Friday, August 31, 2012

Apple, Apple Butter, Bacon and Peanut Butter Sandwich


I still have a lot of apples that I can’t let go to waste so am going to make some apple butter.  I’ll share the recipe I use and then a sandwich with it and with one of my favorite foods, bacon.  It makes a great picnic sandwich if you are picnicking this Labor Day weekend. 


Apple Butter

4 lbs of good cooking apples (Granny Smith well suited)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
Sugar (depending on how much apple pulp you have)
Salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

Cut the apples into quarters, without peeling or coring them (much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels), cut out damaged parts.

Cut them into large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer, cook until apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Ladle apple mixture into a chinois sieve and using a pestle force pulp from the chinois into a large bowl below. Measure resulting puree.  Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add a dash of salt, and the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Cook uncovered in a large, thick bottomed pot on medium low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom. Cook until thick and smooth (about 1 to 2 hours). A small bit spooned onto a chilled (in the freezer) plate will be thick, not runny. You can also cook the purée on low heat, stirring only occasionally, but this will take much longer as stirring encourages evaporation. (Note the wider the pan the better, as there is more surface for evaporation.)

Canning

There are several ways to sterilize your jars for canning. You can run them through a short cycle on your dishwasher. You can place them in a large pot (12 quart) of water on top of a steaming rack (so they don't touch the bottom of the pan), and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes. Or you can rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. If you plan to store the apple butter un-refrigerated, make sure to follow proper canning procedures. Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. I use a hot water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.

Yield: Makes a little more than 3 pint jars.

Peanut Butter, Apple and Bacon Sandwich


Some of my favorite flavors combined into a beautifully toasted, scrumptious sandwich.   

1/4 cup apple butter
8 slices your favorite bread
1 large green crisp apple
8 slices applewood smoked bacon (or plain bacon that your have painted with maple syrup)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 to 3 tbsp. butter

Lightly toast 4 slices of your favorite bread.  You are going to grill the toast, so only lightly toast so both sides of the bread are toasted.  Spread the 4 slices of bread with the apple butter. Top with apples and bacon. Spread one side of remaining bread slices with peanut butter; place (spread side down) over the apples and bacon. Spread sandwich tops with some of the butter.

Preheat griddle or very large skillet over medium heat. Carefully spread bread with butter.  Place sandwiches, buttered side down, on griddle. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side or until bread is golden and sandwiches are heated through. 

Variation:  Want to add a little more sweetness to it, paint your bacon with some maple syrup before you bake it in the oven or you can drizzle a little honey over the apples on the sandwich. 

Have a great Labor Day week end.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Cake (Gluten Free)


This maybe one of the best cakes I have ever made.  I first made it for a birthday cake many years ago and now have added it to my gluten free recipes I use for my grandson.  I thought I would share it.  You will not miss the flour, I promise.



Cake

6 1-ounce squares coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate or 6 oz. of simi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (I substitute the butter with oil since Saylor can’t have dairy)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F

Spray a round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray the paper to easily remove the cake.

Melt 6 ounces of chocolate and butter (or oil) in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat. Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth.

Add sugar and salt and reduce heat to low. Cook while stirring for about one minute, until sugar starts to dissolve.

Remove pan from heat and let cool slightly before adding eggs. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. The mixture will look smooth and glossy.

Use a mesh hand sieve to sift cocoa into mixture. This prevents lumps. Whisk until the cake batter is smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes. The center of the cake should be just firm to the touch, but be careful to not over bake the cake or it will be dry.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert the cake on a plate.

Serves 6

Syrup  

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of kosher salt
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

I’ve shared this recipe before, but it is tried and tested and is a wonderful chocolate syrup.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugars to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and whisk in the cocoa powder, salt, and corn syrup, whisking until all of the solids have dissolved.

Allow the mixture to simmer until it has slightly reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and cool to room temperature.

Pour into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate.  You may also use to make chocolate milk, pour over ice cream, or use in a recipe calling for chocolate syrup.

Makes 2 1/2 cups

Top each slice of cake with your favorite berries and then drizzle with the syrup.  It is almost too beautiful to eat, but eat it and see if it not a great cake.


Variation:  You may also make a glaze or chocolate ganache to frost the cake if you like.  A ganache is simply melting equal parts of chocolate chips to an equal part of cream.  Heat your cream until it is warm (not boiling).  Take off the heat and add your chocolate chips and stir until melted.  Let the ganache cool slightly and then pour over the cooled cake. Apread with a spatula letting it run over the sides of the cake.  You can still serve it with a few fresh berries on the side. 

You may also serve it with whipped cream and berries.  The cake is very sweet and moist and goes well with whipped cream.

Another variation would be to serve it warm with your favorite ice cream.  Shake a little powdered sugar on it before serving it.  Which ever trips your trigger or in time, try them all the variations. 

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Apple Snacks


Fruit Roll Ups 


I've made fruit roll ups with apple sauce with my grandsons and they liked them so plan on making them to use up all those apples. You can use your home made apple sauce for roll ups or buy store bought apple sauce.  Try this with the blueberry or strawberry apple sauce.


2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
½ cup honey, or more to taste
1 cup applesauce, homemade or store-bought

If you are making it from fresh fruit, combine the fruit and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is entirely softened. Pass the puree through a food mill or fine-meshed sieve. Add the honey and applesauce and stir thoroughly. Taste and adjust the honey to your desired sweetness.

Dehydrator

If you are using a dehydrator, follow the directions provided with your machine. Make sure that you pour the puree as thin as possible, and that you dehydrate the sheets until they are mostly dry to the touch with just a bit of stickiness. This will take between 12 and 20 hours, depending on your mixture.

Oven

I use my oven.  You line two baking sheets with parchment. Pour the puree onto the baking sheets and bake at the lowest possible temperature for your oven (165 F is ideal) for 12 to 20 hours, or until dry to the touch with just a bit of stickiness.  It is important that the puree pours out thinly.  If it is too thick, add a little water to it.

Lay the finished sheets over parchment, and with scissors, cut both layers together in rectangles or strips. Roll the fruit and parchment together in small rolls.

Makes 2 baking sheets.

Storage:  It stores at room temperature, in a covered container for 1 month; in the fridge, in a covered container, 2 months; and in the freezer, in a freezer bag, 6 months (thaw at room temperature).

Apple Chips

I have shared this before in a previous blog, but since I’m making them today thought I would share them again today. 

Apples
Cinnamon
Sugar
Lemon juice

Core your apple leaving the skin on.  I use an apple corer/slicer that I use a lot when canning, but you can do it all by hand.  Slice the pieces as thinly as possible and toss them in a little lemon juice.  Put some sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and toss in your slices and coat each slice well until they are completely covered with the mixture.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Put your apple slices on a Silpat (I love these things for clean up and not sticking) or put down some parchment paper or aluminum foil, layout your coated apple slices.  Do not let them touch.  Put them in the oven and turn the heat down to 150 or your lowest setting.  You may also use a dehydrator if you have one.  Just follow it’s directions.


After 3 or 4  hours turn them over.  Keep them in the oven at least 6 more hours or until they are completely dried.  You can leave them in over night.  Store them in canning jars.  They make a great snack for the lunch box or camping.


Want to get fancy?  Slice your apples horizontally and then use cookie cutters and core out the middle with little stars or hearts cookie cutters.  Again, try to slice them as thinly as possible. The secret is to use a very sharp long knife.  I don't have a mandolin, but that would work great.  Kids will love them and your family will love the smell of the house.  Why is it that cinnamon makes a house smell like a home?



Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  




Saturday, August 25, 2012

Oh Apple Sauce!



I thought I would can apple sauce today to use up more apples and share with Saylor for his lunches.  It is really easy to make but time consuming.  I like mine lumpy with texture.  How about you?

20 large apples
4 cups water
2 ½ cups of sugar
Cinnamon (Optional)
Lemon juice

Peel and slice your apples, add the juice of half of lemon or a couple teaspoons of juice to your water and your sliced apples.  This will prevent  discoloration while you are peeling all of the apples.  Put on medium heat, simmer, and stir regularly.  When the apples have broke down and turned to sauce, add your sugar and bring back to a boil. If it gets too thick add a little more water.



Pack while hot in sterilized pint sized jars to within ½ inch of the top.  Put on a new cap making sure the lip of the jar is not chipped and it is clean.  Screw the band on tightly and put in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes. 

Variation:  You can add different flavors to your apple sauce.  Add a couple tsp. of cinnamon, or some blueberries or both.  You can also flavor the sauce with strawberries by adding strawberries while you are boiling the apples initially or add some strawberry jelly when you add the sugar.  You can also add cinnamon red hots for a real cinnamony flavor.

Tomorrow I'm going to make apple chips and fruit roll ups.

Hope you have a great weekend.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  


Friday, August 24, 2012

Apple Pie-in-a-Jar


My apples are ready for canning.  I picked two buckets this morning and will be canning apples in one way or another over the next couple of weeks because I haven’t begun to pick them all.  Two buckets was more than enough to make 7 quarts of apple pie-in-a-jar this morning.  I still have more than a ½ a bucket left and guess tomorrow I’ll make apple sauce with Saylor.  He can take some home for his lunches since it is gluten and dairy free. 

I love the simple recipe for apple-pie-in-a-jar.  It just takes some time to peel apples.  The name implies a great use for it, but it also allows you something in you pantry for a quick, warm dessert when ever you need it.  My favorite thing to do with them is to make a quick crisp with it or use pastry sheets and make quick turn over’s for a dessert. 

Here is my apple pie-in-a-jar recipe. 

Apple Pie-in-a-Jar


7 quarts peeled sliced cooking apples
4 1/2 cups  sugar
1 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
10 cups water
3 tbsp. lemon juice


Peel and slice apples.  I use an apple corer slicer and then peel the slices.  It saves time. After I have sliced an apple and peeled it, I put it in a bowl with a little lemon juice so they do not turn brown.  


When I have a large bowl full, I fill quart jars with the apple slices leaving 1 inch head space. Be sure to pack the apples really tight.   Put a few in and push down with the handle of a wooden spoon, then a few more and repeat.

Make a syrup by combining sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and water. Cook until it thickens. Add lemon juice. Pour syrup over apples in jar, leaving 1/2 inch head space.


Be sure to run your plastic spatula around the inside of the jar to get the air bubbles out.  Make sure the lip of the jar is clean so the lid seals.

Place the lids on and screw the rings down just finger tight.  Make sure you have sterilized the jars, lids and rings.  Process the jars for 20 minutes in a hot water bath.  It should yield 7 quarts. 



Apple Crisp

Apple crisp is great for pot lucks or brunches. You have just saved yourself work if you canned the apples like above and are using your apple-pie-in-a-jar.  You only need to pour the entire jar into a sprayed 9 x 9 pan.

If you do not have the canned apples, peel, core and cut up four to six cups of apples.  Add 3/4 of a cup of sugar, season with cinnamon and nutmeg to your taste and add a little lemon juice.  Pour apple mix into a greased  9 x 9 inch baking dish. You don't have to precook the apples.   

Crumble
1 cup of oats
1 cup of flour
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/3 cup of brown sugar.
3/4 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
Nutmeg and allspice to taste
1 stick of butter

To make the crumble mix all of the dried ingredients well and add a stick of melted butter (put it in the microwave for 60 seconds). Mix well.  Spread the crumbles over the apples and bake at 375° for about forty-five minutes.  Your house will smell amazing and your family is going to love it.  I think it is best served warm.  You can also serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Make friends with any neighbors who have apple trees.  They can never use all the apples themselves and I bet they would love to share.  I'm sharing mine with the squirrels and rabbits also.  They get anything that hits the ground.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  




Thursday, August 23, 2012

National Sponge Cake Day



Well it is another national day.  Today we celebrate sponge cake.  The nice thing about sponge cake is that you usually have all the ingredients in the pantry and it can really be dressed up or just simple.  The big decision will be how you wish to serve it.  You can serve it plain, drizzle it with chocolate, shake powdered sugar on it adding a few raspberries, add a flavored extract to it and/or make a butter cream frosting or glaze for it.  You can also make a roll, the traditional one in a angel food cake pan, a bunt cake pan, or a layered cake. The sky is the limit. 

Sponge Cake

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup salted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Beat room temperature eggs in large mixing bowl with paddle attachment on your mixer for 4 minutes.  

Add sugar and continue beating for another 4 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and stir on low until just combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  Add to eggs and sugar on low speed until just combined.

In a saucepan, heat milk and butter on low heat just until butter is melted.  Add to batter, beat just until combined.

Pour into your desired pan or pans.  You can make a round cake with two greased and floured 8" round or square cake pans, into an angel food cake pan, or into a log on a 17 x 12 inch sheet pan.

Bake at 325 degrees until the middle springs back when touched, or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let stand in pans for 10 minutes. Then turn out onto wire cooling racks and cool completely.

Because time will vary according to the pan you have picked just remember the cake or cakes are close to being done when you start to smell them. Check them as soon as you begin to smell.


Chocolate Sponge Cake Roll



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter or spray a 17 by 12 inch sheet pan with a non stick vegetable spray. Line the pan with parchment paper and then butter and flour the paper or spray with vegetable/flour spray.  This process helps you roll the cake.

While the eggs are still cold, separate the eggs, placing the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Cover with plastic wrap and bring to room temperature before using (takes about 30 minutes).

Meanwhile melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Let cool to room temperature.

Beat the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar with mixer on high speed, until this mixture is thick, light and fluffy (about five minutes).  When you slowly raise the beaters, the batter should fall back into the bowl in a slow ribbon.  Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the melted chocolate and beat only to combine. Set aside while you beat the egg whites.

In a clean mixing bowl, with the whisk attachment beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat at medium high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until stiff peaks form.

Gently fold a small amount of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture using a rubber spatula or whisk to lighten the batter. Fold in the remaining whites just until incorporated.  (Don't over mix or the batter will deflate.) Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan with the back of a spoon, or an offset spatula. Bake until the cake is puffed, has lost its shine, and springs back when gently pressed, about 15 to 17 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool. Cover the cake with a clean, slightly damp towel.

For the raspberry whipped cream, place your mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 15 minutes. Then place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar into the bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Add the jam and beat just until stiff peaks form.

Once the cake has cooled, spread with the whipped cream and gently roll the cake, peeling off the parchment paper as you roll. It can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

6 large eggs, separated
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Raspberry Whipped Cream

1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1/3 cup raspberry jam

Again, this cake may be made into the traditional style or a layered cake also.  You can decide what you want and how to serve it.  

Hope you make a sponge cake today.  Have a great National Sponge Cake Day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

German Gingerbread Cake




It does not have to be a holiday to make this.  With fall around the corner, this is a great fall dessert.  I serve it warm with whipped cream which makes it great for a fall evening meal. 

German Gingerbread Cake

2 cups flour (you can make gluten free by using 2 cups of soy flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup room temperature butter (you can make diary free by substituting butter with 1/2 cup oil)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup room temperature molasses
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and place rack in center of oven.  Spray a 9 inch square cake pan. 

Shift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

With a mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the molasses and beat until it is combined. Add the dry ingredients and milk, alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat just until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing cake from pan.

Serve it warm and top it with whipped cream.  That is how I like it best.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like.

If you want it gluten free/dairy free just sprinkle it with powdered sugar.

This conjures up warm and wonderful memories for me.  The smell is so welcoming; your family will love it.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lunch Box Idea



6 Layer Dip-In-A-Jar

Refried beans
Guacamole
Sour Cream
Salsa
Grated Mexican Blend Cheese
Veggies (Green Onions or Chives, black or green olives, and fresh diced tomatoes)

Take a small 8 oz. size jar and layer your beans on the bottom.  Add a layer of guacamole and top it with sour cream.  Next top with salsa and a layer of grated cheese (you can pick what ever you like).  Dice your tomato, olives and green onion or chives and sprinkle on top of the cheese as a final garnish.  Screw on your lid and pack a bag of favorite tortilla chips.  You have a well balanced meal and the person eating it will love it.

Tip:  Send a plastic spoon in the bag to make it more user friendly.

I also like to make a chili con queso by mixing no bean canned chili and Frito Layes Jalapeño cheese dip.  I usually heat it and serve it warm with tortilla chips, but it can be served cold also and used as a layer or replace the beans.  My grandson’s love the con queso with chips.

Make it your own by adding what you wants in the layers.  You can also add a layer of shredded lettuce.  I’ll also share a simple salsa and guacamole recipes with you.

Fresh Simple Salsa

4 fresh medium diced tomatoes
1 jalapeno chili, seeds and ribs removed (seeds in if you want really hot)
1/2 yellow onion, quartered and finely chopped 
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Kosher salt to taste

Pour 2 fresh tomatoes into a blender, and add the jalapeno pepper, onion, cilantro leaves, lime juice, and salt. Blend until fairly smooth. Pour in the other 2 tomatoes and chop briefly. Adjust seasonings to taste by adding more lime juice and salt if needed. Refrigerate and let the salsa rest for at least a 1/2 hour before serving to allow the flavors to blend.

Guacamole

3 large, ripe avocados, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 finely diced red onion (Once chopped, rinse in strainer with water running through it to take bite out.)
1 ripe jalapeño chili pepper, seeds removed and finely diced (Keep seeds if you like it hot)
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon kosher coarse salt
1/2 freshly squeezed small lime

Add the onion to the food processor or blender, along with the garlic, jalapeño and some salt. Grind them together until the bits have fallen apart slightly, and the mixture looks wet and smells aromatic. Add the avocados and grind some more, until the mixture is mostly smooth, leaving a few avocado chunks here and there for texture. I like chunky guacamole.  Add your cilantro and squeeze your 1/2 of the lime.  Taste and see if it needs more salt.  Add more salt and lime juice if needed. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.  My grandsons like to make tortilla chips and have them warm.  You just cut up a corn tortilla with a kitchen scissors and fry in hot vegetable oil until they are crispy and drain on paper towel.  You can also oven bake them until they are crispy if you like.  We prefer frying them.

The lime helps delay oxidation, but not all.  Eat right away.  If the guacamole is stored overnight, you will have a dark discoloration. This will not hurt you, and will not change the taste but looks are important also. 

Let the kids decide what they want in the layers or have them make their own. 

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

National Potato Day – August 19th



If you grew up in the Mid West like I did, you grew up on meat and potatoes aka “The Spud”.  We bake, fry, and boil them.  They are added to stews and soups.  They are honored at ever family gathering by their presence in some way.  I don’t know anyone that does not like potatoes, so since today is National Potato Day I would like to share some new ways to fix potatoes. 

In the ancient ruins of Peru and Chile, archaeologists have found potato remains that date back to 500 B.C. The Incas grew and ate them and also worshipped them. The Incas called the potato "papas," as they do today.

Spanish explorers and conquerors took the potato to Spain in lieu of the gold they did not find. The Spanish thought that they were a kind of a truffle and called them "tartuffo." Potatoes were soon a standard supply item on the Spanish ships; they noticed that the sailors who ate papas (potatoes) did not suffer from scurvy.

The potato was carried on to Italy and England, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and to France.  Potatoes had been introduced to the United States several times throughout the 1600s. They were not widely grown for almost a century until the early 1700’s, when they were planted by Scotch-Irish immigrants, and from there spread across the nation. 

It is said that humans can actually survive healthily on a diet of potatoes supplemented only with milk or butter, which contain the two vitamins not provided by potatoes.  They are high in both vitamins and minerals and store well making them popular all over the world and becoming part of traditions in all parts of the world.

Growing up, I was served mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, creamed potatoes with ham and kale, potato soup, beef stew with potatoes and scalloped potatoes on a regular basis.  These traditional dishes came from my mother’s German heritage and being raised on a farm.  

Types of Potatoes

Russets

Russets (such as Idahos) are marked by a thick, rough brown skin with numerous eyes. Low in moisture and high in starch, they make excellent, fluffy mashed potatoes; because they tend to be a bit dry and mealy, they benefit from the addition of butter and milk or cream, which they absorb easily.


Yukon Golds

These large, oval potatoes have a golden skin and yellow flesh with a rich, buttery flavor and a moist, creamy texture. Their medium starch content makes them a good all-purpose potato suitable for both boiling and baking, although they tend to fall apart when cooked too long. They make exceptionally good mashed potatoes, French fries, and potato salad.

Red Potato

Red potatoes are firm, round, moist, and waxy, with thin skins—a good choice for salads, for roasting with meats, or whenever you want your potatoes to hold their shape. They’re especially popular as new potatoes.  This is probably my favorite because of the thin skin and it allows me to leave the skin on.

New Potatoes

Also called baby or creamer potatoes, these are any potatoes that are harvested young, before their sugars are fully converted to starch. Generally, the smaller they are, the better the taste. They’re sweeter and waxier than mature potatoes, with very thin skins that don’t need to be peeled. Since they’re firm and flavorful, they’re ideal for potato salads and roasting whole. They go soft quickly and should be eaten within 3 days.

You can find new varieties in the market today like fingerling potatoes and even purple potatoes.  People are using sweet potatoes in place of the old potato we know. 

You may make them into a potato pancake, creamed them, make scalloped potatoes, add them to a stew, make a potato soup, bake them and put many different toppings on them, twice bake them, French fry them or American fry them, make hash browns, grill them and I could go on and on. 

I thought today I would share a couple of not so familiar recipes with you and bring a little diversity into your life with recipes I’ve had from other cultures and loved. 

Polish Potato Dumpling (Kartoflane Kluski or kopytka or "little hooves")


I used to eat these when I lived on the south side of Milwaukee where there was a huge Polish population.  They look like “little hooves”.  Nice memories come from certain foods don’t they?  They are super simple to make.

2 ¼ lbs. potatoes
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups flour
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs

Use a nice starching potato like an Idaho Russet. Peel the potatoes, cook in salted water for 20 minutes. Mash them, add egg yolk (make sure potato is not too hot so the egg does not scrabble), salt and flour (if you need more, add as much flour as necessary to form a smooth, cohesive dough). Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil. Divide dough into 4 parts. On a lightly floured surface roll pieces of dough like a snake. Cut at an angle into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces. Repeat with remained dough.

Drop dumplings into the boiling water (in batches, if necessary, so as not to crowd) and return to the boil. Reduce heat and cook 1 to 3 minutes (remove one with a slotted spoon to test for doneness when the dumpling floats to the top). Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked dumplings to a colander and drain.

Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer drained dumplings to a serving dish and sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs on top.

Homemade Gnocchi (Italian Potato Dumplings)


This is a great way to use your left over mashed potatoes.

2 1/2 c. boiled potatoes, mashed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Italian style tomato sauce

Place mashed potatoes, eggs, and salt in mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, mixing well. Place dough in floured board and add rest of flour. Knead dough for 3 or 4 minutes. If dough becomes too sticky, sprinkle board with more flour. Cut dough into 6 pieces.

Roll dough into long sausage like strips and cut into pieces 2/3 inch long. Sprinkle dumplings with flour.  Many chef’s roll the gnocchi down a fork to give it a texture, but you do not need to do this unless you want to fuss.  Have a large pan with 8 quarts of boiling water ready and remove with strainer when they rise to top.  Place in hot serving dish and repeat operation until all dumplings are cooked. (Keep water boiling during whole process.)

Add a very simple tomato sauce to dumplings and 2/3 cup of cheese, mixing well while you are stirring in the a hot frying pan. Sprinkle rest of cheese on top. Serves 4-6.

If you are making gnocchi make extra.  They freeze nicely and they will be ready for another day.  You may also serve them very simply by tossing them in browned butter and adding a little rosemary or herb of your choice or you can make gnocchi 'n' cheese by putting the cooked gnocchi in a buttered casserole dish, dot with butter, and sprinkle shredded parmesan and/or fontina on top. Pass under the broiler until cheese is melted.  The Italians sure know how to cook!

Latvian Potato Pancake or Latkes


Potato pancakes are shallow fried pancakes of grated or ground potato, flour and egg, often flavored with grated onion or garlic and seasoning. Potato pancakes may be topped with a variety of condiments such as sour cream, cottage cheese, apple sauce, sugar or ungarnished.  Potato pancakes can also be made from mashed potatoes to produce pancake shaped croquettes.

2 cups peeled and shredded potatoes (You may also use left over mashed or frozen hash browns)
1 tablespoon grated onion
3 beaten eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup oil for frying

Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible.

In a medium bowl stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together.

In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels. Serve hot!  Garnish with sour cream.

Potato Knishes


This is often served as a holiday dish, but you don’t have to wait for a holiday. 

4 cups flour
Kosher salt to taste
6 tbsp. canola oil
4 Russet potatoes (2 1/2 lbs.), peeled and cut into 1" pieces
3 onions, minced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. water

Whisk together flour and 1 tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center and add 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. warm water and 2 tbsp. oil. Stir to form a dough and knead briefly. Divide dough into 4 pieces. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

Put potatoes into a 4 qt. saucepan and add water to cover. Season with salt, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium; simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and pass through a food mill or potato ricer into a large bowl.  I use my antique potato ricer that I got at an auction and picked up very cheaply.  I love it so much because it is my grandma green color I love and it is from around the 40’s.  I show it off as decoration on a kitchen shelf. 



Heat remaining oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add onions, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 15 minutes. Whip onions into potatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 375°. Working with one piece of dough at a time, put dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll to 1/16" thickness. Using a 3" cookie cutter, cut out 16 circles. Spoon 1 tbsp. of potato mixture onto center of each circle. Brush edges with egg wash and bring up edges with your fingers and seal to form a purse. Transfer knishes to 2 greased baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Repeat, filling 2 greased baking sheets in all. Bake knishes until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly; serve warm.  This will make a lot of mini knishes.  You may make as large or as small as you want.

Tips

Use Idaho Russet potatoes.

Place the knish seam side down on the baking sheet for a prettier presentation.

Also, you can make smaller appetizer sized knish simply by the size of your cookie cutter. You’ll need to bake them for less time—depending how small you go, start checking them at 15 – 20 minutes or when you begin to smell them.

You may use one of my favorite product and save some work if you want to use puffed pastry.  You'll need 2 boxes.  It will be a different pastry with butter, but it saves work.

What is your favorite potato dish?  Do you have a family potato recipe that has come down from older generations?  My favorite dish is my sister Tony's potato dish.  We called it Tony's Taters.  It is pure fat and not the healthiest dish.  I only ate it at family functions.   It was frozen hash browns with cream and half and half with lots of salt and pepper topped with chucks of butter and baked until it was golden brown on top.  We lost my sister this year to breast cancer.  I don't know if I can eat them again.  Maybe to make them in her honor and memory to have her with me.   Make sure you share your favorite family recipes with your children so it continues on to the next generation.

Have a great National Potato Day and eat a potato in some form.  It’s good for you. 

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.





Saturday, August 18, 2012

Canning Tomato Juice 101



Well I got out my large 18 quart canner and I’m getting serious about canning now.  You may can on a small scale using just a large stainless steel pan for small canning jobs, but when you are harvesting large amounts, you are going to need some serious canning supplies.  You need to start with a simple starters kit of an enamel or stainless steel 18 quart canner.  The starter kit usually comes with a wide mouth funnel and a jar lifter.  You really should have these. Starter kits usually run around $50.00 (watch garage sales, ads, auctions and flee markets to really save).  I recommend you purchase a good canning book from Kerr or Ball.  Mine is my bible and is so full of good information. 


Investing in canning jars is also expensive up front, but you reuse them year after year and you will eventually start saving.  You are also processing your own food so have total control of what goes into it.  Again, watch garage sales, auctions and flee markets.  I got my old utensils from an auction.

Today I have tomatoes coming from the garden in large quantities so I decided that for the next couple of harvests, I’m going to make tomato juice.  Since I live by myself, I want to can what I will use the most and that is probably tomato juice.  I have already canned some pizza and spaghetti sauce and frozen it and canned and frozen whole tomatoes, but I have been spending $2.69 a six pack for little 5.5 oz. cans of tomato juice and I drink a can a day, so thought I’d save by making my own.  I’ve invested in a lot of little pint size jars and I’m going to be putting some in little jars and also putting some in quart jars. I can always empty a quart of juice into little pint size jars each week and put them into the refrigerator for individual serving for myself. 

So today I’m giving you my simple recipe and my how-to-dos I've learned.  I’m going to give you two how-to-dos because of a canning tool I have called a Chinois (pronounced shin'-wah) which is a 3 piece cone shaped sieve that removes the skins and seeds from fruits and veggies without peeling them.  I'll be using it also when I'm canning apples to make apple sauce.  I got one at an auction for little of nothing.  They cost $50.00 plus on line now days.  I also picked up boxes and boxes of canning jars at auctions for like a dollar a box.  If you are frugal, an auction is a great way of saving money and picking up old beautiful utensils.  That is where I also got my small collection of crocks for pickling.

I will also give you the how to for making juice without a Chinois which is a little more work.


Without Chinois 

Select firm ripe tomatoes.  Wash, scald and peel into small pieces.  Simmer until soft.  Stir occasionally.  Put through a sieve fine enough to remove seeds.  Bring juice to a boil, salt to taste with kosher salt and a squeeze of lemon.  Taste and reseason if needed.  Pour immediately into sterilized jars filling to within ¼ inch of the top.  Put on cap and screw the band on firmly.  Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Take out and let cool.  When the lids pops, it means it is sealed.  If it does not seal (test by pushing down on the lid and it should not pop back up) take off your lid and see if the lip of the jar is clean.  Reuse a new lid and give it another 10 minute bath or you can just refrigerate it. 

With Chinois

Select firm ripe tomatoes.  Wash and cut into small pieces.  You get to skip the peeling process.   Simmer until soft.  Stir occasionally.


Put the chinois and its stand in a very large bowl and put the cooked tomatoes in the chinois sieve.  With the wooden pestle stir around the edges to remove seeds and skins.  The juice will be filtered into your bowl.


Keep emptying your juice into a large pan.   Bring  the juice to a boil, salt to taste with kosher salt and a squeeze of lemon.  Taste and reseason if needed.  You may also add a teaspoon of sugar if you want it to taste a little sweet.  It will depend on how ripe and sweet your tomatoes are.


Pour immediately into sterilized jars filling to within ¼ inch of the top.  Make sure you wipe the lip of the jar to assure sealing.  Also check for any chips on the lip.  It will not seal if it is chipped. Put on a new cap and screw band on firmly.  Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.


Take out with your jar lifter and let cool.  When the lids pops, it means it is sealed.  If it does not seal (test by pushing down on the lid and it should not pop back up) take off your lid and see if the lip of the jar is clean.  Reuse a new lid and give it another 10 minute bath or you can just refrigerate it and use in the next week.



It made 4 quarts and 12  8 oz. jars of juice.  Look at that color.  Aren't they a beautiful red?  I'll be at it again in a couple of days, but will put all of the next batch in quart jars.

From this base, the longer you simmer it you can turn it into tomato sauce or ketchup.   For sauce simmer it until it is half the volume.

Ketchup


1 peck of tomatoes
2 medium onions
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbs. broken stick cinnamon
1 tbs. whole cloves
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 tbs. paprika
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. salt


For ketchup simmer onions with your tomatoes and boil until they are both soft.  Run both through a sieve.  Add cayenne pepper.  Boil until it is reduced by 1/2 the volume.

Add vinegar and spice bag of cinnamon, cloves and garlic in another pan.  Simmer 30 minutes.  Take off heat and cover with a lid and let it stand until it is ready for use.  

When tomato mixture has cooked down to 1/2 the original volume, add the vinegar mixture (1 1/4 cups).  Add the paprika, sugar and salt and boil rapidly until thick.  This should require about 10 minutes.  Pour while boiling into your sterilized jars within 1/2 inch of the top.  Make sure the lip of the jar is clean and put on the lid.  Screw the band on tightly.  Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Makes 6 pints.   Make sure it has sealed.  If it doesn't refrigerate it.

I know now why years ago farm wives had summer kitchens.  My mother says that her mother would can out in the machine shed in the summer and fall.  

Now sit back and look at what you have done.  I love looking at what I have preserved for winter.  It makes me feel so productive and I know what has gone into it and there are no preservatives.  I like that.

My grandson Sawyer is here for the weekend and he is asking lots of questions and watching.  He doesn't want to do any of the work, but wants to learn.  That makes me very happy.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pink Lemonade cupcake in a Jar


For convenience sake I love things on a stick or in a jar. So I have book club tomorrow and I’m bringing Pink Lemonade Cupcakes in a jar.  They are a great dessert for a hot summer day and easy for taking on the road. 

Pink Lemonade Cupcake in a Jar


Cake

1 box of white cake mix
1 cup thawed pink lemonade concentrate (there will be ¼ cup left over and will be needed later)
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 eggs
A couple drops red food coloring until it is soft pink

Other
1 large tub of whipped cream topping (I used the frozen you get in the freezer department to make it easy)
Lemon syrup (I’ll give you the recipe below)
Jello Lemon Pudding with red food coloring
Candied lemon peels (recipe in previous blog but I’ll give again)

A day in advance make your candied lemon peels for decoration on the top.

Pink Candied Lemon Peel


3 lemons peeled, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1 cup white sugar
¼  cup pink lemonade (you can use regular also I just want it pink for my dessert)
Sugar for decoration
Red food coloring (optional)

Place lemon peel in large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 20 minutes, drain and set aside.

In medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water and a drop of food coloring if you wish to make it pink to make the syrup pink. Bring to a boil and cook until mixture reaches thread stage, 230 degrees on candy thermometer, or small amount dropped in cold water forms a soft thread. Stir in your drained peels, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain again.


Roll peel pieces, a few at a time, in remaining sugar or put in a mason jar or baggie with sugar and shake gently to coat the peels. Let dry on wire rack for a day. Store in an air tight container.

Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Fill cup cake pan with liners and set aside. 

Combine cake mix, lemonade concentrate, water, oil and eggs. Beat on low speed for about a minute. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more. Add two of red food coloring, folding in until batter is the shade of pink you want. Pour your batter in cupcake liners and bake for about 18 minutes, until the middle springs back when lightly touched or test with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes and let them cool on a rack until room temperature. Because of the addition of the lemonade they do not raise as much as a normal cup cake but that is perfect for putting them in a jar because you want them flat for layering.  They are extremely moist and wonderful if you just want to frost them and eat them plain.

For the center of the cake you can use my lemon curd recipe or just buy a box of Jello Lemon Pudding. 

Lemon Curd

5 lemons (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1/4 lb. of softened butter
5 large eggs (room temperature)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Several drops of red food coloring to make pink

Zest the lemons or limes with a peeler, being careful not to get too much pith.  Juice the lemons or limes to yield 1/2 cup juice and set aside.

Put zest and sugar in blender and blend until zest is finely chopped.  Add butter and continue to blend.  Scrape down the side and bottom of the blender.  Add in the eggs one at a time.  Add the juice and salt.  Blend the mixture until it is smooth.

Pour mixture into medium size pot.  Cook on medium heat until mixture reaches about 175 degrees on a candy thermometer or just before boiling.  The curd should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Immediately, strain curd through a wire strainer in a clean bowl. 

If you are going with Jello Lemon Pudding just follow the directions and add a couple drops of red food coloring until it is the color pink you desire. Also strain the pudding to make sure you don’t have any egg lumps.


Pink Lemonade Syrup

½  cup water
1 cup sugar
¼ cup of the left over pink lemonade concentrate
2 drops of red food coloring

Boil all ingredients for five minutes, let the mixture cool, and refrigerate the liquid. About one quarter of the liquid evaporates in the cooking process thickening it. 

Homemade syrup doesn’t keep as long as the commercial variety.  Store it in a plastic squeeze bottle.  It makes it easy to use.

Assembly

It is time to assemble.  The recipe makes 12 jars.  Peel the paper off a cupcake and put in the bottom of a jar.

Put your cooled lemon pudding or curd in a baggie and pipe it on top of the cupcake.  This keeps the sides of the jar clean and looks nicer.  Put another cupcake on top of the pudding.

Top with your whipped topping and then drizzle the whipped topping with the lemon syrup and top it with a piece of candied lemon peel. 


Put a lid on them and they are ready to go to what ever function you want to take them to. 

Have a great day.  It is raining here right now, so that sure makes my day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.   




Monday, August 13, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Bars


Can you smell them?  The smell of cinnamon is amazing.  Did you know it is also very good for you?  You should include it in your diet when ever you can. 

Use it in your coffee, hot chocolate, your oatmeal and desserts.  Cinnamon is said to have the ability to reduce blood sugar levels and high blood pressure. The spice contains antioxidants that help to lower levels of bad cholesterol also.  This spice in your diet will also ensure less painful cycles for women.  So as they say, “Put a little spice in your life.”

Here is a wonderful recipe for apple cinnamon bars that are sweet, moist and cinnamony.   

Apple Cinnamon Bars 



3 cups flour (You can use soy flour and make them gluten free also)
3 cups  peeled and sliced apples
2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ cup apple sauce
2 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
1 lemon

Pre heat oven to 325 degrees and grease and flour 9 x 13 inch pan.

Peel and core about 3 to 4 apples. Finely chop your apples (You want the pieces very small). Squeeze a little lemon over the apples and coat all of them so they do not turn brown and set aside.

Mix the eggs, oil and sugar together until creamy in a large bowl. Add you apple sauce, salt, cinnamon to the mixture and stir well.  Add your soda until and incorporate it well and then add your flour mixing well.  Stir in your apple pieces including the lemon juice.  Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Check with a toothpick for doneness when you first smell the bars. 

You can also put in mini muffin pans and make mini bites. Bake for a much shorter amount of time.  Again, when you first smell the mini bites, use a tooth pick to check them.  They make a great breakfast or snack.  It will soon be time to pack lunches and they are great in a lunch bag.

Have a great Monday!  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.   

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Sausage Casserole

Since it is Sunday, I'm sharing a one pot dish for a Sunday brunch.  It has all your favorite breakfast ingredients in it.



Sunday Sausage Casserole

4 pork sausages (can substitute beef if you don’t like pork or use Polish Kielbasa sausage)
1 pound potatoes
1/2 pound carrots
1/2 bell pepper
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp Italian herbs  (1 tsp. basil and ½ tsp. oregano if you don’t have Italian herbs mix)
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 tbs. balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and pepper

The original recipe calls for fennel but it is not available locally so I dropped it from the recipe.  You can add it if you can pick it up or drop any of the ingredients you wish and keep it simple.  

Fry sausage until it is lightly brown.  You do not cook it all the way through because they will cook more in the casserole.  Cut the sausage into pieces.  Set it aside.

Peel potatoes (or leave skins on if you like) and cut up into large bite size pieces.  Clean and cut up carrots so they are the same size as the potatoes.  Cut your onion in half and then into wedges for large bite size pieces.  Cut your pepper in half and clean out seed.  Cut into wedges also.

Use a big bowl to combine the oil with the Italian herbs, chopped garlic, and chicken broth.  Pour this over your veggies and toss them together.  Salt and pepper veggies.

Cover the tray with aluminum foil and pop it in a preheated oven. Bake at 450 degrees for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes the potatoes and vegetables should be fork tender. Test them and if they’re not, cover the tray with the foil and pop them back in the oven for a few more minutes. If they are fork tender, place the sausages in there and pour the balsamic vinegar all over. Place the tray back in the oven, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes.

Take it out after 15 minutes, flip over those sausages and ladle some of the juices from the bottom all over the vegetables and sausages.  Taste for seasoning and if needed salt and pepper again.   Put it back in the oven for the remaining time (30 minutes), until everything is nice and brown.

Hope you have a blessed Sunday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Pink Candied Lemon Peels


I'm doing some grocery and menu planning today.  I have a birthday party Tuesday and book club Friday and need to plan on some cakes.  I want to make pink lemonade cupcakes for book club so need to go buy some lemons and cake mixes.  I want to decorate the pink lemonade cake with candied lemon peel so think I'll make that this afternoon.  I'll share the recipe with you.  Never wanting anything to go to waste, this is a great idea for those lemon peels left over when you need to squeeze a lemon and you can store them in one of my favorite things, the good old mason jar.  





Pink Candied Lemon Peel

6 lemon peels, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1 cup white sugar
½ cup pink lemonade (you can use regular also I just want it pink for my dessert)
Sugar for decoration
Red food coloring (optional)

Place lemon peel in large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 20 minutes, drain and set aside.

In medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water and a drop of food coloring if you wish to make it pink to make the syrup pink. Bring to a boil and cook until mixture reaches thread stage, 230 degrees on candy thermometer, or small amount dropped in cold water forms a soft thread. Stir in your drained peels, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain again.

Roll peel pieces, a few at a time, in remaining sugar or put in a mason jar or baggie with sugar and shake gently to coat the peels. Let dry on wire rack several hours. Store in an air tight container.

Variation -  You can do the same with limes, grapefruit or orange peels.  Dip them in chocolate and they make a beautiful gift.