Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lefty Loosey

It’s spring!  Which means gardening time, which means I finally have an excuse to play with the hose  buy more plants  dig in the dirt  get outside and enjoy the weather.  As I’ve been putting a perennial herb garden together, I’m reminded of a little teaching aphorism, one I wish I learned a long time ago – before I may have had that incident last year where I turned the main water faucet on the side of the house the wrong way and the pressure blew the knob right off the pipe and maybe there was a water geyser that rivaled Yellowstone’s and after getting soaking wet head to toe I had to go running for my husband because the force was so great I couldn’t get the knob back on.  But I admit to nothing, except now maybe muttering “lefty loosey” to myself whenever I get near an outside water faucet to turn on the garden hose. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Make Your Own Irish Cream Liqueur

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, which means I’ll for sure be making a batch of homemade Irish Cream.  Making it yourself means you can use fresh ingredients that give a rich, full flavor without any of the chemical taste you may find in commercial bottles.

Recipes abound on the Internet for DIY Irish Cream Liqueur.  They’re all more or less the same, although some call for much more sugar than others.  I’ve adapted a version that uses sweetened condensed milk, which to my palate provides a rich taste and creamy texture that is not overly sweet.  I find heavy cream a bit too heavy, so I use mostly half & half blended with some cream.  Or I just use what I have in the fridge – it’s all good.  Just be sure if you’re using heavy cream to not get distracted and let your blender go too long or you’ll end up with something approaching whipped cream.  ASK ME HOW I KNOW. 


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pumpkin or Apple? That is the question. (The answer is both.)

Some folks are very particular about their pie.  There are those that think pumpkin pie rules, and there are those that believe that nothing can compare to a good old-fashioned apple pie.  If you’ve been given the pie assignment for a holiday gathering and have only the time or inclination to bake just one, how do you choose?  Here’s an answer:  Make a Pumpkin Apple Pie. 
The combination of flavors is perfect, and it has a light texture that’s not overly custardy or heavy.  The first taste brings a surprising burst of tart apple, without the cloying sweetness of a classic apple pie.  This somewhat unusual pie can be served all season long as a simple dessert, yet it’s nice enough for the holidays.  It’s sure to please many a pie lover.
It’s a snap to make, especially if you cheat like me and used store-bought pie crust and canned pumpkin purée.  And it’s a great way to use your homemade applesauce, especially if you have jars languishing on the shelves from a prior season (I made this pie yesterday and won’t say what vintage the applesauce was from).
Should you wish to make your own pumpkin pie spice -- you've likely got the ingredients already in the cupboard -- the recipe is here as well. 


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

2017 All-Pumpkin Dinner

The tradition continues.  This year’s dinner excludes an appetizer, because … gnocchi and brownies. 

Without further ado, here’s the menu for our (mostly) annual all-pumpkin dinner.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Thinking Outside the Jar: Roasted Red Pepper Spread to Red Pepper Pesto

What do you do when you pick a peck of red bell peppers?  You can freeze them, dehydrate them, or make pickles.  I sometimes do all of things, but mostly I like to make something a bit different:  Roasted Red Pepper Spread.  It’s a delicious condiment that pairs beautifully with goat cheese crostini and can be used for many other appetizers.  And of course it’s a great sandwich spread.  But while I can eat more than my fair share of crostini, there’s only so many appetizers a small household can handle -- so I like to put my condiment to good meal use. 
Roasted Red Pepper Spread is made with roasted sweet red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic.   There’s some vinegar in there – all these vegetables are low in acid and thus require acidification in order to be safely water bath canned at home.  All these ingredients cook up into a rich and savory concoction that makes the house smell divine.  While I admit that peeling peppers is not my favorite activity, it’s easy enough and worth the small extra effort. 
spoonful of the spread will perk up couscous (and let’s face it, couscous can always use some perking up), and I like it topped on polenta with poached or coddled eggs and maybe some steamed greens.  One of my favorite uses is to transform it into pesto for a quick and delicious dinner.  A quick whirl in the blender, along with some parmesan, olive oil, and a bit more garlic and salt is all you need.  Well, and some cooked pasta, of course. 
Another benefit:  Roasted Red Pepper Spread can make a nice host/hostess or holiday gift.  It’s beautiful orangey-red color looks great in the jar.  Simply add a ribbon and card with suggested uses, or include it in a gift basket with some fancy dried pasta and a great wooden spoon.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Watermelon Jerky

Can't get enough watermelon?  Are you getting twitchy because watermelon season is coming to a close?  Then preserve some melon by dehydrating it so you can savor the sweetness well into fall.  If it lasts that long. 

The flavor of watermelon jerky (aka watermelon leather) is really intense -- it's like watermelon on steroids. It's a great snack on its own, but you can add sea salt or spices to perk it up if you like. It's generally dried to a leather-like texture, but if the thought of watermelon chips sounds like it's right up your alley, then you can dry the melon until it's crisp. 

Cantaloupes and honeydews can be dehydrated too, by the way. 

Dehydrating melon is easy.  First, rinse the melon and scrub really well with a vegetable brush.  You are washing your melons before cutting into them, right?  If not, do so.  Melons have been associated with cases of foodborne illness.  Cutting into the melon can introduce pathogens into the flesh.  So yes, wash your melons (and all fruits and vegetables).

Cut the melon, remove the rinds, and place on drying trays.  Dry at 135F for 18-24 hours.  Yeah, I know.  It takes forever. 

Watermelon jerky is done when it's dry and leathery, but still a bit flexible.  You shouldn't see any visible signs of moisture.  Store it in air-tight containers or freezer bags.  For long-term storage, store in the freezer. 

Eat it plain, or snip it into little pieces to top yogurt, oatmeal, or ice cream (maybe don't do that if you've put cayenne pepper on it).  Or try pieces on top of cream cheese for an unusual appetizer.  However you enjoy it, savor the taste of summer just a little bit longer.