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients:
1 oz brown rice flour
1 oz cornmeal
2 oz ap flour (I used Wheat Montana)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup wild huckleberries

Mix wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls. Add wet to dry and stir until just mixed.  Grease a griddle with butter or bacon grease...yep, I used the latter.  This creates crisp outer edges.  Spoon batter onto hot griddle and sprinkle tops of corncakes with huckleberries. Cook till golden, flip and continue cooking until done.  Serve immediately.

I like a thicker cake, so these turned out nice and puffy. If you prefer a thinner cake, add 1-2 oz of milk.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Summer Solstice Preserves

Ohhh, I'm soooo far behind on blog far in fact recently I have even stopped opening the blogger website and reading other blogs that I follow. If you don't see it, it doesn't exist, right?
If the truth be known, that last batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam with jalapenos that over set really kinda put a damper on my blogging. I had planned on opening the jars & re-batching it with additional fruit. That is, until I read Food In Jars post about jam set testing methods. Ok, idea was nixed. Marisa from Food In Jars recommends calling it Pate de Fruit...slice it up and serve with breads, cheeses and charcuterie. But honestly, how fun is it to blog about failures though? I do believe I may be over the hump now...I purchased a waterproof digital thermometer and sat down and actually calculated what the correct temperature for jam set point is in our little mountain town.

So here's a little math for your morning. At sea level, water boils @ 212 degrees. As the elevations increase, the boiling point decreases...yeah, I know, what?? Kinda confusing, but it has something to do with atmospheric pressure, blah, blah, blah. Yes, I've read the scientific reasoning behind this MANY times, and no, it does not stick in my brain...maybe because I don't really care? Okay, I have digressed...back to math. For every 1,000 ft increase in elevation, you should subtract 2 degrees to find out the degrees at which water boils.  We're at 5,500 ft, so I subtracted 11 degrees from 212. Boiling point here is 201 degrees. Now the jam set point...jam sets 8 degrees above boiling point, so for our area its 209 degrees...bam...done....take your jammie's temp & your golden. Well, golden to a point...I have still noticed set variations with the last three fruits I have put up. The summer solstice preserves made with tart cherries and blueberries is a solid movement from the jam when the jars are tilted.  The sweet cherry jam is thick, but there's a sultry luxurious "ness" to the way it sways when the jar is tilted. I also put up four batches of peach jam (I told you I was behind in my blogging!!) and there appear to be slight variances in the thickness of each batch.

So, back to the subject of Summer Solstice Preserves. I found this recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The only modification I made was throwing in a few extra blueberries because I had them on hand. Should affect the jam consistency right? I thought so, but so far it looks fine in the jar.  The recipe calls for tart pie cherries. I was fortunate enough to get local cherries from Bonnie @ Boja Farms out of Bridger.  Pitting these tiny buggers was an exercise in patience though. That's all I will say about that task!!

Summer Solstice Preserves

Makes about 5 8oz jars

3 cups halved pitted red tart cherries*
1 cup blueberries (I added 1 3/4cups)
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 pouch (3oz) liquid pectin
2 tbsp Kirsch or cherry flavored Brandy (I used Kirsch)

*I know this post is not very timely, in the fact that we are way past cherry season. I imagine you could use frozen tart cherries if you put them up this summer.

The picture below shows the size of Kirsch bottle I found at the Liquor Store. You can also see how much I used. Looks like I'll have to find another use for Cherry Liqueur.

  1. In a large, deep stainless steel stockpot, combine cherries, blueberries, sugar and lemon juice. Stir to mix well. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  3. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring fruit mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.  Stir in pectin. Boil hard, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Test jam set point temperature. Boil longer if needed. When jam is at correct set point, remove from heat and add Kirsch. Skim foam.
  4. Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space, if necessary by adding hot preserves/  Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
  5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. (I added 5 minutes for our increased elevation) Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool & store.

Jars in particular are a ♥ of mine. The jar pictured 2nd from the left is a vintage Ball jar. The left most jar is my latest fave. It's a squatty half pint from the Ball Elite collection ...!

Friday, July 22, 2011

DIY Cold Brew Coffee

The idea for cold brew coffee is nothing new and there is plenty of online information on the subject, but I felt compelled to share because it is so easy to make at home and the cost savings will make it well worth your time.
When I was in high school my parents made the conversion from drip coffee makers to cold brew coffee. It is said to have a lower acid level and a more "lively" flavor.  The system they owned was similar to this.  Over time, they could no longer find the filters and/or plugs, so they gave up and went back to drip. Mind you though, this was before the advent of shopping online.  I felt compelled to purchase "the system" for making cold press coffee, but space availability for yet another gadget along with the $50 price tag made me think again.  I chose the "mason jar/strainer with a coffee filter" method.

I started with a coarse-medium grind on my beans. I used my manual grinder, but feel free to use your electric version....just be careful not to grind too fine.

 I measured out 2 1/2 oz coffee beans....this equated to a "heaping" cup.

Added the coffee to a quart size mason jar using a canning funnel...notice it's vintage along with my measuring cup and mason jar!

Filled the jar with cold tap water and placed the jarred contents in the refrigerator. I used tap water, because it was easy and it's good.  We have great water in our little mountain town.

24hrs later it was ready to be strained. For this task I used a large glass measuring bowl, a like sized strainer lined with a coffee filter.

I don't know if it was that necessary, but I strained it a second time.

The end result was a little over 2 cups of coffee goodness...full of caffeine, or go juice as I'd like to say.

I then proceeded to immediately make an iced coffee. I used equal amounts of coffee, skim milk and a small amount of agave syrup...mmmmm...refreshing on a hot summer morning...still in my jammies.

The coffee extract can also be diluted with hot water for a hot cup of joe. If you own a french press, you can make this coffee using your press, just adjust the amount of ground coffee and water based on the size of your press.'s potent, so be careful. :o)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rhubarb Custard Pie

Time has gotten away from me and nearly a month has passed since I started to work on this post. Initially, my reaction was to scrap the post, but I really want to share this recipe with you because it is a favorite of mine.
I had to work on Father's Day and was unable to spend it with my Dad. Restaurant work is bad for that...these Hallmark holidays become "just another day".  But, later in the week when I had a few days off, I baked him this pie and took him and my Mom to lunch.

The recipe for this pie came from my paternal grandmother, Carol. Grandma was quite the baker and a good cook to boot. A person could always go to her house and expect to savor a piece of pie, a cake or some cookies.  It was an emotional moment the first time I made this pie for my Dad after her passing. He excused himself from the table, only to come back with eyes that had shed a few tears.  We didn't talk about it, (of course!) but I imagine tasting that pie brought back memories and sorrow because she is no longer with us.

I believe we all have an emotional connection to food. Tastes and smells can evoke childhood memories, a special meal your Mom always prepares, or even a romantic evening spent with the one you love. This pie and several other baked goodies remind me of my paternal Grandmother. For my maternal grandmother, its homemade chicken and dumplings and sourcream chocolate cake. This list could go on and on, but you get the point. Be still and think about it...what foods are special to you?

Rhubarb Custard Pie

makes 1 9" baked pie--enough for 6-8 slices

1 single crust unbaked pie shell
4c chopped rhubarb
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1c half and half
fresh ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chopped rhubarb in pie crust shell.  Mix sugar, eggs and half and half. Pour over rhubarb, then sprinkle with nutmeg.  Place pie in oven and bake at 400 degrees until pie starts to brown, then turn down to 350 degrees and bake until done.  Test custard for doneness. I've included this link that describes testing methods.

Below are a few pictures showing a few of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

A tempered glass bowl complete with a handle, pour spout and plastic lid from Pampered Chef and Mrs. Anderson's aluminum pie crust shields. For years I used to fold long pieces of aluminum foil and wrap the edges of pie.  These shields are easy to use, just place them over the pie and bake. I remove the shield during the last 15 minutes of baking.  I see that they also have silicone baking shields available now.

Another all-time favorite is this whisk, given to me by the Office Manager when I cooked at the Lazy EL Ranch. This whisk is not available available for purchase online, only at Ikea stores.  Here is a link for product information.  This baby is "cheap" and boy can make short work of whisking eggs...much better than the average balloon whisk.

I picked up this jazzy little nutmeg grinder prior to purchasing the classic handheld Microplane grater/zester. I paid $4USD and picked it up from TJ FAVORITE discount store for all things "home". It's also made by Microplane and while you can never be guaranteed of finding another one at TJ Maxx since their stock is always in a state of flux, you can purchase one from Amazon. The top orange compartment is the "house" for whole nutmeg and the bottom of the unit collects the grated nutmeg.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chewy Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts & Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

I'm pressing the "easy button" this morning and posting about some yummy brownies I made last winter.  I've got a few other rhubarb posts to put up, but nothing ready enough without spending hours in front of this laptop.  It's also my day off today and I've got lotsa chores to get done before going back to work tomorrow.  I also thought I'd put this recipe out there as my cousin Sheila was asking about brownie recipes for half sheet pans.  I've only baked this in a single batch, but if you decide to go increase the recipe and bake in a half sheet pan, let me know how it goes.  I also must tell you that I've made these brownies using all-purpose flour and again with Wheat Montana Prairie Gold Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. The latter is my flour of choice. The end result is a denser, chewier texture, of which, I happen to prefer. You also have the added bonus of a more nutritious flour choice, added fiber from a whole grain and the bigger bonus being you would be supporting a local farmer who is dedicated to not using genetically modified (GMO) seeds for all of their wheat planting....can I have an AMEN.

Chewy Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts

makes 9-16 bars (cut 3x3 or 4x4)

1/2 cup organic salted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup organic cane sugar*
2 farm fresh eggs*
1/2 cup flour* (Wheat Montana Prairie Gold Whole Wheat Pastry Flour)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts 

*High Altitude (el. 5,500 ft) adjustments 
1 cup minus 1 tbsp sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" square baking dish.

Stir together butter, sugar & vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition. 

Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl and gradually add to wet ingredients, just until incorporated. Pour into pan and bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool, then frost.

Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

makes 1 cup

3 tbsp organic salted butter
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp organic agave (or honey)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered cane sugar
1-2 tbsp organic milk

Cream first four ingredients, then add powdered sugar. Add enough milk for spreading consistency.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DIY Taco Seasoning Mix

I wanted a light and easy dinner this evening, so I made this taco salad. Simply chopped iceberg lettuce, julienned sweet onion, diced roma tomato and crushed corn chips tossed with ranch dressing. The salad is then topped with seasoned cooked meat and chunked avocado...bam...done! 

I seasoned the meat by making a taco seasoning mix that replicates the packaged varieties.  Cooking day-in and day-out has taught me that pretty much anything packaged can be made on your own. It can be made for a fraction of the cost and without the added chemicals and preservatives. You also have control over the quality of ingredients.

Taco Seasoning Mix

2    tsp minced dried onion
1    tsp chili powder
1    tsp paprika
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp crushed red chili fkakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder*
1/2 tsp onion powder*
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp dried oregano

*powder not granules...there is a difference in the flavor and texture profile.

Mix well. Add mixture along with 1/4-1/2 cup water to one pound cooked ground meat of choice. Simmer 10-15 minutes.

Stock your pantry and start cooking. Don't be afraid to experiment. If you'd like it spicier, swap out hot hungarian paprika for regular paprika, or add some cayenne or more chili flakes. Want it milder?  Leave out the chili flakes.  Play, create and have fun!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Garage Sale Treasures

Along with work, I have kept busy with canning and baking, and yes, I am extremely behind on posting my successes and failures. Hmmm..perhaps its the latest failure of "over-set" jam that has slowed my urge to type.  Actually, I need to experiment with my latest "pectin" research soon. But until then I thought I'd share with you the treasures I stumbled upon.

Ok, so its Monday...garage/yard sales are usually relegated to the weekends. I was driving down main street to purchase a soda and noticed a sign for a garage sale at some old cabins near the south end of town. I stopped after the mini-mart run as I was desparate for that caramel colored chemical fizz they refer to as Diet Coke. Yeah, I know, not healthy, not good for a person, but I didn't care...I wanted some in a bad way.

So this garage was a large one room cabin that was LOADED with stuff....treasures of all kinds. All I can say is that it's a good thing I live in a one bedroom flat or I woulda been "hauling", if you know what I mean. I don't know what it is with me and old things, but I love 'em. These items belonged to the towns' librarian of years ago, Mr. Bob Moran.

The first thing I came across was the wide mouth zinc lids...five of them along with a clear glass regular mouth bail top lid. Its not very often that a person even runs across zinc lids, much less wide mouth.  Yes, there were lots of neat things, but again, I have to limit my purchases, so when I asked the person selling the goods what I owed him, he immediately told me I needed to buy the boxes of jars. Of course I went and looked.  Three apple boxes to be exact. The jars were mainly regular mouth pints and quarts, of which I already have. And yes, there were some oldies in there. I sorted through and found four wide mouth pint jars and three regular mouth half pints. Again though, on my way to pay the gentleman my eyes caught more "goodies". I found a clear glass, regular mouth, half gallon bail top jar, minus the lid. Oh, but wait, I had found a lid on my first swipe through...sure enough, it fit perfect.  This jar was made by The Liquid Carbonic Co. with a patent date of July 14, 1908. I performed some online research and came up with this link. A soda fountain business started during prohibition.  The oldest of the screw top jars was one of the Kerr pint jars with a Patent date of August 31, 1915, again in mint condition other than being dirty.  I also came across a set of two vintage Ekco muffin tins. They're not mini size, nor regular size...just in between and cute to boot. The last, and perhaps one of my fondest, is a 1938 copyright Ball Blue Book Canning Book. It is in relatively great shape. What's neat about the book is all the pictures of jars from that time.  I'll peruse the recipes this evening when I get home from work. This "short" was printed on the inside cover of the book:

They shall rise up and call her blessed-
this woman, who-loving and thoughtful of
future joy and health-secures the goodness
of Nature at her best, and cans against the
barren sameness of the Winter months. Well
does she look to the ways of her household.

♥ it!!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Local" Pickled Asparagus

Last year I found out too late that there was a farmer outside Laurel who grew asparagus. Well, this year I almost missed out again. Time had gotten away with me, and when I called, I was told he may have 10 or so pounds left in the field, but to come by the next morning and they'd have it ready to go. Much to my surprise, they had two twenty-five pound boxes! The restaurant I work at took one box and I took the other. I was so excited to put up with local asparagus!! I spent the better part of the afternoon last Tuesday getting through the 25 pounds of asparagus I purchased.  Well, I didn't put up all of it. I saved a pound for myself to eat fresh and also gave a pound or so to my Aunt and to my neighbor.

Pickling the asparagus brought back fond memories when I lived in Washington. One year, I and two other friends got together and put up 10 30# flats of asparagus.  We set up the packing operations in their garage. A garage I might add was cleaner than some kitchens I've been in. The garage was cool and we didn't have to worry about the mess indoors. We set up two tubs for washing asparagus on a picnic table outside on the patio and had two propane burners outside so that we could have two water bath canners going simultaneously.  It took all day, but it was lotsa fun. I don't remember for sure, but I believe the three of us each ended up with 4 cases of pickled asparagus put up in wide mouth quarts. What I do remember though is that we all had a good time with lotsa laughs throughout the day....a memory I'll always treasure.

Pickled Asparagus

makes 18-20 qts using (1) 25# flat of asparagus

**brine solution:10 tbsp canning salt (kosher can be substituted, but do not use iodized salt)
3 qt water*
3 qt apple cider vinegar*
1 tbsp pickling spice (remove cloves & place in cheesecloth--let float in brine solution)

Bring brining solution to a boil then turn down & simmer for a minimum of 15 minutes.

*do not alter this ratio.  WA State Cooperative Extension recommends equal amounts of water and vinegar because this mitigates botulism issue.

**the brining solution batch recipe will fill approx. 8 jars depending on how tight you pack the jars. I make a single batch, simmer, fill jars, process then start the routine again.

each jar:1 jalapeno (sliced in half lengthwise)
1 dried chili de arbol (find at latin or specialty grocery stores)
1 tsp each -- dill seed, mustard seed, black peppercorns
1 clove garlic

Trim asparagus length so that there is a minimum of 1/2" head space at the top of the jar you will be using.  I think wide mouth quart jars work the best.  Get one spear cut to the right length, then use it as a guide to cut remaining spears.

Fill water bath canner 2/3rd's full of water. Put on stove and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, turn down to a simmer until you are ready to put jars in.
Place clean jar lids & rings in a small saucepan with warm water.  Bring to a simmer and keep warm on the stove.

Place dill seed, mustard seed, peppercorns and garlic clove in the bottom of each jar.  Pack jar with asparagus, jalapeno and chili de arbol.  I find it easiest to lay the jar on it's side.  As the jar gets full; you will want to use a butter knife to wedge additional spears in...get the jar as tight as you can.  Once all your jars are stuffed, bring your brining solution & water bath water to a boil.

Pour hot brine solution into each jar, making sure to leave 1/2" head space at top of jar.  Wipe jar sealing surface with a clean damp washcloth. Place lid & ring on each jar and tighten.  Only fill the amount of jars you have space for in your water bath canner--usually its seven.  Add filled and sealed jars to water bath.  Bring water bath to a boil and jars for 20 minutes in boiling water.  Remove jars from water bath and place on a dry towel on the counter-free from a draft.  Cover jars with another towel.  Continue these steps until all jars have been processed.  Let set 24 hours.  As the jars begin to cool, you should hear "pops", meaning the jars have sealed.  After 24 hours, make sure each jar has sealed by placing you finger on the center of each jar lid and gently pressing down.  There should be no movement if the vacuum seal is good.  If you are able to push the jar lid down & make it "pop", this means it has not sealed.  If this happens, these jars can be re-processed by replacing the lid & re-processing for stated time.  If you only have a few, you can also put them in the fridge to cure.  Let jars cure a minimum of 3 months...the longer they sit the "warmer" they get from the peppers.

Note: Processing time based on Elevation 5,555 ft.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rhubarb and Fig Jam with Ginger

I'd like to start this post with a general apology.  My posts are not perfect. I have found errors and friends have found errors.  I've come to realize that I am so anxious for you to read my next post, that my two and three time proofreading sessions, not to mention spell checking, is, well, just a little hap-hazard...Paquito.  I obviously need to slow down, step away from the keyboard, then revisit the draft version prior to pressing the "publish" button. I promise to do better, but I am not perfect. If you have a question on a recipe, or notice an obvious error and/or omission, please leave a comment and I will reply quickly. Thanks bunches!

I still had more of the gifted fresh rhubarb to put up.  I wanted to make something a "tad" different...a little off the beaten path, so to speak. For this reason I chose Rhubarb & Fig Jam. Oh, and partly because I had dried figs that I was pushing around and not using. So, again, I found a recipe online. Feel free to view the link. I followed it for the most part, except for adding fresh ginger at the end rather than candied citrus peel. I was too impatient to make my own because I purchased 25 pounds of LOCAL asparagus and had pickling to get done. "They" say that using capital letters is equivalent to yelling....not gonna apologize here and I'll say it again...LOCAL ASPARAGUS FOLKS!!! More later on my grass post!!

So, back to the rhubarb fig jam...I didn't have candied citrus peel, had no real desire to make any, so I set off to obtain a few opinions from friends.  One suggested candied ginger and the other suggested fresh, since it was plenty sweet.  Their opinions were just what I needed to move forward.  So in the end, the substitution of fresh minced ginger for candied citrus peel was my only change. That and the fact I did not have a pound of dried figs, so I ratio'd the amounts to make a smaller batch.

Rhubarb and Fig Jam with Ginger

makes approx 10 half pints

3 1/2 lbs Rhubarb cut in 1/2" pieces
1/2 lb Dried figs, cut in fine shreds
5 1/2 cups Sugar
(1) 2" piece fresh Ginger root, peeled and finely minced

Mix rhubarb, figs and sugar in a large non reactive (stainless steel) stockpot.  Cover and let stand all night. The next day, boil the mixture for at least an hour, or until very thick. Add the minced fresh ginger root before the mixture is taken off the heat. Pour jam into warm jars and cover. Process in boiling water bath. 15 minutes for half pints @ elevation 5,555 ft. 10 minutes for half pints 0-5,000 ft elevation.

I'm envisioning this jam to pair well with a cheese course or on bruschetta with crumbled gorgonzola.  What would be your choice?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rhubarb Scones

I was gifted yet another bag of rhubarb yesterday...this time from Casey. The rhubarb came from Washoe...taller rhubarb is getting closer in proximity to RL! I plan to put up some rhubarb compote, more jam, and perhaps freeze some, but in the meantime I had thought last night I would get up this morning and make a low-gluten rhubarb muffin. That is until I stumbled upon a link David Lebovitz shared on Facebook about Weck canning jars. I was curious what the link had to say of the these beautiful canning jars. Turns out the link went to Food52 website with another link to an online mercantile out of California for purchase of the jars. I personally do not own a single Weck canning jar, but someday I may treat myself.

OK, so for the Food52 stuff here! I'm always amazed at the great sites a person can just stumble upon. This site developed out of the result of folks testing recipes for The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser. I will take time later to explore...on with the post! On the Food52 site there are pictures and recipes submitted by other people??? That may not be an accurate statement since I haven't spent alotta time on the site, but bottom line...there was a recipe for Naughty Rhubarb Scones. Use the link if you'd like to read more on how that name came to be and see her recipe. That inspired me to "move away from the laptop" and make a breakfast scone. I used a scone recipe I've had since the days of cooking at the Lazy E-L Ranch. I ending up making a "healthier" rhubarb scone by using low/no-gluten flours and buttermilk rather than white flour and heavy cream. I'm including both recipes so that you can see the variations.

Rhubarb Scones with Coconut & Toasted Almonds

makes 8

1 cup Bob's Red Mill spelt flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill oat flour
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill almond flour
1/4 cup organic dessicated coconut
1 tbsp baking powder*
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup organic cane vanilla sugar
1/4 cup cold unsalted organic butter
3-4 oz buttermilk
2 eggs
3 stalks rhubarb, cut 1/4" dice
1/4 cup toasted almonds, slivered, sliced or whole chopped

egg wash (1 egg mixed with a splash of water)
demara sugar

*I used this amount to obtain extra oomph for the low gluten flours

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix first six ingredients. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles small peas. Whisk two eggs and add buttermilk. Add rhubarb and almonds and stir to incorporate. Add wet ingredients and stir just until incorporated. Scrape out onto a floured work surface and shape into a seven inch circle. Divide into eighths using bench scraper. Using bench scraper again, place individual scones onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and brush with egg wash and sprinkle with demara sugar. Return to oven and bake an additional 10-15 minutes longer. Serve warm.

Basic Scone Recipe

makes 8 scones

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
3 oz heavy cream
2 eggs
1-1 1/2 cup fruit (blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, etc)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix first four ingredients. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles small peas. Whisk two eggs and add heavy cream. Add wet ingredients and stir just until incorporated. Work in fruit. Scrape out onto a floured work surface and shape into a seven inch circle. Divide into eighths using bench scraper. Using bench scraper again, place individual scones onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until done. Serve warm.

I had a latte to go along with my breakfast scone that was topped some of the newly canned strawberry-rhubarb jam and homemade creme fraiche. Notice the darling vintage dinnerware place setting I happened upon at the thrift store. Five piece place setting under $3.00USD. It is Crookville China out of the 50's. I found a pretty extensive website for identification of American dinnerware out of Ohio made during the early to mid 1900's...I'm particularly fond of Homer Laughlin China...they have a dedicated website.

Oh, and yes, its May 29th, a friend and co-worker just rolled into town after spending 8mo in Florida. He hates it, but mother nature is "gifting" us with one of those wet spring snows...this one could work out to be a "doozy"...I heard 9" last night...guess time will tell. The poor rhubarb plants in town sure have it tough.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam with Vanilla Bean and Bergamot

I was gifted another batch of rhubarb from Patricia. You really have no idea how excited I am to be receiving all this rhubarb so early in the season! I perused through several of my favorite canning blog sites and found a recipe on Food In Jars for vanilla rhubarb jam. The recipe called for adding vanilla bean and a cup of earl gray tea. This sounded interesting, but I knew I wanted to add strawberry to mine because the rhubarb I had was more green in color and would not render a beautifully hued red jam. In addition, I performed a google search & came up with a recipe from an online source that sells cookbooks. The name of the store is The Cookbook Store and is based out of Toronto, Canada.  Their site featured a jam recipe from a book entitled Jellies, Jams & Chutneys by Thane Prince. Feel free to use the link to view the recipe I used as my starting point.  I used frozen strawberries because they are not ripe where I live. I also wanted the earl gray tea flavor nuances from Food in Jars recipe, so I added bergamot essential oil since I had that on hand.

I'd like to share a little information about essential oils. I was first introduced to essential oils about six years ago when getting a massage. I've since become an avid user of oils; mainly for holistic care and aromatherapy, but I also know they can be used for culinary purposes. I purchase my oils through Young Living if you'd care to read more about their uses.


makes 10 half pints

2 1/4 lb rhubarb
1 lb frozen strawberries, defrosted
4 lb organic cane sugar
2 lemons, juiced
9 oz liquid pectin
1 large vanilla bean

5-7 drops essential oil of bergamot

1.Cut the rhubarb into 1/2 inch lengths. I had large stalks so I also split them lengthwise as well. Puree strawberries with an immersion blender.
2. Place fruit, sugar & lemon juice into a heavy nonreactive pot. Stir to incorporate. Let sit in a cool place overnight.
3. The next morning, warm the pot contents over low heat. Stir from time to time then bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Cook for 2 minutes then turn off the heat and stir in the pectin along with the vanilla bean pod and seeds. Return the mixture to a boil, and boil until the jam has reached the setting point.

4. Remove from the heat, remove vanilla bean pod and skim off any foam from the top of the jam. Add the essential oil.
5. Ladle into hot sterilized jars. Seal and process in a water bath. I utilized the Ball Blue Book on canning as a reference for water bath processing time. I own two copies, one from 1982 and another from 1999. I've provided an Amazon link to the latest edition from 2004. I put the jam up in several different sized jars, so here are the times I used from the 1999 edition:
  • 4oz jelly jar--10 minutes
  • half pint--15 minutes
  • pint--20 minutes
Note: These times are based on living at EL. 5,555ft.

I'm also including a link that provides information on how to test for the set point when making jam. I used a thermometer for mine.  Here is a close up of the jam put up in vintage Kerr jars. I think they're from the 70's. The picture doesn't show off the squared-off squatty appearance of these half-pint and pint jars that I love so much!