Thursday, November 29, 2012

Easy Garlic Dill Pickles

Easy Garlic Dill Pickles

1 qt mason jar

3-4 pickling cucumberes

3 cloves garlic

8 sprigs fresh dill

1 T coriander seeds

1 T sugar

1-1/2 T kosher salt

2/3 cup white vinegar

1 cup water
  1. Quarter the cucumbers lengthwise, or cut into 1/4 inch chips. Cut garlic cloves in quarters
  2. In an extra mason jar or covered container, combine coriander seeds, sugar, salt and vinegar.  Tightly close lid and shake vigorously until sugar and salt is dissolved.  Add 1 cup water to the mixture.
  3. In the clean mason jar, tightly pack the sliced cucumbers, sliced garlic, and sprigs of dill.
  4. Pour the brine mixture over the cucumbers.  Tap the jar on the counter to release air bubbles and top off the jar with extra water if any cucumbers are exposed.
  5. Place the lid on the jar and screw on the ring until it is tight.  Leave the jar in the fridge for 24 hours before tasting.  The pickles last a month in the fridge.
Did you know that 5,200,000 pounds of pickles are consumed annually in the United States?  That's nine pounds per person!

Chocolate Cake - Best Ever!

I have been very sick with bronchitis and pneumonia, and after a doctor visit yesterday and a whopping dose of everything, I had a spurt of energy, so I sanitized myself and hit the kitchen.  Yesterday David's girlfriend Amanda and I baked a cake.  We chose a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Better Homes and Garden's 9x13 The Pan That Can, called Our Best-Ever Chocolate Cake.  Instead of using their recipe for Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting (we are not the sour icing type), we made basic cocoa icing from the recipe on the Hershey's Cocoa box. The icing recipe makes too much, so I'm giving the recipe, halved. This cake is moist and soft and terrific, and I'm not wild about chocolate cake.  The icing is wonderful as always.
You can tell when David has been hitting the cake. He doesn't like the edges.

3/4 cups (1-1/2 sticks) real butter, room temp (I use salted)
3 eggs, room temp
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use Gold Medal)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey's)
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla (I use real vanilla - make my own)
1-1/2 cups milk (no milk, so I used half and half)
By the way, it is a MORTAL SIN to used low fat milk in baking, so I probably reserved myself a spot in Heaven for using half and half milk. Same goes with baking with fake sugar or fake butter, or to skimp on the salt.

Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for a half hour.  Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan, set pan aside.  (I used canned spray veg oil.) Preheat oven to 350F (glass calls for 325F).  Do NOT turn on the convection oven fan for bready items, as it results in Sahara Desert dry cakes and breads. Experience speaks!

In medium bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Because I like a soft textured cake, I stirred with a whisk, then sifted the dry ingredients one time.  

In a large bowl (I used my fabuloso Kitchen Aid Mixer) beat softened butter on medium to med-high speed for 30 seconds.  Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until well mixed (3-4 minutes). Scrape sides and blend another 2 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.

Alternately add flour mixture and milk, beating on low after each addition until blended before adding more.  Beat on med-high an additional 20-30 seconds after everything is blended and then spread into prepared pan.

Bake 35-40 minutes, testing with a toothpick to the center.  If it comes out dry, it's ready.  Place pan on wire rack until completely cooled, then spread icing on top.

I made cupcakes with this same recipe. If you want cupcakes, this recipe makes 30 big cupcakes (I should have split them further into 36, some were oversized) in regular-sized cupcake tins, using Christmas liners in May because that's how I roll.  Less baking time needed - 25 minutes  at 325F worked for me.  Keep an eye on things!

(This recipe is one-half of the one on the Hershey's box.)
1/2 stick real butter, softened (I use salted)
1/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk (I use half and half)
1/2 tsp vanilla (I use real vanilla, homemade)
3-4 T corn syrup added to the mix will make the cupcake tops look shiny.

Stir cocoa into softened butter. (Never soften butter for icing in microwave - it changes the integrity of the butter, making a runny icing.) Alternately add powdered sugar and most of the milk, beating on medium until it is spreading consistency.  Add remaining milk if the icing seems stiff.  Finally, add vanilla and corn syrup, mix again.  Makes perfect amount of delicious soft, fluffy icing for a sheet cake or a truckload of cupcakes.

I am not a big fan of chocolate cake (but cocoa icing is the bomb), so I was very surprised at how extremely delicious this cake turned out.  It is the Best Ever Chocolate Cake recipe!  Maybe I'll have a piece with my coffee for breakfast.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Datil Pepper Sauce

Datil Pepper Sauce in the Crock Pot
Datil peppers are easiest to pick at night, because when the sun goes down, they lift their leaves and you can see each and every pepper hanging on the trees like bright little green, yellow and orange christmas ornaments.  I picked a cup last night and added it to the big baggie I keep in the freezer with previous harvests.  My datil peppers are not seasonal, but an ongoing process, they just keep bearing and bearing with each pepper in a different stage of development.  If you wait until they all turn orange, this will trigger the plant to stop bearing, so I just keep picking and picking.

Today is an at home day, but I have a lot to do, and hanging around the stove all day to stir stir stir is not in my schedule.  I don't have time or desire to sandblast the pot after it's cooked all day either, as the sauce tends to stick on the bottom if you don't give it attention every ten minutes.  Enter crock pot!  (insert angelic harp music) This is my fourth crock pot in 30 years, the Rival Smart Pot Crock Pot, a 7-quart programmable genius of a crock pot!  I'll give it two big thumbs up for the programmable timer. Choose 4 or 6 hours for High, and 8 or 10 hours for Low.  After the time is up, it switches to warm for four more hours to keep dinner hot until everyone is home.  The only thing I would change is, I prefer a big thick heavy lid, not this thin thing with a metal rim.  I find that the heavy glass ones keep a water seal, which is the basis of how a crock pot works (heat is a given).  This one requires a bit of pressure and I have an old dark colored beach towel that I fold and place on top to weigh it down.  That is my only complaint and since I have said this, I will look on ebay for an oval corningware type lid that may fit.

The peppers and onions and other secret ingredients were introduced to the magic blades of my wonderful and amazing Ninja XL Master Prep Blender.  Any other blender is a gravy grinder compared to this workhorse!  If the house was on fire and I had to grab one small appliance from my kitchen, it would be this blender.  So I put the raw vegetables in and zip zip zip, everything was done in an instant.  After I dumped this into the pot, I added a little vinegar (I was going to add vinegar to the pot anyway) to rinse the solids out, then to wash the blender, I gave a little squirt of Dawn, followed by a half blender of hot water.  Zip zip zip, rinse rinse, zip zip, rinse.  Done!  I love this way of washing a blender.  It's genius!  The blades in the Ninja are razor sharp and this simple wash trick saves me from injury, as I've cut myself on it before.  

By 7am, the mouth watering recipe was cranking away in the crock pot. I've made it often enough that a recipe or measuring isn't necessary.  I plan to use both the 6+4 hour (10 hours total) HIGH cook time.  My backup plan is, if it isn't cooked well enough (as I normally cook it for ten hours on the stove), then I will pull out the big guns and finish it off in the pressure cooker.  Wish me luck!  Too bad you can't scratch and sniff the computer screen.  This smells so good, I want to swim in it!

I filled 13 half pint jars and 4 pint jars and every single lid popped in, so they are canned and good on the shelf for a couple of years I guess.  Recipients of my hot sauce tend to return the jars with a plea to please refill, so I have a variety of jars hanging around.  I will, as long as my plants keep producing!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Beef Short Ribs Dinner

Short Ribs - Squash - Rice

I made short ribs before and everybody wanted more!  This time I bought three packs totaling 12 short ribs (Why do they put them in such small packages?) on sale at Winn Dixie and the total was around $12, a buck apiece.  I followed this recipe that I posted here before, but doubled the sauce and onion.

In addition to the short ribs, I made a pot of mixed summer squash and zucchini squash.  Here's how I fixed it tonight:  1 large green zuke, 1 large yellow crookneck squash, 1/2 onion, 1 slice bacon, salt and pepper.
In saucepan, fry bacon and onion until bacon has rendered its oil and is crisp and crumbles.  The onion should be just clear with some brown.  Add sliced squash, seasonings, and bring water about 3/4 up. The squash will cook down into it.  I like mine cooked for about 15-20 minutes so it's a little mushy.

I made a pot of white rice to go with this.

It'll be ready in about 45 minutes and I'm losing my mind because it smells sooooo good!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Skateland had a big jar of giant, soft, twist-your-face and lock-your jaw sour pickles.  They sold for a nickel a pickle - what a deal!  I spent a lot of nickels at Skateland, and looking back I wonder if my sister and I went there for the skating or for the pickles.  There were the regular serious skaters, one older guy with greasy black hair comes to mind, whirling around the curves to awful organ music,  He could skate at full speed and squat with one leg out, never failing to both disgust and impress.  Because of the sleazy/rough guys and girls that went there for some serious skating and flirting, we called this place Snakeland.  I think their organ music is one reason I don't care for professional basketball and baseball today.

Taking a break from gardening for the season, I joined the local farm's basket plan for $15 a week.  It's like Christmas every week, pulling this and that out of the basket.and discussing how we will cook a new vegetable we've never tried.  Last week it was patty pan squash and orb squash.  They were delicious!  I sliced the patty pans and grilled them in the oven under the broiler with olive oil and sea salt, adding a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.  The orbs were sliced and cooked in a pot with onions, salt, pepper and butter...regular squash fare.  Back to the basket...We have received about a pound of pickling cucumbers each week, some small, some large.  I have three weeks' worth and decided to try my hand at sour pickles.  I read a bunch of recipes online, picked and chose what I'd like.  Two recipes influenced me the most Fermented Pickles and Hungarian Sour Pickles.   Here's what I ended up doing:

   - no no no bad bad bad-


Bread and dill not added yet.
The lid is not tight, just sits on top
Cut the tips off and give each pickle a 2" slice down two sides, then stand on end in glass container.  I had a few empty spaces and tucked raw okra in to keep pickles from floating.  And because I like the speecy spiciness of Wickles Pickles, I tossed in two hot datil peppers, fresh off my pepper bush and tucked fresh dill about.  Mix everything but the dill fronds in water, making sure to melt the salt, pour over pickles, making sure that all pickles are under water.  Add the bread, lay a frond of dill on top.  Once waterlogged, the spices will sink (probably overnight) and then if the pickles start to float to the top, I'll place a saucer on top to hold everything underwater.   Add a loose lid to the top or just a dish, as the yeast in the bread will spread and the jar will need to burp (at will)  

Because I wanted more sour pickles, I added a bit more salt than the usual half sour pickle recipe, therefore my pickles will take a bit longer to set.  I am placing the pickle jar on our shady screened back porch for a week to ferment (and stink).  The water will get bubbly and turn cloudy, burp and stink.  After a week, I will taste, then either allow it to wait a few more days or, if they're ready, place in the fridge for eating.  I cannot wait to make grilled cheese and mustard sandwiches and serve with a big sour pickle spear.  My mouth waters and jaw clenches at the thought!

A WEEK LATER: The outcome was a jar of fermented mush!  oh how awful.  Only the okra was the right consistency, but it had a fermented okra beer taste that was oh so disgusting.  Tossed it all out and started over with a recipe from this Saturday's basket.  

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