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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fruit Cobbler

This is one of those go-to recipes that I've used dozens of times with various flavor combinations. I love recipes like this. This is adapted from Jane Brody's Good Food Book, subtitle Living the High-Carbohydrate Way. Even though carbs have gone out of style, there are a lot of great, wholesome recipes in her book. I highly recommend it.

Ms. Brody's original recipe is for fresh blueberries. I've doubled her proportions and added more flavors. She doesn't even add vanilla. I find this puzzling. She also declares that her version, half the size of mine, serves 8 people. Not at my house sister. Did you serve it in a thimble?

The version you see pictured was made on clean-out-the-fridge day. I used some slightly aged fruit to good advantage. There were two apples, two peaches, four small plums and a hand full of blueberries. You can also use frozen fruit, but the baking will take longer.

I used vanilla, ground cardamom and cinnamon to flavor this combination of fruit. Here are a few more winning combinations:
Sweet cherries and almond extract

Blueberries, vanilla and lemon zest

Apples, lemon juice and cinnamon

You get the picture. Be adventurous!

Fruit Cobbler
1 1/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
ground spices of your choice, 1/2 tsp. each
1 1/3 cup milk (skim is fine for this)
extract of your choice, 1 tsp. for vanilla, 1/2 tsp. for all others
1/4 cup butter
4 cups chopped fruit
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in a 2 quart casserole dish and place in the oven to melt the butter. Meanwhile, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices. Add milk and extract and stir until smooth. When the butter is hot and bubbly, pour in the batter and sprinkle the batter with the fruit. Do not stir. The butter will melt into the edges of the batter and make it crispy and delicious. Bake about 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center come out with no raw batter on it. Cool slightly and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Serves six at my house. That's 296 calories per serving, before the whipped cream or ice cream.

Almost Spicy Zucchini Relish

Isn't this rosette of zucchini lovely. This is the product of the best thing I ever bought at a yard sale...

This is a Mouli. Mine is embossed with the words, "a 'MOULI' PRODUCT...PATENTS PENDING." I'm thinking they made a fortune. You can purchase modern Moulis, but they are mostly plastic except for the blades. There is something really satisfying about processing a big bunch of veggies by hand without the noisy drama of a food processor.

This zucchini relish recipe started with my Grandma Betty. I remember liking it very much. When I saw the large, overgrown squashes at the farmer's market, I knew they would be perfect for this. I used several varieties of green and yellow summer squash and grated them with the Mouli. I chopped the other veggies.

I wanted to spice it up, so I added jalapenos and red pepper flakes. When I started this blog, I said that I would let you learn along with me. This relish is one to chalk up to the learning curve. I'm not used to working with peppers, and I tend to be a bit too cautious. I only added two chopped jalapenos and one teaspoon of red pepper flakes for 10 cups of squash. Upon my last tasting, it was not spicy at all. Sigh. I even labeled it as spicy, and I feel like that's false advertising. Also, it is very sweet. If it had been really hot, I think that would have cut the sweetness, but sweet is what you get in a bite full of this. It's not bad though. I had it on hot dogs, and it has a nice crunch and the onions and bell peppers come through. On my next attempt, I will use less sugar and a lot more jalapenos. I'll also slice the jalapenos and include the seeds. This should be pretty as well as hot.

The finished product looks nice, and I'm sure Grandma Betty and my mom will like it.
Here's the recipe, along with my notes for future changes:
Zucchini Relish
10 cups grated zucchini
4 cups finely chopped or grated onion
2 finely chopped bell peppers (color is your choice)
jalapenos to taste (I used two that were seeded and chopped. Next time, I'm thinking 6, sliced with seeds for more heat)
5 Tbsp. salt
Mix these together and let stand 6 hours or overnight. A lot of liquid will be drawn out of the vegetables. When salt soak is completed, drain and rinse thoroughly and allow to drain while preparing jars.
Prepare 6 pint jars and lids. Prepare boiling water bath.
Put the veggie mixture in a large pot and add
2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
4 cups sugar (Too sweet for me! Next time, I'll try 3 cups)
1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
2 tsp. celery seeds
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (could use more)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
Mix well and heat on medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Turn to medium-low and simmer until thick - about 35 minutes. Ladle into prepared jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Serve with hot dogs, sausages, or stirred into tuna or chicken salad.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Birthday Pickles

What does a girl like me do on her birthday? I live in one of the hottest cities on Earth. Too hot for a B-Day party at our unairconditioned home, that's for sure. This hot valley of ours grows stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. Even when it's unusually cool, say 96 instead of 106, lots of stuff grows. So, a girl like me cans. I had a couple of loving friends call me and ask what I was doing. They were all happy that I was doing just what I wanted, all declined to join me. Why do people object to a hot kitchen?

My dear hubby and I went to breakfast and went to the farmer's market. I took 4 or 5 recipes with me and hoped we would find the right things for at least one of them. I found a lot of good things, but it is still too soon for lots of tomatoes. Soon my friends, soon.

These are sweet pickles for Dwayne. We've taste tested these already, and they are pretty good, but they are a bit sour. I used the brine that I usually use for sweet pickled onions, but added more sugar. Most of the recipes I saw for sweet pickles called for a multiple day process of brining, but I wanted the same crunchy texture I got with the dill pickle recipe from a few weeks ago, so I used the method from that, but changed the brine.

These are my favorite onion pickles. Sweet and sour and a little spicy. These are great on any kind of sausage. One of my favorite ways to eat these is on an avocado and salmon sandwich. Yum!

I had extra sweet brine from the sweet pickles, so I did two jars of pickled carrots. I was dubious about carrots staying crunchy after boiling in the water bath for 15 minutes, but they are crunchy as can be! I will certainly be making garlic dill carrots!

With my score of giant zucchini, I made sweet and spicy zucchini relish. I've had this on turkey dogs already, and I'm happy with the results. Next time I may use a bit less sugar. This is from my Grandma Betty's recipe, but I added some chopped jalapenos and red pepper flakes.

I think I've found a basic cold-pack pickle methodology that I like and will reuse again and again with different veggies and different brines. Food safety dictates that I follow USDA guidelines and watch the acidity, but the rest of the ingredients can be very flexible.

Basic Cold Pack Pickles

About 1/2 lb. of raw veggies for each pint
Brine of your choice, following USDA guidelines or reputable recipes
Spices of your liking

Clean and trim the veggies. Make them pretty and uniform. Remember to cut away the blossom ends of cucumbers. For cucumbers, soak in ice water 2 hours or up to over night. (I did not soak the carrots in ice water and will report on other veggies as I get to them.)

Clean and sterilize jars and place clean lids and jar rings in hot water. Keep jars and lids hot until use. Bring your water bath up to a boil.

Carefully pack the clean, hot jars with the veggies. Pack them tight as they will likely shrink during processing. Leave 1/2 inch head space. For cut veggies, place uniform pieces around the jar for appearance and stuff any bits and pieces down the middle. Put spices, herbs or other flavoring in each jar. Some brines are made with the spices boiled in the brine, either loose or in a sachet. Another method is to measure the spices into each jar and then pour the boiling brine over everything. The advantage of the second method is even distribution of flavor.

Prepare the brine you have chosen and bring to a boil. (Make a lot of brine. It's cheap and any leftovers can be used for refrigerator pickles.) Pour the boiling brine over the veggies in the jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Use a chop stick to poke down into the veggies and release any air bubbles. Wipe the rims. This is especially important for brines with sugar. Sticky! Place the lids and rings on the jars and tighten just enough to hold everything together. Place in boiling water bath and process 15 minutes for pints. (Smaller veggies, or veggies that have been precooked, such as for relish will have shorter processing times - about 10 minutes for pints. I have not done quarts yet, but I think it would be safer to process these for 20 minutes.) Carefully remove from boiling water bath and allow to cool, undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Check seals and label. Pickles will increase in flavor as they brine.

For the sweet cucumber pickles and the carrots I used this method and the following brine:

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. red chili flakes (optional - I did not use this for these, but wish I had for the carrots)

The sweet onion pickles are from Food In Jars, my favorite canning blog. These have truly become a household staple.

I'll post the updated version of Grandma Betty's Zucchini relish on another post.

Happy Pickling!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Orange Marmalade Bars

My lovely and talented cousin, Genny, designed a beautiful invitation for my mom and dad's 50th wedding anniversary. Today was the day to punch and stick and glue all the bits and pieces together. They came out so darn cute. I'd post one here, but my mom is getting hers in the mail and I want it to be a surprise. Maybe I'll post it in a few days.

I wanted to bring a sweet treat for our luncheon today, so I made these orange marmalade bars. They were inspired by Giada on Food Network, but you know I had to do it my way. She used a tube of refrigerated sugar cookie dough for the base of hers and marmalade from the store. I have plenty of marmalade at my house, so no need to buy that. You all can use the purchased dough if it makes your life easier, but I'd rather make my own than make a trip to the store.

For my base, I used the Vanilla Nut Icebox Cookie recipe from this McCall's Cookie Collection book from 1965. This is one of the many cookbooks I inherited when we moved into my great grandma's house. One of the things I like about this book is that it gives a basic technique and then a number of variations. I think of most of my cooking in component parts that can be changed around to suit me. For example, this flavor combination is vanilla cookie, marmalade, toasted almonds and very dark chocolate. I think I would also like to try this with almond cookie, cherry preserves, toasted almonds and very dark chocolate. It's always got to be dark chocolate.

Here's the finished product. Yum Yum Yum! Luckily, I was able to disperse these treats after eating only two. If any of you out there in the blososphere try this with different flavor combinations, I'd love to hear about it.

Orange Marmalade Bars

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2/3 cup soft butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups good orange marmalade (I like mine!)

4 oz. toasted sliced almonds (Trader Joe's sells them in an 8 oz. bag)

4 oz. dark chocolate (I used Girardelli's 60 % cacao chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together onto a flexible cutting board or parchment paper.
Beat the butter and gradually add sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy.
Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick spray and spread with the cookie mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool and spread with the marmalade, then sprinkle with the toasted sliced almonds. Melt the chocolate in the microwave. I use the defrost setting for one minute at a time until the chocolate can be stirred smooth. Use a teaspoon to drizzle the chocolate over the almonds in a cross hatch design. Allow the chocolate to set before cutting. Makes 18 bars.

I know I usually give you the calories. Right now, I just don't want to know. Enjoy!

Monday, July 5, 2010

New Stuff!

This week is known as Festival Week in the Covey house. Wednesday is Dwayne's birthday, Friday is our 27th wedding anniversary, and Sunday is my birthday. Thursday and Saturday are affectionately known as "Skip Days." Because we've just returned from a fabulous trip, and I've had to make a sizable deposit on next May's vacation, we decided to keep it simple for Festival Week this year.

"What do you want for your birthday?"
"I don't know. Maybe a kitchen scale. That way I wouldn't have to weigh stuff in the bathroom."
(Note: No food touches bathroom surfaces. I weigh, first without the item, then with.)
"The bad news is, we'd actually know how much 4 ounces of meat is..."

Tonight we stopped by Target because Mr. Dwayne has lost so much weight that he found he didn't have dress slacks for VIP visitations at work this week. It's no good to dress up if your pants threaten to fall down. As we strolled through Target, there is was! A whole end cap with canning stuff! Not only canning stuff, but super cool NEW canning stuff. My birthday wishes started to expand as fast as I could load the card.
I'm especially exited about this cute and functional Home Canning Discovery Kit. Check out that cute little silicone basket! I can drop three jars into my stock pot for a small batch and I don't have to heat up the whole tamale steamer full of water. I've been researching pickles and food safety all week. I'm so happy that I can experiment in small batches and see how things turn out before cranking it up to a major production. In my research, I also found that food safety information has changed considerably since the 70's. I will always keep my old Ball Blue Book from 1974. It, and lots of the cookbooks I enjoy and use belonged to my great grandma. With this new one, I'll be sure that everything I give to my loved ones will be healthy and delicious. I'm feeling a kind of fervor for the farmer's market and all the possibilities.

"What do you want to do for your birthday?"
"I think I want to go to the farmer's market and make something."

Isn't it great that I have a husband who asks me these questions and helps me load the cart with fun goodies? Thank you Sweetie!

Isn't it exciting that I don't know what I will make yet? It will be whatever is beautiful and abundant. I might even pick blackberries up in the hills. Ah! Summertime!
(I should also find a kiddie pool!)