Thursday, November 15, 2012

no muppets were involved in this jam session

Kiwi Jam
Sometimes plain and simple can yield the most amazing results.  Take this kiwi jam, for example.  My youngest, a lover of kiwi and all things sweet, had been asking me for a preserve made of this favored fruit.  Our local warehouse store was conveniently selling big plastic breathable boxes of kiwis so after putting them in school lunches for a week, I peeled and chopped the remaining just as they were reaching that too-soft stage.  Then I opened up my trusty Ball Blue Book of Preserving.

Set up a giant stockpot or water bath canner pot of water.  I use my Ball Home Canning Discovery Kit, which is perfectly sized for small batch canning and fits into an 8 or 12 quart stockpot.  Bring the water to a boil and know where the rest of your equipment is located in your kitchen.

Kiwi Jam

3 cups of chopped and peeled kiwi fruit
1 package powdered pectin
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
4 cups of sugar

Mix the kiwi, powdered pectin, and pineapple juice in a large saucepan.  Don't skimp on the size of the saucepan unless you enjoy burnt sugared fruit laminated to your stove top!  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  (Pause for laughter)

Um, ok.  So really, at this point, keep an eye on that mess in the pot while you drop your 4 plus an extra half-pint jars into the boiling water.  Scoop out a few ladles of hot water into a sauce pan, set it to the lowest temperature on your stove, and drop in your lids to soften.

Once you have a boil going in your fruit mixture, add the sugar all at once and stir until it is dissolved.  There will be a quiet moment before boiling picks up again and when it does, you do actually need to be there with your long-handled rubber spatula.  Bring it to a rolling boil.  Rolling boil means a boil you cannot stir down, the kind that is making the mixture creep up the sides despite your frantic stirring, threatening to spill over the pan.  It will randomly blurp hot sugared fruit mixture at your unprotected hands.  Big pot and long-handled spatula?  You will thank me later!

Boil hard for one minute, more if you are at altitude.  Take it off the heat and skim any foam that may have accumulated.  Those jars you had boiling?  Take a moment to fish those out onto a towel set up next to the pan of kiwi jam.  Ladle the jam into the jars, using the canning funnel and leaving a 1/4-inch headspace.  Wipe down the edges with a clean towel or moistened paper towel to ensure there is nothing between jar and lid to interfere with the sealing process.  Adjust the two piece cap, which means this:  place that softened lid onto the cleaned jar and secure the ring to finger-tight.  Do not crank down on that ring, it's just not necessary.

Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner with at least an inch or more of water above the jars, two inches is better.  Keep some water boiling on the stove to add, if necessary.  Start your timer when the canner water begins to boil, not when you place the jars in the canner.  Put the lid on the canner to keep the water boiling.

When the timer goes off, remove the lid from the canner, take the canner from the stove, and set a 5 minute timer.  Remove the jars to a towel on the counter and try to leave them alone at least until they cool!  Eat the now cooled jam that you ladled into the spare jar, you know, the one that didn't fill enough to put in the canner.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

the never-ending gift or With Friends Like These...

Amish Friendship Bread.  It all sounds so nice as your friend slips you a bag of goo and an over-copied sheet of instructions.  "Make sure you get some instant pudding when you shop this week," she says urgently.  You begin to notice the shifty wild eyes as she looks around for her next victim.  She has three more Ziploc bags in her purse.

So here's the truth about AFB, the little secret no one tells you.  It's a sweet sourdough starter. Amish were involved.  You can actually make your own.  After all, someone has to start the cycle!

Original Starter for Amish Friendship Bread (aka Sweet Sourdough Starter)

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk (seeing a trend here?)
1 pkg of active dry yeast
1/4 cup 100F water

Bloom the yeast in the water for 10 minutes in a non-reactive bowl (Glass and ceramic are preferred, stainless steel is verboten), stir in other ingredients, cover and rest in a cool corner of the kitchen.  Glance at it when you remember and give it a stir if you see a watery substance on top.

On day 7 add:

1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar

Stir, cover, rest.

On day 14 add:

1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar

What I have done in a bowl can be done in a well-sealed Ziploc plastic bag.  This is especially fun for small children and should be left in an area of the kitchen they will see and remember to "squish it every day."  Also, the 7 days between adding additional ingredients is not firm.  So long as there are 5 days between, you are fine.  Wing it!  Also, you can reduce the whole white flour extravaganza by using whole wheat or white whole wheat for some of those 1 cup flour add-ins.

After you have run through the initial process, whatever is left of your starter can be kept alive by adding smaller amounts of the feeder ingredients - ie 1/4 cup each milk, sugar, flour - to create the quantity of starter you intend to use. You can also hold the starter in stasis in the refrigerator.  Just be sure to refresh it on the day of use by adding the feeder ingredients.  You can also revisit this starter by freezing a portion of it and feeding it (building it up) after it has been defrosted.

So, now what do you do?  Well, that depends on your friends LOL.  You can put a hefty cup of starter into Ziploc bags and send it on its merry way with a sheet of instructions you can find anywhere on the internet by Googling "Amish Friendship Bread," or you can simply fish out the starter as needed and cook it up yourself.  The online recipes will include that aforementioned box of pudding.  Feel free to find and use that yourself as it is easily located.  I prefer to use the starter to make quick breads, waffles, pancakes and cakes like the following!

Pumpkin Bread

1 cup starter
1/3 cup flavorless oil like canola
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) or cooked and mashed fresh pumpkin
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Grease and sugar (not flour) your baking pan(s).  Fill 2/3 full of batter.  Bake in 325F oven 45 to 90 minutes depending on the size pan you are using.  Mini-loaf pans - check after 30 minutes (four loaves), full size pans could be as long as an hour and a half (1 loaf).

mmmmm, pumpkin bread!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

loafing off

I make most of my bread using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day series.  I can't recommend this enough, especially for novice bread makers.  And for the newbies, while this method uses bread science, it is not like you make most bread!

Flipping through the Healthy Bread book one afternoon, I noticed the Quinoa Bread that I'd been meaning to try and realized I had a lovely, warehouse-sized bag of quinoa in my pantry.  I have aspirations to healthy eating!  So I break out my big bowl and mix it up.

Quinoa Bread (Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day - Hertzberg/Francois)

3 cups white whole wheat flour
3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup quinoa, rinsed an uncooked
2 packages yeast
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
3 ¾ cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp Kosher salt

In this method, you combine the ingredients, sometimes blooming the yeast, sometimes not, and leave it on the counter for 2-ish hours to rise.  You absolutely do not knead this over-saturated dough.  For more information on the method, there are links at the bottom of the page.  

Me being me, I forgot it and left it overnight and half the next day under a cookbook and my glasses before I was unearthing my counters from the previous days' shopping and realized it was there.  I make up 4 loaves at a time because my current refrigerator lacks the room for my big bowl so I have not been able to follow the "daily bread" thing this recipe does so well.  The rising loaves rested tucked under a kitchen towel for 45 minutes, as per the non-refrigerated dough rest time (well, it wasn't!) on parchment paper because I never seem to have enough cornmeal around to let it rest on that, and then dusted them heavily with white flour to help hold the shape.  

Side note here - this is an unfortunate tendency that my loaves made using this method tend to be flatter than I want them to be.  I had hoped that was an artifact of high altitude baking, but alas, I've had it happen at the very very sea level Florida house as well.  Fortunately, the bread still tastes great and toasts perfectly and is not, in fact, a "flat" bread so occasionally I take a stab at one of the many trouble shooting tips for this problem.

The oven was pre-heated to 450F until I remembered it was on (the kitchen started to get hot) at which point, I brushed loaves with water (chewy crust technique part one), and made expansion hash marks so the bread wouldn't develop into any post-nuclear mushroom cloud formations. Then I placed the bread into the oven and dumped about a cup of warm water in the general direction of the overheated small broiler pan bottom I keep in the oven for this reason.  Most of the water hit the bottom of the oven anyway, but the requisite steam (chewy crust technique part two) was created.  It cooked for 30 glorious bread-scented minutes and, after it cooled, sliced up nice and moist, holding together beautifully as a slice. 

This bread stands up to my "burnt toast" treatment, as my family calls it. I like my toast actually toasted, you know, like it's seen the inside of a toaster and learned it's lesson well.  None of that limp bread that disintegrates under butter, please!  ::ahem::

The quinoa does not seem to contribute in any appreciable way to the taste of the bread, just to the moisture.  Oh, and it might be good for you!  You can check out their blog, check out their books from the library, or just go out and buy them.  If you like bread at all, you won't be disappointed!

Half my loaves, already gone!  Also, for size comparison, that is a big knife with a  9" blade!

Friday, October 26, 2012

on the table

Time to catch up with all those odd things I have been doing and forgetting to post about!  

So what to do when you have some lovely portobello mushrooms and don't want the vegetarian mock burgers you can make with them?  Create a healthy version of that faithful side:  fries.

The assembly line:  be sure to use the left hand for the egg wash and the right  to toss the mushrooms in the cornmeal mixture or you will end up with ugly globs of egg wash/cornmeal on the ends of your fingers!

Wipe down your mushrooms and give the stems to the spotted wagging dog who shadows your kitchen adventures.  Slice them into french fry-like size, drop them in an egg wash (in this case, pour out some Egg Beaters), and then lift them over to a cornmeal/salt/pepper/sweet paprika coating before dropping them on a stone.  20 minutes or so in a 400F oven and check the mushrooms for doneness.  You may like them moist or you may find you want them a little drier.  Don't forget to salt them again while they are hot!  I eyeball the seasonings, knowing what I tend to use when cooking.  A little experimenting, and you will realize you know this as well!

Before they went into the oven...sorry, they didn't last long enough to get a photo after cooking!
A couple going-going-not-quite-gone apples and some dried diced plums (yes, prunes!  It's all about the marketing!) resulted in a spontaneous dessert.  I cored and sliced but did not peel apples until the baker was full (smaller, 6 cup capacity covered stone baker - perfect for family of 4 to 6 dessert portions).  Then I mixed together:  1/4 cup of brown sugar, a splash of maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 2 tbsp of lemon juice.  This mixture went over the apples.  On top, the standard crumble topping of 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 tsp salt, some cinnamon and optional nuts to your preference.  Cut 4 tbsp butter into the dry ingredients.  Bake for 45 minutes or so in a 350F oven. 

before oven
I promise I will get better at taking the "after" photos!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

smart cookie

Early in our marriage and shortly after the birth of our first child, my husband came home after a very long day and raved about another woman's cookies.  Let me say that again, because it bears repeating...he raved about another woman's cookies.  It seems that Sara, the wife of one of the guys in his pilot training class, had made a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for them to snack on during their study group.  And apparently they were...rave-worthy.

Now I knew a thing or two about cooking.  And cookies.  I had a perfectly good chocolate chip cookie recipe of my own (don't we all?) that involved peanut butter.  They melted in your mouth.  And my husband had tried them.  The next day, he was still talking about Sara's cookies.

There was nothing I could do but reluctantly get the recipe.  I'd make the two cookies side by side.  I'd show him.  I picked up the phone and called Sara.

I made those cookies.  I let them cool on the rack until I could pick one up without it falling apart.  I took a bite.

And I realized- smart cookies don't crumble, they just pour a glass of milk!

Thanks Sara, where ever you are, for a fabulous cookie recipe I have been making for almost a dozen years.

2 cups flour, 1 tsp soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 cup margarine, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 eggs, 2 cups chocolate chips (12 oz bag), 2 cups oats, 1 cup chopped walnuts Bake @ 350F for 8-10 min

Modifications I have made over the years:  cream butter (I can't bring myself to use margarine for anything, sorry my southern-raised friends!) and sugars together until light and fluffy, add eggs and vanilla.  Whisk flour, soda, and salt together and add to mixer 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix chocolate chips (Ghirardelli Bittersweet), nuts (optional) and oatmeal in by hand.  Cooking time varies by cookie sheet, stoneware yields a better cookie.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


And finally!  I am moved in enough to make some pickled turnips!  Yes, I know.  Not what you hear every day, right?  Anyway, it is a tasty sandwich treat no refrigerator should be without!  And here's how to make it as excerpted from Liana Krissoff's Canning for a New Generation.

You boil a quart jar in a large pot of water to sterilize.  It just doesn't do to have some extra critters running amok in there with your pickle, eh?  Then you peel and slice a pound of small turnips, chop up 1/4 cup of celery leaves, set aside a few slices of pickled beets from a jar and slice up a clove of garlic.  You'll also need a tablespoon of kosher salt and a cup of white vinegar.

the usual suspects

When you remove the jar from the large pot, drop in your sliced turnips for a minute to blanch them, then drain and set aside.  Boil a cup of water, the vinegar and the salt.  While you're waiting for that to heat up, layer your turnip, celery leaves, pickled beets and garlic in the hot jar.  By the time you are finished cramming it in, and wondering why you didn't slip on some latex gloves to keep the beets from staining your fingers, your vinegar/salt/water mixture will be boiling so go ahead and pour that over.  I like pink pickle, so I add a bit of the beet juice just for fun.  Use  a chopstick to work out the air bubbles and let it cool on the counter before putting it into the refrigerator.

it gets so much pinker!

In three days time, voila!  Pickle!  Put some in a veggie sandwich, slide a slice next to your tuna salad, or my personal favorite - keep a fork beside the fridge to fish some out every time you go through the kitchen!

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

creative hiatus

Creativity withers and dies in the shadow of my impending move across the country.  I keep hoping to pick up sticks or make something fun in the kitchen, but sadly, I just continue packing up boxes for Goodwill.

I do want to update that the limoncello is FABULOUS.  I have only managed to drink it straight up *oh the shame* but it tastes divine.  I look forward to making more 'cellos and sampling some concoctions created with this delicious liqueur.

I leave you with my latest offerings.

socks, completed about 2 weeks ago

In different light

Pie for Pi Day!  A blueberry cupcake creation that would have benefited from a tablespoon of cornstarch to soak up the inevitable juice of frozen blueberries.  It was, nonetheless, yummy!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Berry Good

The blackberries I picked up at the grocery store this week were pretty well picked over by last night and I knew one more night out would leave them looking a little rough, so jam it all!  I measured them out and threw sugar over them in 3:2 ratio of berries to sugar.  That is a mathematical PITA when you have just over 2 cups of berries, so I in reality, eyeballed it and put them in the refrigerator overnight to deal with today.

yes, that looks like a lot of sugar, but the berries are winning, honest!
Fast jamming of small batches seems to work quite nicely in my skillets and this being an especially small batch, I took a chance on the 10" skillet having enough room without boil over.  I did some fast stirring but lucked out and it did not foam over.  What an amazing mess on a glass top stove that would have been had I been wrong!  I smushed about 2/3 of the berries with a potato masher to give some body to the jam while still leaving a few whole berries as a nice surprise here and there.

I had 3 sadly whizzled up Meyer lemons in the refrigerator so I juiced those for a little acid insurance (and a zippy taste to my jam).  Once it started to look "jammy" - and really, you will know - I pulled it off the stove to a hot pad and filled my sterilized jars.  To can, they spend 10 minutes in the water bath canner, plus 15 for my special high-altitude location.  I am now wise to the idea of removing the canner from the heat and let it sit, lid off, for 5 minutes before removing my jars to cool unmolested on the counter. 

That's it.  As easy as that and I saved fruit from a white fuzzy death or consumption by the dog, who loves berries and aren't I excited about that for the someday in my future when I get berry bushes. 

Blackberry jam

Sunday, January 15, 2012

not your momma's lemonade

My squeals of joy made the produce guy at King Soopers laugh when I found Meyer lemons were back in the bins, neatly hidden by bags of just-not-the-same Eurekas and Lisbons.  I snagged 4 bags and made tracks for home to mix up some limoncello!

Peel 5 lemons, carefully avoiding the pith, which is bitter
Peel an orange as well and add all pith-less peelings to a half-gallon sized mason jar. Yes, such an animal can be found, typically in Ace Hardware or some other place where you are not anticipating mason jars.  Any giant Costco-sized pickle or olive jar from that binge you'd rather not talk about will do, so long as it is well-scrubbed.  Add 3/4 cup of simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, heated on the stove until dissolved) or more to your sweetness preference.  Juice all of your citrus and add that to the jar.  Top it with 3 cups of 80 proof vodka and give it a gentle shake.
I went with a micro-distillery vodka that is *gasp* gluten-free but you can really use inexpensive vodkas.  The lemon will shine through regardless

Stow your mason jar of fancy moonshine in a cool, dark place.  Swirl it every few days and taste it once a week until it tastes good to you, strain and hide it from your friends!  Once they taste it, everyone will want some!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I've been making things!

My mind has just stubbornly refused to let me commit them to blog!  So...before Christmas, I stumbled across some Meyer lemons for sale at our local King Soopers.  I'd heard so much about them in my canning cookbook perusal - they are the end all and be all of lemons - so into the cart they went.  I pulled out 2 jars, sterilized the bejeebers out of them as this was a "sit on the shelf in a cool, dark place" project, and set to work with gloves on to protect my Colorado-dry winter cuticles from the salt.

oh so pretty!

My recipes, I looked over several, directed me to slice off the ends, quarter the lemons (but not all the way through), pack salt (kosher or sea) in between the wedges and stuff in the jars.  I also added bay leaves - I really need to hit Savory Spice soon and pick up some fresher bay leaves - black pepper corns, and cinnamon sticks.  Cover with more lemon juice and off to the shelf it went!

After several weeks on the "cool, dark shelf" of my basement pantry
Two nights ago, I made dinner with my preserved lemons!  Chicken, Artichoke Heart and Preserved Lemons with Rice.  It was delicious although in the future, I have a better idea of how much preserved lemon to use.  I pulled a quarter out using a clean fork and butter knife (to separate it from the rest of the lemon) and diced it very fine before adding it to the mixture in the pan.  The lemon rind was softened and the whole jar had a clean, salty-sweet smell.  Risotto may well be up next, but I am certainly on the hunt for new recipes involving preserved lemons.

the lemon peel had softened and the overall smell was divine