Monday, September 28, 2009

Still canning away as the frost swoops in

Summer waved good bye today. I had to put the plastic up on my living room and bedroom windows. Hard frost is finally going to hit tonight according the weather people of the north. I grabbed the rest of my tomatoes and made spaghetti sauce. It turned out wonderful. So this winter when it is -50 F, no I am not exaggerating either, I will have a little summer flavor to savor.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Canned Spaghetti Sauce
Makes 5 pints

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 tbsp. oil
½ large bell pepper, dice fine
3 ½-4 lb very ripe tomatoes
1 large can tomato paste
1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. beef bouillon
1 TBS dry Italian seasoning
1 tsp. pepper
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 bunch fresh parsley

In a large saucepan cook garlic,onion, and bell pepper in hot oil until tender.

Peel fresh tomatoes: Score tomatoes with an X using a sharp knife. Plunge tomatoes in boiling water 30 seconds. Immediately plunge in ice cold water, pull off skin.

Core tomatoes, dice. Add tomatoes, including juice and seeds, to onion/pepper mix. Using a stick blender or just using clean hands- blend or squish tomatoes until semi-smooth. You still want to be able to tell you've used fresh tomatoes so don't puree if using a stick blender.

Add remaining ingredients except parsley. Whisk together until uniform. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer on low for 1 1/4 hours.

Remove bay leaf. Taste for seasoning. Add chopped parsley.

Evenly distribute in sterile pint jars. Lid and ring. Process for 10 minutes. Cool. Tighten rings. Store in a cool, dark location until ready to use.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

By popular request

Dear husband wants me to share my dish for Korean Stir Fry.

A young man I know is from South Korea and was really missing home cooked Korean meals like his mom used to make. He brought me a recipe and asked if I could help him prepare it. It was so delicious I brought a copy of the recipe home to try in my own kitchen. It was a hit, Jon even asked to have it again, soon! And that's sayin' something!

So here by request is "chap ch'ae" (and no, I can't actually pronounce it correctly, in fact I was laughed at when I tried to repeat its pronunciation.... hence the name change to Korean Stir Fry).

On another note- my salsa turned out wonderful! I highly recommend adding Frank's Hot Sauce to it for a different heat profile. Yum yum!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Korean Stir Fry (chap ch'ae)
Serves 4

5 dried black mushrooms (shitaki mushrooms may be substituted)
4 TBS soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
4 teaspoons toasted, sesame seeds
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces or steak sliced thin
1 package cellophane noodles
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and cut into medium strips
1 cup bean sprouts
½ cup fresh spinach, chopped
5 teaspoons sesame oil

If using dried black mushrooms, put them into a small bowl and pour hot water over them. Soak for 20 minutes or until soft.

In a medium bowl, combine 2 TBS soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, garlic, 2 tsp sesame seeds, and chicken. Set aside.

Prepare noodles according to package directions.

Prepare chicken and vegetables:

In a large frying pan or wok, heat 1 TBS vegetable oil over high heat for 1 minute.

Add chicken mixture and fry, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is white and tender. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to noodles.

Wipe wok out with paper towels.

Heat 1 TBS vegetable oil over high heat for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute or until soft.

Repeat with remaining vegetables, cooking each one separately. (It is not necessary to wash and dry the pan between vegetables.)

Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds and 5 teaspoons sesame oil to noodle mixture and mix well. (Do not do this step in the wok or the sugar will burn and the dish will taste like burnt sugar, that's not yummy!

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Grandma's Salsa

When I was a kid, we'd go visit my grandparents in southern MN. In the summer my grandma had buckets and buckets of tomatoes. I loved to go visit and just eat them out of hand. They had so much flavor! Come fall, all those tomatoes were transformed into salsa, canned tomatoes, and other yummy treats to last the winter.

I planted tomatoes this year in the hopes I would get a good return so I too would be able to can some to enjoy later. Below is just a very small sampling of the 4 varieties I planted this year. Complete success in the square foot garden kiddos!

We've enjoyed tomato salads, BLT's, tomatoes with salt, tomato/basil pasta, I could go on for quite some time with all the ways Jon and I have eaten these wonderful little globes.

I was so today excited as we finally arrived at canning day! I wanted to make salsa the way my grandma did, so I emailed her and requested her recipe. She was so good to me and replied promptly.

After much chopping and tomato nibbling, I have 6 pints of Spranger Salsa. I can't wait to pop one of these jars open and give it a try!

I have many more tomatoes on the vine still getting ripe. Can't wait to make marinara sauce with them to enjoy the flavors of summer when I am trapped under 6 feet of snow this winter.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend! Cheers!

Grandma Spranger’s Salsa

5 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 ½ cups chopped jalapenos, seeded, cored, and rinsed*
2 cups diced onion
2/3 cup lemon juice
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ cup cilantro

Use the freshest tomatoes at peak season for best flavors. Can be canned or frozen.

To peel tomatoes, score tomato with an X and plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds. Shock in an ice bath so they are cool enough to handle. Skins should peel easily.

To freeze: Simmer all ingredients in a large pot for 30 minutes. Cool, add to freezer canning jars (plastic jars found in canning dept) or plastic containers.

To can: Sterilize glass jars (pints) and rings. Fill jars leaving a head space of about ½ inch or so. Lid and ring the jars. Be sure not to tighten rings too tight. Process jars for 40 minutes in simmering water. Cool. Tighten rings once completely cool. Give the jars a gentle shake to mix as the juices separate from the solids when processed. Store in a dark, cool place.

*For less heat, replace a portion of the jalapenos with bell pepper.

**For those of us who are allergic to cilantro- replace this with parsley, it's the not exactly the same, but it's a fair substitute.

What I did to personalize my salsa: I used 4 different varieties of tomatoes, decreased the amount of jalapeno to 3/4 cup and used red and orange bell pepper to make up the difference, added 6 cloves minced garlic, and I added Franks Hot Sauce as it is a different heat than jalapenos. One last note- I added Fresh Fruit color protector before I canned my salsa, this helps to prevent color fade.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation is....

So, I didn't really have a vacation, but seeing as school is back in session it only seems fitting to write a review of my summer.

Fall is upon us in Minnesota. I don't really know when summer arrived, but it's on its way out. It will toy with me for a few weeks. Some days will be sunny and 85 while other days will be foggy and 42. What does that mean for me? Adventure.

I have several irons in the fire metaphorically speaking. I have been busy canning, quilting, fishing, working, and swimming. I love it and wouldn't have it any other way. :) Gee, it's no wonder my mom says I would make a great Suzy Homemaker!

First things first- Below is a photo of a quilt I am working on. I decided to make a memory quilt of sorts. This quilt is made up of pieces of fabric from quilts I've made for people I love. I got this idea from a quilt I had growing up. My great grandma used to make quilts from her old aprons. There was so much love in those quilts. I wanted to look at my own quilt and remember the people and the events of my life. So, this is my way of preserving some of those memories.

Next on my list, canning. I love canning. This summer I've made jelly from mixed berries and rhubarb, and I took a stab at making dilly beans. All of this was done with ingredients from my own garden. Next on the list? Salsa and spaghetti sauce. One of the most exciting things for me was getting my own set of canning tools. Yes, I am a dork. Yes, I am ok with it!

I've read several books this summer. And yes, cookbooks count too! LOL. Ann Brashares, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and many more have been my constant companions. I don't see that changing with winter beginning to creep its way in. Cold nights mean cocoa and books :)

Fishing adventures abounded this summer. Jon and I went out often, I took the boys from work regularly, and of course, Kate and I went out River fishin' on the Mighty Mississippi in her boat. Yes, I learned how to back a trailer in for the first time. Yes, it still scares me!

Another of my great adventures has been walking with my walking partner, Corinne. She and her dog, Venus have been wonderful encouragement to me. We've been all over the place walking off the weight and strengthening our friendship, faith, and bodies.

My latest adventure was with Kate. We intended to go fishing on the River. We got to the river, got the boat in the water. And then the motor broke :( No fishing that day. Since there was still a lot of day left, we went with plan B. Snorkeling. We went to one of the local tacconite mine pits and dove in. Well, we didn't exactly dive it, it was a bit chilly at first. But we had a ball just swimming around the edge of lake exploring the world below the surface. Kate took pictures of me snorkeling away on my own little adventure!

So kiddies, that was my summer. What a summer it was. I look forward to new adventures this fall and winter!

Here's to you and your adventures, culinary or otherwise. Cheers!

Dilly Beans

2 lbs green beans, washed and trimmed
¼ cup kosher salt
2 ½ cups white vinegar
2 ½ cups water
4 cloves garlic
4 heads dill
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp black pepper

Combine water, vinegar, and salt in large saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer at least 5 minutes. Add a dash of franks hot sauce or cayenne pepper.

While waiting for the vinegar mixture to boil pack the jars with beans, 1 head of dill, 1 sliced garlic clove, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and mustard.

Pour the vinegar mixture into each jar until nearly full. Place lids on the jars.

Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Store in a dark, cool place for at least 2 weeks prior to eating.
-Makes 4 pints

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Squash+Cheese+Bacon= True Love!

I love food. I think food should be enjoyed deep into the soul. God gave us so many senses to enjoy the things of this world. Why waste them on boxed, bland, dull foods?

Part of the reason I enjoy gardening so much is I am close to my food. I plant it, nurture it, and harvest it. Then, I get to indulge in pure flavors you can't get from any supermarket.

Today I had leftover squash from my minestrone soup, leftover bacon from "The Best BLT EVER!" (I got to use lettuce and tomato from my own garden) and some delicious leftover provolone cheese from steak and spinach sammy's with pesto-mayo sauce. So I got to searching for a recipe that used them all. And guess what!? There is one from Cooking Light. YEA! I made some minor adjustments, but for the most part remained true to the original.

I topped off my meal with fresh tomato wedges with baby basil from my garden. Simple, sweet, decadent. All for only 449 calories per serving, I can handle that!

Just one final note, my hubby, whos disdain for squash cannot be put into words, LOVED this dish. And actually asked if there was more to be had!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Bake
Serves 3

1/4 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
Cooking spray
4 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw)
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
4 ounces uncooked spiral pasta
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
1 1/2 oz shredded sharp provolone cheese
3/4 oz grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, Italian Seasoning, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450°.

Dice bacon into bite sized pieces. Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until it begins to caramelize. Add shallots to pan; sauté about 8 minutes or until tender.

Combine squash and bacon/shallot mixture; set aside.

Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.

Combine flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium sized pot over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly.* Remove from heat. Add provolone and Parmesan, stirring until cheese melts.

Add pasta and squash mixture to cheese sauce, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray

Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

* If you are not so skilled at this step and your milk and flour mixture becomes lumpy, don't panic. Continue to slowly thicken the mixture. Once slightly thicken as the recipe calls for, simply strain your milk mixture through either cheesecloth or an old flour sifter. I prefer to use a flour sifter as it's just less messy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

MMM Fall!

My favorite season, autumn, is approaching rapidly. As I harvest things from my garden and things wind down from summer, I anticipate a winter of new soups. (Yes, I am still on my soup kick. There are so many variations and styles of soup, it is one of my mini life goals to try as many as I possibly can! I know it makes me a goofball, but I enjoy it.)

Today I made a quick fall minestrone with fresh veggies from my own garden. It's really easy to throw together and the aroma is unreal. Like the middle eastern soup with couscous, this needs to be eaten immediately as the pasta continues to suck up the broth. If you do have leftovers, simply add some water to your now stew when reheating to thin it back out to a soup state.

In my next entry I will go over my dilly bean recipe, given to me by a wonderful friend who now lives several states away.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend! Cheers!

Garden Minestrone Soup
Serves 4

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
1 1/4 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled baking potato
3/4 cup (1-inch) snapped green beans
1/4 cup diced carrot
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Jane's Crazy Mixed Up Salt, to taste
2 cups chopped kale
1/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/2 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
3 oz light kielbasa sausage, diced
1 oz grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 1/2 minutes or until tender.

Add broth and the next 7 ingredients (broth through salt); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes.

Add kale, orzo, sausage, and beans; cook 5 minutes or until orzo is done and vegetables are tender.

Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.