September 28, 2011

Sweet & Spicy Apple Slices

20 Stayman-Winesap apples (or other firm, sweet apples)
10 cups water
4 cups sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
6 vanilla beans
12 whole star anise
12 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole cloves

Prep 6 quart jars. Evenly divide the spices between the jars. Peel, core and slice the apples. Float them in water mixed with Fruit Fresh or lemon juice, to help retain their color. Meanwhile, bring the sugar, and water to a rolling boil. Add the apple slices. Boil for 5 minutes. Do not let it reduce. Pour the hot syrup and apples into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Run a knife or a jar scraper to dislodge any bubbles while turning the jar slightly. Seal. Process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.

Tip: I highly recommend the Blue Book Guide to Preserving for learning how to can. Here are some of my favorite canning related items.

Notes: I found some great long cinnamon sticks at Costco. They were the perfect size for the quart jars and quite inexpensive. This is a great recipe to use up vanilla beans that are slightly dried up. I buy them in bulk online and occasionally they get a bit tough before I am able to use them all.

My thoughts:
You all know about my Stayman-Winesap love if you have been readers during pretty much any fall. They are just a great, crisp not-too-sweet apple. We bought a whole bushel of them and while I was making great headway for a while there, we started to slow down and still had some apples left. I figured, why not can them? Even if they didn't work out, at least I tried and didn't just toss them in our compost bin. As it turned out, canning these apple was a success. They were infused with spice and allowed me to use them in any recipe that called for applesauce (by pureeing them) and were wonderful over yogurt and served on ice cream. You could even use the leftover syrup to sweeten a drink. Talk about a win-win-win.


September 26, 2011

Jammin' Pulled Pork

2 1/2 boneless pork sirloin roast
8 oz  jam*
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chili sauce (like Heinz)
2 tablespoons thick Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons mesquite liquid smoke
1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican hot chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a 4 quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hrs. When done, meat should shred easily with a fork. Remove roast from slow cooker. Shred with a fork and set aside. Mash any solid bits of the sauce in the slow cooker with a potato masher. Return the pork and the sauce to slow cooker, and toss to evenly coat. Serve on rolls.

*I used my homemade blueberry balsamic black pepper jam but any jam would probably be good.

My thoughts:
One of my favorite things to do with all of the stuff I can is to figure out new ways to use it. A person can only eat so much jam on toast. In this case, I used it to create a thick, delicious sauce for a pulled pork sandwich. The end result is a fruity, spicy not too drippy pulled pork that is easy to make as it is to eat. Plus it is a great way to taste fantastic summer berries in the fall!

September 19, 2011

Good Bite Weeknight Meals: Delicious Made Easy

A cookbook I contributed recipes to,  Good Bite Weeknight Meals: Delicious Made Easy, is now available! It features recipes from me and many other food bloggers including Steamy Kitchen, Simply Recipes, Gluten-free Girl, Picky Palate and more! Also exciting, the pictures of our dishes were taken by Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites! It really is a beautiful cookbook.

Shipping from Amazon now.

The contest has ended! Congrats, winners!

I will be back later this week with more recipes, I am finally near the end of my huge, summer-long project.

September 16, 2011

Hot Pickled Green Tomatoes

8 small, green tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
1 habenaro, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon dill seed
6 peppercorns
1 small shallot, minced

Evenly divide the tomatoes, pepper, spices and shallot between 2 wide mouth pint jars. Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Prep the lids/jars. Pour in the boiling vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Poke down any tomatoes that has floated too close to the top. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit at least one week before eating.

Yield: 2 wide mouth pints

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
Just before the first frost was threatened, I picked all the green tomatoes I still had on the vine. In the past I've tried the old "ripen in a paper bag" trick but it didn't always work. Since I've become obsessed with canning, I thought I might try my hand at canning some pickled tomatoes. I'm honestly not sure if pickled tomatoes is a "thing" but I was already firing up my canning pot to make some jam so I figured making a couple of jars wouldn't hurt. I popped in a (really hot!) pepper some friends grew in their garden and a few of my favorite pickling spices and you know what? It totally turned out. The tomatoes stayed firm and had a great hot-pickle flavor. Easy-peasy. Added bonus: I felt great that I was able to eke out a tiny bit more from my garden.

September 12, 2011

Spicy Vegetable Ham Pea Soup


5 cups ham stock
2 cups sauteed cubed smoked ham*
2 cups green split peas
2 cups watercress (stems removed)
kernels from 2 ears of corn (about 1 cup)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 poblano peppers, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced
2 small turnips, diced
2 stalks celery (with leaves), diced
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons pepper sherry
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 large bay leaf
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Pick over split peas to remove any stones or stems that might be present. Place all ingredients EXCEPT the ham, peas and corn in a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook on low 10 hours. Stir in the remaining during the last 45 minutes of cooking. Fish out the bay leaf prior to serving.

*Use leftover ham or one of those cute boneless smoked ham steaks that are always on sale. I just saute them quickly in a dry, nonstick pan.

My thoughts:
I created this recipe to use up the last of the summer produce and some of the fall produce I've been accumulating in one go. I was a little nervous to see how it would come out but it was wonderful! Split peas turn so creamy in the slow cooker, you would swear you added cream. The peppers, watercress and turnips are meltingly soft and just add flavor and body to the soup. Adding the ham, peas and corn at the end add a fresh flavor that can some times be missing from a slow cooker soup. It all adds up to a warming, perfect for a weeknight meal.

Quick tip: Chop all of the ingredients up the night before and refrigerate them overnight. I even put the peas in a container with all of the spices so I didn't have to measure anything out. Just dump it all in and go!

September 10, 2011

Pickled Long Beans

1 bunch long beans (aka yard long beans, Chinese long beans)
1 Korean or Chinese hot pepper, cut into strips
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons shoaxing wine
1/4 cup pickling salt
4 cloves garlic
1 inch knob ginger, cut into 4 slices
1 tablespoon broken star anise
8 black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks

Evenly divide the spices, ginger, pepper and garlic between 2 wide mouth quart jars. Cut the ends off the beans and divide into two even bunches. Fold them in half and fit into each jar. Bring the vinegar, salt, water and shaoxing to low boil. Stir to dissolve the salt. Pour the mixture over the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal. Process using the water bath mixture for 10 minutes.

2 quarts

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
Some of my favorite dishes call for pickled long beans. Normally the recipes call for a quick pickle but some times it is difficult to find long beans at the market when the mood strikes so when I saw them recently, I picked up a bunch. Once I got them home I started to wonder if I could make a shelf-stable pickle out of them so I could have them on hand for when the mood strikes. I put in the appropriate spices and made this pickle. It is perfect in the dishes I would have made with the quick pickle and now I have extra.

September 05, 2011

Mussels with Zucchini and Basil

4 lb mussels
3 small zucchini, diced
1 onion, diced
2 jalapeno, minced
2 cups stock or water
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon butter
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt


Heat the oil and butter in a large pot with a lid. Saute the onion, zucchini and jalapeno until the zucchini is tender. Add the liquid ingredients and herbs/spices. Add the mussels then cover and steam, shaking occasionally, until they are all opened. Discard any mussels that remained closed. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I am in a bit of denial that summer might possibly be drawing to an end. I've been busy with a big project (and a few smaller ones and a handful of food-related trips) all summer and that, combined with the horrible weather we've had most of the season, makes me feel like summer never really started. Luckily, there is still some good, local, summery produce to be had. In this case, I used zucchini to give a light, fresh flavor to the deeply savory mussels. I ended up eating the leftover stock and vegetables with a spoon like soup after we finished all of the mussels, it was that good!

September 03, 2011

Pickled Fennel

6 bulbs fennel, in 1/4 inch slices
6 bay leaves
4 1/2 cups water
4 cups white vinegar
1/3 cup pickling salt
1/4 cup minced fennel frond
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons black peppercorns
3 teaspoons fennel seed
3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed

Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Prep the lids/jars. Evenly divide all of the spices, peppers and garlic between 6 wide mouth pint jars. Add the fennel, leaving 1/4 inch headroom.

Pour in the vinegar mixture. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit 1 week before eating.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
When the nice people at Ocean Mist Farms offered to send me some fennel, I was pretty excited. It has been getting easier to buy fennel in recent years but sometimes it looks a little dodgy at the store. Not this fennel! It was blemish free and crisp. Unfortunately, I was headed to New Orleans for a few days and there was no way I would be able to use it all up before I went. So, I decided to pickle it. I am glad I did, it has a strong fennel-anise flavor and the fennel stayed remarkably crisp and sweet. Wonderful on a sandwich or salad. It was also delightful on grilled salmon.

September 02, 2011

Grilled Salmon with Pickled Fennel

1 lb fresh salmon
4 oz pickled fennel
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
1 habanero, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon juice from the jar of pickled fennel
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a resealable marinating container or resealable bag. Refrigerate up to 2 hours. Prep your grill. Place some applewood chips in a smoker box on the coals. Place the salmon on a cedar plank*. Top with the pickled fennel, pepper and shallot from the marinating container. Grill until cooked through, about

*You could cook this directly on the grill but the plank adds some flavor and it is easier to keep the salmon from sticking.

My thoughts:
This is a really, fun, flavorful yet simple recipe for the unofficial end of grilling season. I don't like to marinate fish for too long because it can effect the texture but salmon is pretty hardy and can hold up to a bit of pickle juice. The time in the fridge was just enough to let the pepper (from our garden!) and the fennel to seep into the fish without overpowering it. The salmon had a lovely grilled flavor, of course, but so did the pickled fennel and shallot. Who knew grilled pickles could be so tasty? I ate every bite!