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Sunday, October 31, 2010

bring out the slow-cooker!

Hooray for some fall weather,it's about dang time.It  didn'troll some in with a parade and marching band,but quietly eased in with some cooler temperatures and some much needed rain,albeit one good day of some good rain,but I am not complaining AT ALL! And with the leaves falling, the cooler temperatures gives me a big excuse to break out the slow-cooker.Oh the new recipes to try and the ol' trusty ones that have never failed me...it's time to gather all your ingredients and throw them in one pot and let the magic of a huge ceramic crock and one heck of a heating element do it's thang.
  The slow-cooker was a brilliant invention and definitely helped out for this past Sunday's family dinner night.I had decided to make just a couple more canning recipes,ok actually my last canning recipes for the season...I know sad. Take a moment if you need to,I did...
   I made fall-in-a-jar and this plum goodness and I wouldn't have been able to pull it all of without a. my patient,kind and helpful husband AND b. my trusty slow-cooker.I tell you what there's nothing like a warm bowl of taco soup after a long hard day of canning.And throw your pretty awesome family members in the mix and it made for a wonderful evening.

Slow-Cooker Taco Soup
adapted from allrecipes.com
Ingredients:
2 TBL vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic,crushed
1 medium onion,diced
1 packet taco seasoning mix
1 packet ranch dressing seasoning mix
1 15-ounce can pinto beans
 -rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can black beans
-rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can whole kernel corn
with liquid
2 cans Rotel
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
1 c water
1 15-ounce tomato sauce
Directions:
1. In a large skillet,heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic until fragrant add in ground beef and both seasoning packets,taco and ranch. Stir into ground beef and brown meat,spooning off any excess liquid that should cook off. After meat is browned and mixture is cooked through,drain mixture on a paper towel-lined plate.
2. Transfer meat mixture to the bowl of the slow-cooker and add the rest of the ingredients,stir in to mix together. Cook on LOW for 8 hours or HIGH for 6 hours. Garnish with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. This was so darn good,I mean it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

might have helped.

   So back in school I used to have to turn in book reports.You know what book reports are,don't you? They are those evil assignments given by teachers that require you a. to sit still for an extended amount of time, b. to READ a book of some sort and c. "report" on it.I had to read a smallish book,usually fiction (a huge,million page novel in my 3rd grade mind) and report such interesting facts like the title,author's name,general subject matter and what you liked about the book. Sadly enough it's been a million years so I don't remember the actual requirements for the report,but you get the idea.  I usually fared well on these assignments,but would invariably miss some major point of interest,get counted off for it and well needless to say I, from that point on, tried my dangedest (spelling,also important) to gather all the necessary details needed to complete the assignment . I even rounded up a few extra details about the story just to show that I had my you know what stuff together and threw those interesting little tidbits into the now fantastic report. My teacher would read that report and quickly get swept up into the world of Ramona Quimby or have a caper to solve with Nancy Drew,hopefully.
   The funny thing is those little,itsy,bitsy details that I used to get counted off for,well...sometimes,on the rare occasion...once in a blue moon I still miss those little fun facts. Luckily by grace or sympathy, everything usually works out just fine. Such a happening occured last Friday night.We had a good friend to dinner and it was a pretty wonderful evening even if the main dish on the menu changed 2 hours before the meal began. I had plans to make this Coq Au Vin recipe from Martha Stewart and was all geared up for some cripsy-skinned chicken pieces coated in a rich,red wine/tomato broth and some mushrooms and pearl onions to savor with each bite of chicken.Oh I had thought about this meal ALL DAY ! I had all my ingredients ready to go and having had made this TWO times before that night, I was 85% certain I had my you know what stuff together. I got home from work and decided to read over the recipe just one more time,.... yep the little fun fact that I missed : marinating the chicken overnight in red wine.HA! details,shmetails. Darn it to heck,must find Plan B quickly,like now. Well Plan B was calling my name and it was Chicken Fricassee With Garlic and Red Wine Vinegar. Thank my lucky stars that Virginina Willis had it together for me. I knew that this recipe was a tiny bit similar to Coq Au Vin since Ihad made it once before and my friend would never know the difference (if I hadn't told him,apparently marinated,baked feta and Parmesan Triscuits brought out the slight confession...).I gathered all my ingredients together and got to cookin'! The meal turned out great and the conversation even better.The cookbook by Virginia Willis is called Bon Appetit Ya'll and is beautifully written.The recipes are all very accessible,the pictures are appetizing and the stories she shares with you the reader are not to be forgotten in any book report.Enjoy!
Chicken Fricassee with Garlic and Red Wine Vinegar
adapted from Bon Appetit' Ya'll by Virginia Willis
page 105
Ingredients:
1(4-5 lb) chicken cut into 8 pieces
*I just used 4 bone-in,skin-on chicken legs
and 4 bone-in,skin-on chicken thighs*
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 TBL unsalted butter
1 TBL canola oil
4 cloves garlic,crushed
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes,crushed with liquid
1 cup chicken stock,reduced-fat,low-sodium
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh parsley
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Directions:
1.To cook the chicken,season with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil over medium heat in a large,straight-sided skillet or sauce pan (not cast iron,as it will interfere with the acidic tomatoes and vinegar,
* I used enameled cast iron and it worked fine,bare cast iron would not fare well.
Add the chicken,skin side down,without crowding the pan. Cook until rich,golden brown on both sides,3-5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate.
2. Pour off all but 1 TBL of fat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant,45-60 seconds . Add the vinegar and scrape with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stand back when adding the vinegar,because when it hits it will produce strong vinegar fumes. Return the chicken to the skillet. Add the tomatoes with their liquid,chicken stock,bay leaf,parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil,then decrease the heat to medium-low,cover and cook until the chicken is tender and the juices run clear,an additional 30-45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
3.To make the sauce-remove the chicken pieces to a warmed serving dish. Increase the heat to high,and cook the sauce until reduced and lightly thickened,about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper,remove the whole herbs and pur the sauce over the chicken and serve. Delish I tell you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mid-week moment #2.

Oh gosh,it's Wednesday....yep almost Friday.Don't we all wish we could take a nap this good,it would so help getting to Friday.

This is Winston. He's one of our cats and he takes naps like this all the time,like everyday.Everyday for Winston is Friday.Love that cat.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

granny smith heaven.

See our cabin...it's right up there at the top toward the center,see it. Yep that's the one! Actually nope that's not it but it's looks to be a pretty swanky place to stay.
         So this past weekend we visited Gatlinburg,Tn. It's a lovely little town,tons of shopping and amazing views.It was a wonderful trip and really nice just to get away for the weekend with some pretty wonderful people.One of the moments that will forever stick in my memory is driving through Cade's Cove . We got to see the amazing landscape that really humbles you quickly. The greens and browns and deer and horses and oh my gosh,what a treat. The real treat was towards the end of the drive when we were waiting patiently in the line to drive out this incredible landscape. We were hungry,needed to use the facilities and were about to scrap over the last peppermint I had in my purse. I know not desperate but nonetheless hopeful. Thank heavens my in-laws (saintly,generous folks) have a snazzy mid-size SUV and the have sirius radio installed in that baby. We found the blue collar comedy station (channel 103,if you were wondering...) and that made the ride back into the big city super funny,like so funny you-might-for-a-split-second-forget-you-needed-to-use-the-facilities funny.And then snap your fingers,you drive this steep,windy road and ta-da! you're back at the red light at the tail end of town and it takes you right to a pretty amazing Italian restaurant,but more to come on that another day.
  
  The slightly less funny,but nonetheless awesome moment that will stay with me in my culinary mind, will be the moment I tasted the apple butter I made specifically to enjoy with breakfast, on that very same trip. Maybe it was the feelings of fall and the crisp,applely (it's a word for now,thanks) thoughts that a trip to the Rockies, I mean Smokies might conjure up or just a nice breakfast with a big ol' cup of coffee and some toast that was the gusto I needed to make this jam. Its a pretty classic recipe as apple butter recipes go,but it does take a little patience to stir all of the crisp,applely (last time I promise),spicy flavors and fit all into one jar.You've got it in you I just know you do and you WILL pat yourself on the back when you taste this granny smith goodness.Enjoy!
Apple Butter
adapted from the folks at simplyrecipes.com
(I haven't made a recipe from these people that
wasn't amazing and definitely a keeper,give 'em a try,
thank me later.)
makes about 3 pints or 6 8-ounce jars
Ingredients:
4 lbs of good cooking apples,I used Granny Smith
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
Sugar (about 4 cups,see cooking instructions)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
Equipment needed:
1 wide 8-quart preserving pan
food mill or a chinois sieve (cone-shaped colander of sorts)
A large 8-cup measuring cup pourer
6-8 8-ounce canning jars
Directions:
1. Cut the apples into quarters,without peeling or coring them (this is the best part of this whole recipe) much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels,cut out the damaged parts.
2. Put them into the large pot,add the vinegar and water,cover,bring to a boil,reduce the heat to simmer,cook until the apples are soft,about 20 minutes. Remove them from the heat.
3. Ladle the apple mixture into a chinois sieve (or foodmill) and using a pestle (or cranking the foodmill) force the pulp through the sieve into a large bowl below. Measure the resulting puree'. Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir in to the apple pulp to dissolve the sugar. Add a dash of salt,and the cinnamon,ground cloves,all spice and lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
4. Cook uncovered in a large,wide,thick bottomed pot on medium-low heat,stirring constantly to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom. Cook until thick and smooth (here comes that patience part I mentioned... this part will take 1-2 hours,it will go quicker than you think). A small bit spooned onto a chilled (in the freezer) plate will be thick,not runny. (you can also cook the mixture on low heat stirring occasionally,but this will take WAY longer) * note the wider the pan the better,as there is more surface area for evaporation.*
5. Prepare your canner,jars and lids. Pour the apple mixture into hot,sterilized jars and seal. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lid. Process the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal. Let cool overnight. (oh did I mention this apple butter defies gravity,if it sets correctly,you can turn the jar over and it shouldn't move from the jar,it's that thick,darn fine.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mid-week moment #1.

This is a picture taken through the lens of the telipscope-thing at the top of the space needle in Gatlinburg,Tn.(neat picture huh,it was a long shot but it worked!)We visited there Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas this past weekend and it was won-der-ful! Gorgeous weather and great family vacation.
And here's another picture taken from the same place as the one above-talk about beautiful.It was a breath of fresh air and I figured you might need one too on this blah Wednesday. Enjoy! (Soon to come,apple butter.It was the icing on the cake of this fall vacation.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

some new all-time favorites.

     I've just finished watching my new all-time favorite show,...well maybe not all-time favorite but it's most definitely in my top 10 favorite tv shows.It's Modern Family and it's funny,real funny.It's on ABC and you should watch it next time it's on,love it.
   So during the commercials, I'm flipping through the new Pottery Barn catalog that I found in my mailbox when I got home from work today,geez. Talk about some new favorites,the monogrammed stuff,this classy quilt(for the moment quilts are classy,just like brooches,brooches can be classy too) and oh geez Louise,they have a mason jar chandelier and it's a looker.And ya know I looked to my left and notice the mason jars that I have,the vintage blue big ol' mason jars that are now displayed above my kitchen cabinets and might I add filled with different kinds of beans and pasta (and one has hot tea in it but whose counting).Take that Pottery Barn.
   I have compiled a short list of my new all-time favorites,they are cool and this list-making business was a quick diversion from the Pottery Barn catalogue that so cleverly had grabbed my attention.Here goes:


Ta-da! mason jars filled with beans or pasta.Vintage,klassy and practical.And talk about classy if you'll notice the big ol' bag of cocoa puffs and the box of raisin bran just below the cabinet,now that's practical if you ask me.
And next on this fantastic list of new all-time favorite things:greeting cards from 
these fine folks. Good gravy they are funny,like blush-with-an-evil-grin-to-boot funny.I can't tell you what's typed on the inside of this card,but go check out their website and get lost in the laughs.
Oh it's all kinds of wrong and she talks dirty about you and yo tupperware.


Next,this cookbook.I have a lot,I mean A LOT of cookbooks and my continuous challenge is to make it through each one cover to cover.Now I am well aware that it will take years to overcome that challenge and the heavens help me after we have kids,I won't even remember what I had for dinner or if I had dinner...
Before I sat down to watch my new all-time favorite show Modern Family,I made some cookies from this cookbook.The folks at King Arthur have got it together,heck they've had it together longer than I been baking cookies or even reading cookbooks for that matter.I'll let you know how the cookies turn out until then,Enjoy
Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
page 302
Ingredients:
2 1/4c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c vegetable shortening
4TBL(1/2 stick) butter
2TBL vegetable oil
2 1/4 c brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c yogurt,plain or vanilla,
regular or low-fat
(I used sour cream,well because it's a 
good substitute and it's all I had)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 c rolled oats
1 1/2 c raisins
Directions: 
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour,baking soda,salt,cinnamon and nutmeg.
2.In a large bowl cream together the shortening,butter,oil, and brown sugar.Add the eggs,one at a time,beating well after each addition. (for this step I used my stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment).
3. Stir in the oats and raisins,then add the flour mixture,in three additions,beating well after each addition.
**At this point I let the dough chill overnight.I think it helps the cookies hold their shape when baking,who knows.This trick works well with cookie dough that's made with all butter,these have shortening,so we'll see!***
4.Drop the batter from a tablespoon-size cookie scoop (or from a tablespoon) onto a parchment-lined baking sheets.Bake cookies for 14 minutes.Rotate baking sheet halfway through baking,this helps for even baking.They'll be light tan;don't let them brown,or they'll be crisp instead of chewy/Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes,then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.They'll be delicate when warm,then chewy as they cool.Store the cookies in a tightly closed container or plastic bag.These are gonna be good!



Monday, October 11, 2010

we go way back.

         Oh me and the honey bear we go way back.Funny I've had a few birthdays since we met and the honey bear hasn't changed a bit. The first memory I have of this cute little plastic bottle was in my Grandmother Sue's kitchen over on Minor Rd. I don't have lots of memories of that house ,but the few I do have I relish.
         I remember making biscuits at the kitchen counter. I remember watching cartoons on Saturday mornings and I remember the plastic pool she had in the backyard.Oh yeah and don't forget the sandbox and Slip-n-Slide. We all remember the Slip-n-Slide don't we? Ok maybe not.Allow me to explain: It was essentially a plastic mat that you ran water over then sat back and watched as the unsuspecting little kid backed up as far as she could go in the yard,started running as fast as she could,then slid into home base on the Slip-n-Side and ultimately sliding face first into the grassy spot at the end of the water-soaked mat.Oh my gosh those were the days.I have a few pictures of these fabulous days of my childhood,but will spare the long walk down memory lane and also spare the sweet family members in those photos, who might not enjoy seeing themselves at three years old playing in that green plastic turtle-shaped sandbox in her purple bathing suit, sister you know who I'm talking about don't you???
    Ok back to me and the honey bear. Somehow either be it my affinity for said honey bear or for the honey inside was just that good,the honey bear has followed me over the years.It has always been in the kitchens in the different houses I grew up in and now has made it's home in mine. Incidentally,my sweet,crafty Grandmother Sue also carried one in her coffee bag when she came to visit (after she moved to Kissimmee,Florida-um, can we mention Disney World memories,oh goodness we'll be here all night,moving along). She always brought with her in her luggage the coffee kit. My grandmother is a connoisseur of instant coffee.Yep folks apparently being a coffee snob runs in the family. She has tasted and tried all kinds of brands and would graciously bring you up to speed on her favorites. She prefers to use honey in her cup of coffee instead of granulated sugar and therefore toted that honey bear in her coffee kit until the invention of honey sticks (little plastic straws filled with honey and sealed at each end for easy transport,oh technology).
    So when I saw this recipe for Honeyed Sunshine Pickles all I could do was smile and reach for some honey.I made these pickles on a wing and a prayer. The ingredients threw me for a loop at first,but I couldn't get my mind off this recipe. Could it be my love of honey or memories of the Slip-n-Slide,who knows. I do know that these  pickles have a hint of mustard,the sweetness of the honey and taste like summer. Enjoy!
Honeyed Sunshine Pickles
adapted from The Joy of Pickling,by Linda Ziedrich
pages 93-94
(oh yeah I first enjoyed these pickles on some bratwurst bought from 
the Downtown Memphis Farmers Market,made by these folks,oh what a treat.)
makes 7 pints
Ingredients:
7 lbs. ripe cucumbers,peeled,seeded and cut into
  crescents or 1-inch chunks
1 lb. onions,halved and sliced thin
1/4 c pickling or canning salt
21 thin slices fresh ginger
3 1/2 c cider vinegar
1 c water
1 1/4 c honey
1/4 c minced fresh hot peppers,such as jalapenos or Fresno peppers
2 TBL whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp whole celery seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 c golden raisins
Directions:
1. In a large bowl,toss the cucumbers and onions with the salt,and cover the vegetables with ice cubes from 2 ice trays. Let the vegetables stand at room temperature for 3-5 hours.
2. Drain the vegetables,rinse them and the drain the well again.
3. Put 3 slices of ginger into each of the 7 pint mason jars.
4.In a large,non-reactive pot ,bring the remaining ingredients to a boil,stirring to dissolve the honey. Add the drained vegetables and slowly bring the mixture back to a boil. Meanwhile prepare your canned,lids and jars.
Ladle the hot vegetables and liquid into the jars,leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Close the jars with two-piece caps. In a a boiling water bath,process the jars for  10 minutes.Or pasteurize the jars for 30 minutes by immersing them in water heated to 180 to 185 degrees.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Springtime in October.

My Saturdays usually consists of a routine(it is the spice of life you know). We get up,eat breakfast and off to the farmers market to pick up our produce. Next, we are off to our local produce store to pick up any more produce we will need for the week and any bulk frutis or vegetables I might need for canning. I have really taken on this canning stuff and Easy Way has made some money off of me.
  So I 'm wandering through the store picking up the produce needed for the week and I stumble upon asparagus.And no, it's not the little pencil-size asparagus I've seen for the last two months,oh no this is the pencil-size asparagus' big cousin from out west,GINORMOUS-size asparagus.Lookout! It's springtime all over again,watch out prosciutto I'm comin' for you.I immediately bought two bundles and made a beeline for the grocery to buy some cured pork.
   This past Saturday,I again am wandering through the aisles of the produce store. I have a list and have to stick with it,have to have to have to.I tend to have some attention issues,probably should have been medicated as a child,but oh well moving along... so therefore I have to follow the list.Oh, but wait it gets good,I broke away from the list when I saw again,those big 'ol bunches of GINORMOUS-size asparagus.I had a cover recipe from May to make and I wasn't wasting anymore time.See I knew I should have waited until OCTOBER to make the May cover recipe of Bon Appetit,I just knew it,dang list,ha!
This was good,real good.Oh my the creamy-Parmesan cheesy sauce that comes together so well was sooo  rich. The lemon brightened up the whole dish as lemon tends to do.Did I mention bacon is in there,yep ya still gotta have your pork,it made this dish hearty.of. And it falls right into the category,fast-easy-fresh.The folks at Bon Appetit are quite skilled and even compiled a nice little book of recipes that are fast,easy and wait for it...fresh. Clever.
Fettucine With Peas,Asparagus and Pancetta
Bon Appetit,May 2010
Ingredients:
12 ounces fettuccine or penne
3 ounces pancetta or bacon,chopped
1 1/4 lbs asparagus,trimmed,cut into
  1 inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh green peas,blanched
   1 minute in boiling water,drained,or frozen peas
   (do not thaw)
1 bunch green onions,thinly sliced,
     white and pale green parts,seperated
      from the dark green parts
2 garlic cloves,pressed
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
   plus additional for serving
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
3TBL fresh lemon juice
1 TBL finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley,divided
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil,divided
Directions:
1. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain,reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to the pot.
2. Meanwhile, cook pancetta in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon,transfer pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon of the drippings from the skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet,saute' 3 minutes. Add peas,white and pale green parts of green onions,and garlic;saute' until vegetables are just tender,about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Add vegetable mixture,1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid,dark green parts of green onions,1/2 cup Parmesan cheese,cream,olive oil,lemon juice,lemon peel,half of the parsley and half of basil to the pasta. Toss adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle with pancetta,remaining parsley and basil over. Serve,passing additional Parmesan cheese.ENOJY!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

CSA goodies.

      Just emptied out our CSa bag from the awesome folks at Downing Hollow Farms and look what I found,these good-lookin jewels. First thought Orangette,yep there was this recipe in her book A Homemade Life,something with radishes and butter and salt,I think.I will find the page with the recipe soon,until then this will be my inspiration.
And then... if the day couldn't have gotten any better, LOOK! basil. Fresh,crisp clean,aromatic basil.We got to our CSA booth at the Cooper-Young Farmers Market and I look down and lo and behold there it is a whole basket full of basil.(See now the heat killed off my basil and I had made peace with the fact that there was no more basil in my back yard. mmmm. ) The excitement was almost too much to handle and well Lori made my day . She said I could get a few handfuls and so I did and I was thrilled,could have skipped out of the parking lot. So I'm off to make basil banana pepper jelly and some pesto . Yep goin all out,wouldn't you if you had this much basil.