Monthly Archives: August 2011

Dilly Beans (and a few other dilly items)

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter D. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

I’ve really wanted to get into canning.  My grandmother canned all types of things when I was little (relishes, pickles, jams, etc), but I never had a chance to take advantage of her knowledge before she passed away. I regret that now big time.  She had the advantage of using things directly from my grandfather’s garden.  It was big as he often overplanted resulting in any visitor being sent home with at least one brown bag full of produce, lopsided pumpkins, or other piece of garden bounty.  I have fond memories of wondering the rows with him and snacking on fresh green beans as we go.  How I cherished those memories and wish I could relive a tenth of it.

Green beans are my most favorite veggie

But, as luck would have it, canning is hot right now.  However, my inner nerd is petrified of giving Kettle botolism and therefore ruining my canning career and killing off my test audience.  That would be a big downer.  When our summer CSA started free mini-workshops at pick-up and announced the first one would be pickling, I nearly came unglued I was so excited.  Finally, someone with decades of experience trapped in a room with me, stuck answering all my questions.

The last bean and the leftover spices

The good news is that pickling is essentially the gateway method to harder types of canning.  It’s simple, you can’t really mess it up, and better yet, you can’t really kill anyone with it (unless they OD on your pickles because they are so awesome).  To put it nicely, my inner nerd flourished at the CSA workshop.  Did I sit front and center and show up 15 minutes early?  Yes and yes.  Did I take notes and email the lovely woman with additional questions?  Of course.  Did I enviously eye other people’s veggies to pickle and wish I had thought of it?  Yes, and I may have even bummed  spare veggies off them just to try.

In a pickle.

The set-up was awesome.  The organizers brought a whole variety of recipes, herbs, and spices and let us have at it.  There were only about 8 or 10 of us in the class, so there was plenty of time for me to accost the experienced canners without monopolizing their time.  We discussed variations, family methods, and ways to mix it up.  I focused on making dilly beans.  They are my favorite pickled snack and they make a fantastic garnish for bloody mary’s.  I also made a jar of cucumber pickles and jammed a few extra veggies in just for fun (carrot coins and radish halves).  I used garlic, dill, black mustard seeds, all spice, and coriander seeds to flavor my pickles along with a classic cold pack pickle brine.  After packing all the ingredients, the jars were topped and left at room temperature in a cool dark place for 5 days.  Once a day I did invert each jar to recirculate the spices.  On the sixth day, I put the jars in the refrigerator to stop the pickling process and on the seventh day, we ate.  Overall, major pickling success.  I may get a little more creative next time and add other spices (hot peppers) or more spices, but we had no problems eating them all.

Dilly Beans (a cold pack pickle recipe)

Care of the lovely ladies at our CSA

Brine

1+1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup coarse kosher salt

5+1/2 cups water

Spices (use as desired)

3 sprigs dill

1 clove garlic, halved

coriander seeds

black mustard seeds

all spice seeds

Place spices in the bottom of jar.  Tightly pack cleaned veggies upto 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.  Fill jar with brine to cover veggies (but no higher that 1/4 from top of the jar).  Cap and leave at room temp in a cool place for 5 days.  Stored in the refigerator for 24 hours and then eat.  They won’t last long!

Enjoy!

Green beans are my most favorite vegetable.


Chocolate Curry Ice Cream

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter C. Stay tuned for the rest to come.
The other day I found myself home alone with a little time on my hands, and this situation usually leads to devious behavior.  After a quick scan of the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, I landed on an activity to occupy my time.  Now, I’ve been wanting to make this item for sometime now, but I never seem to have the ingredients on hand, or the time, or the audience who is willing to eat it.  But I figured, what the heck.  Its pouring outside, I’m in my pj at 7pm, and I’ve got nothing better to do.  Now’s the time.

This is the start of something good.

I made ice cream, but not just any ice cream.  I made a Chocolate Curry ice cream.  Yep, you read that right.  Chocolate curry.

In a curry.

We make ice cream a lot around the casa.  So much so, that the ice cream maker had to go on hiatus because our joy for the process was beginning to show and I don’t just mean in our happy smiles, I mean in our waistlines.  But I figured this was a good enough reason to bring it back out.

Chopped!

I started with a rich, velvety chocolate ice cream base.  Like super rich.  Kettle actually thought I had made a custard base, but really the chocolate flavor is just that rich.  I used both dark chocolate and chocolate cocoa powder, not because I’m that creative, just because I ran out of dark and realized the new container was just regular.  I also used a mix of milk and semi-sweet chocolate chunks, once again not because I am a cooking genius, but because that’s what I had on hand.    As for the curry powder, this is the step that requires the most care.  Curry is a very strong ingredient and could easily overpower the whole flavor scene.  I went with the less is more philosophy since it was a first attempt.  It wasn’t overpowering by any means, it just provided some spice and depth on the backside of each taste.  In the future, I may add a little more.  This step is really up to you though and requires excessive taste testing!

In need of a tongue bath

Chocolate Curry Ice Cream

based on a chocolate ice cream found here.

2+1/4 cups heavy cream

3 tbsp unsweetened dark cocoa powder

3 tbsp unsweetened milk cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

pinch of salt

3oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1 oz milk chocolate, chopped

1 cup whole milk

1 tsp vanilla

Curry powder to taste (I used 2 tsp)

Whisk together cream, cocoa powder, sugar and salt on stove and bring to boil.  Whisk in chopped chocolate until melted, then whisk in milk, curry, and vanilla.  Chill mixture in the refrigerator. Once cool, pour into ice cream maker and let stir for about 15-20 min (or as recommended by machine).  Transfer to freezer and enjoy!


Banana Bread

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter B. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

There aren’t too many recipes I can say are family recipes.  My mother, though I love her dearly, is definitely not known for her cooking.  At least not in a good way.  Simple was the name of the game growing up.  She always made sure we ate well.  Colorful and balanced plates were always achieved.  But creativity and flavor were not always a focus.  When I think back on my mom in the kitchen, I have vivid memories of the few items she did well.  They were the few items she made from scratch and she made them very well and the scents and tastes of those items bring me great joy.

Golden brown goodness.

Banana bread is one of them. Even now when the wafts of warm banana bread fill the kitchen, I’m taken back to cooking with my mom.  Instead of lamenting the ugliness of overripe bananas, mom would dig out the old recipe card, tucked somewhere on the cookbook shelf in the livingroom.  The cookbooks were hidden on the very bottom, left shelf, tucked behind the rocking chair, as they were not used often.  In fact, I can’t remember her actually using any of the books except to hold the tinged old recipe card with the banana bread recipe.

Hot out of the oven

Now I too have a well aged index card that I keep stashed away with the simple recipe for banana bread.  It’s the only recipe I actually keep on an index card, the rest are in a word document.  I have a fondness for pulling it out whenever we end up with overripe bananas.

Dig in.

Banana Bread

2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed

2 cups flour

2 eggs

1 stick butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

greased bread pan, I like a simple butter flour combo for this recipe

Bake at 350 for 45-55 min.

Nothing fancy here.  Just mash the bananas and stir in the rest of the ingredients.  Occasionally I will add a little cinnamon for some extra depth of flavor, but it good just as it’s written.  Serve warm with cream cheese or just plain.

Enjoy!


Back to School: Apple-Honey Shortbread Cookies

It’s back to school time here in the south.  As a northerner, I always find it odd seeing the school buses on their morning rounds before the temperatures have even thought about dropping.  Fall is one of my favorite parts about back to school, but there isn’t even hint of fall in the air down here, mostly just humidity.  And even though I myself am not heading back to school, my nostalgia hasn’t waned.  So I was inspired this week to work with the icon of back to school: apples.

A good way to keep the doctor away.

Yes, I know.  Gone are the days when students bring teachers apples, but there is something so classic about the apple I couldn’t resist. Plus, I have a new challenge to overcome at work.  Oh, don’t worry it’s not actually job related.  It’s cooking related.  Several of my coworkers are on diets.  The kind where you need to keep track of exactly what you are eating and count up things throughout the day.  I couldn’t be more supportive of their efforts, but it leads to a bit of a dilemma in terms of my baking.  You see they are often my test audience as much of my baking is for events at work (birthdays, fairwells, French lunch), so this new development has led me to look for ways to reduce the fat and up the health content of my recipes so that everyone can enjoy them.

Stacked.

This week for French lunch I decided to make cookies, but in an effort to appeal to my food conscious coworkers, I wanted to make something that tasted sweet but had a healthy bonus.  I settled on apple-honey shortbread cookies.  I used whole wheat pastry flour, grated apples, and honey to improve the content of these cookies.

Made with love.

I really like how they came out.  I used a smaller cookie cutter (1.5 inch heart) that made a ton of small cookies.  They were the great size for a quick snack, and they pair perfectly with tea.  I would probably reduce the sweetness a touch for the next batch, but that’s a personal choice.  Overall a great option for a group esp a morning meeting or snack.

Melt my heart

Apple-Honey Shortbread Cookies

Based on a recipe found here.
1+3/4 cup wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
1+1/4 sticks butter, at room temp
~1/3 cup grated apple
2 tbsp honey
Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whip together butter, honey and sugar.  Stir apple into butter/honey/sugar mixture.  Slowly fold in dry ingredients. Dough will be dry, but all ingredients will blend together.  Split dough in half, form into large disc, cover in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Roll out dough to ~1/2 inch thick and cut-out cookies with cookie cutter of your choice.  Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes on parchment lined cookie sheet.  Overall yield will depend on size of cookie cutter.
Enjoy!

Back to blogging

Sorry for the inexcusably long summer vacation here at the blog.  It was a very busy one full of all those major life events you rather space out (moving, finding a new job, etc).  I am happy to report all is well and I have lots of new thing to share!  Here is a quick photo recap of the summer to keep you happy until tomorrow when food posts return!

Nothing like putting your toes or suction cups in the sand.

Not the usual type of jelly we talk about here!

Lucky Horseshoe crab.

Sometimes it's nice to leave the city!

But it's always nice to return home again.


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