Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving All!

Hello everyone!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  If you're out braving the Black Friday crowds shopping, please be careful.

I know lots of people are sitting there with tons of Thanksgiving leftovers.  You can only eat so many turkey sandwiches, right?  Get creative and put your freezer to use!  I didn't host this year so I will be cooking turkey for us on Sunday.  

The first thing I do is cut as much meat off the carcass as I can.  Then I put the entire carcass (you might have to break it down if you have a smaller pot) and put it in a stock pot big enough to cover it with water.  If you truly have a small pot, nothing says you have to use all of the carcass.  I will add some of the same things into the stock that I used in cooking it, carrots, onions, leeks, parsnips, celery, etc.  You could even use some of the veggies from the veggie tray in your stock.  Be flexible and be creative.  Bring it to a boil and then reduce to simmer.  Skim off the gunky gray stuff.  Then let it simmer and do its thing for a while.  I like to simmer it for 2-3 hours, the more it simmers the more the flavors concentrate.  When it is done, I let it cool and then strain it.  From here you can cool completely in the fridge and then remove any fat off the top, it should be in a solid form then.  From here you can use it or portion it out and freeze it in Ziploc bags for later use.

A friend of mine showed us a picture of her freezer.  She'd taken some of her leftover turkey and make turkey pot pies, don't bake them and put them in the freezer.  When you're ready to use them, treat them just like you would those from the grocery.  Only they'll taste so much better.  On a previous post (Here) is a recipe that I use to make Chicken pot pies, you can simply substitute turkey in this recipe.

Turkey and dumplings is just as good as Chicken and dumplings.  There is a recipe for it on the same link above.

My husband looks forward to turkey Manhattans after every Thanksgiving.  This will use up leftover mashed potatoes, leftover turkey and the gravy too!

You could also turn leftover mashed potatoes into potato pancakes.  I'm sorry for no recipe here but I just kinda wing these.  If I have 2-3 cups left, I'll add an egg, some flour, some chives, some shredded cheese (not too much) and some bacon bits (fresh or packaged, it really doesn't matter).  My family loves loaded baked potatoes or kicked up mashed potatoes so they like kicked up potato pancakes too.  The dough needs to be stiff enough to roll into balls, about like peanut butter cookie balls before you squish them with a fork.  I flatten them and fry in a bit of butter, sometimes with a little bacon grease added for flavor.  Fry until brown and yummy.

Stuffing is a tough one.  But I've used it as a topping in the past when I've made the insides of the turkey pot pie and had more than I needed for the pie crusts I had.  Just put the extra pot pie filling in a casserole dish and crumble the stuffing on top and bake.  The stuffing gets all crispy and crunchy. 

At this point, if you have any turkey left, put sandwich sized amounts on wax paper and then put them on a sheet pan or cookie sheet and put in the freezer.  Once frozen, pop them into a Ziploc and you can grab what you need for sandwiches later.

Just some ideas for dealing with the Thanksgiving leftovers.  It should make some of the cooking during the days when you're shopping, wrapping or decorating and need a little help in the kitchen!

Be safe out there!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oops

Just popping in for a quick hint.  Have you ever been following a recipe and found out afterwards that you forgot an ingredient?  Yea, me either.  

But, just in case, I now get out all of my ingredients for my recipe and as I add each one to the bowl, I put that ingredient away.  I think of the extra steps in putting things away as exercise.  I end up making laps around my kitchen and dining room (where my pantry is actually located) so I'm counting that as steps on my pedometer.

Happy baking for the holidays!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Take some help!

Good morning everyone!  I'm sorry I've not kept up with this lately, life has been hectic.  My jam business was invited to attend the Indy Cooking Expo, it was a wonderful time.  I loved that my husband would watch the booth so my son and I could sneak over to the presentation stage and watch the demonstrations.

I will admit that I was surprised to see a professional chef who was taking some help from the store.  I had this grandiose idea that a professional chef made everything homemade, wouldn't hear of shortcuts.  Yea, I realize now how ridiculous that sounds.  They're just like us.  Sometimes you need a little help.

One Executive Chef from a catering company suggested buying cornbread for the stuffing on Thanksgiving.  She said, and it makes sense, that the item will be transformed in the end so there was no reason not to make things a little easier on yourself on the holiday.  

Another, Chef Suzanne demonstrated a yummy pumpkin-black bean soup.  She said you could go to all the fuss of using fresh pumpkin but there was absolutely nothing wrong with using canned.  As long as it isn't pumpkin pie filling that is...LOL  This soup was fabulous.  I was so shocked when my husband tasted it (he generally does not like pumpkin) and loved it and asked me to make it for him.  The recipe is here.  

Speaking of my husband, when he makes chili, he's famous for taking a bit of help from the store.  After he browns the meat (sometimes it's beef, sometimes it's turkey or even ground chicken) he will add a full jar of Pace Picante sauce.  He makes sense here, it has spices and peppers and onions that are diced to the right consistency.  I hadn't thought of that before I met him but it works.

If you want to make a quick chicken pot pie, it can be done with leftover chicken, a small can of peas & carrots (or other mixed veggies), a small can of diced potatoes and even store bought pie dough.  It's fairly simple to put together with some thickened gravy.  I would always make the gravy homemade as it will thin out as it cooks.  I guess you could use a "cream of" soup without diluting it as well.

Something that a friend does that I found ingenious and we tried it and my family loved it.  She takes one cup of Apple Butter (I love that she uses mine!  LOL) and mixes it with 1/4 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar and pours it over top of a pork roast in the crock pot and lets it cook all day.  All the spices and apples already prepped for you in the Apple Butter gave it a wonderful flavor and it was not dry.  Seriously yummy.

So, don't be afraid to take some shortcut help when you're in a rush.  It beats popping by some drive thru somewhere in both taste and nutrition!  Ok, gotta run, I have a large English paper to write!  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fall, what a wonderful season!

Fall, the air is crisp and cooler.  MUCH cooler that it has been.  I am by no means looking forward to Winter coming but I am sure glad the awful heat of Summer is over.  This October will be bittersweet for me.  My youngest of the girls will turn 18 this month.  On one hand, she will be entering adulthood, spreading her wings and, soon enough, heading off to college.  On the other hand, my little girl will be all grown up.  Make note though, five or thirty-five, she will always be my baby girl!  Shhhh, don't tell her I said that, she's "almost an adult"...almost...LOL

I love the foods of fall.  Soups, stews, roasts.  I pretty much  love them all.  I've decided this is because they are less fussy foods.  There isn't a hard and fast rule about these types of foods in my book.  I start with some stock, it might be freshly made or it might be from the freezer, shoot, you can even use the ready made in a box (it won't be as good as your own, but it will do) and add this and that.  Add some cooked beef (or not, it can be just veggies), I add what veggies I have.  That might be potatoes, carrots, corn, green beans, tomatoes (yes, I know that technically they are fruit), leeks, onions, whatever I have on hand can end up in the veggie soup pot.  Sometimes I add barley and sometimes it's alphabet noodles, sometimes both.  The point is that you can make vegetable beef soup anyway you want too.

Chicken soup is similar around here.  About the only standards with Chicken soup here is Chicken and broth.  You can use noodles or rice.  Add carrots and celery, leeks or onions.  We have one we like that we call "Grown up Chicken Soup".  It got that name from one of our picky daughters that may or may not have been mentioned in this blog.  She said it wasn't like Campbell's so it must be "grown up".  I'm sharing this 'recipe' but remember that my measurements are approximate and 'to taste' so if you like more of something, add it.

Grown Up Chicken Soup

6-8 Cups of Chicken broth
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I usually use leftovers)
A couple of handfuls of wide egg noodles (homemade or store bought)
1 cup of frozen corn
2-3 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
1 Tbls fresh chopped parsley (1 teaspoon of dried)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring the broth to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook for about 6-7 minutes.  Then add the the rest of the ingredients and cook until everything is warmed through.  

One little hint that I thought of as I typed this out.  When using herbs, if a recipe calls for fresh and you only have dried, it's a 3-to-1 ratio.  Three teaspoons of fresh herbs equals one teaspoon of dried.  Don't get those backwards, it will overpower your dish.  Don't ask me how I know, just trust me here...LOL

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Blueberry Bread

Posts have been somewhat sporadic the last month or so mostly due to the Indiana State Fair and the Beech Grove Farmer's Market that I've been involved with all summer.  I'd always loved going to markets, I had no idea we'd have so much fun being vendors at the market. The market, in and of itself, has become a little community.  We all know if my son isn't in my booth, he's in Dan's playing with his son John.  We all know that Steve, "The Popcorn Guy", will let the vendor's kids help him out in his booth.  I know that when my husband disappears that you'll find him helping Elmer, the old farmer with the produce in the back.  They often talk about crops and hints for better ones.  We notice and question when someone isn't at the market that week.  We also love to see all the customers, new and returning ones, coming to get the week's goodies whether that is produce, jam, baked goods or even just to socialize with everyone.  It's so much fun!

Along with jams, I make some breads as well.  One of those, the Alabama Blueberry Bread, is quite popular.  I had entered it in the State Fair and got some really nice comments about it being so moist with a unique flavor because of the use of cloves in it.  I told a friend I'd share the recipe here and then forgot (Sorry Chari!) so here it is!

I stumbled on this recipe somewhere online in a search for something different than just blueberry muffins.  I'll make muffins or breakfast breads and freeze them individually for my hubby and the kids to grab for breakfast or a snack.  This recipe uses the "muffin" method in making it to keep the finished tender, so don't overwork it.  I'll share the recipe at the end that is for one batch that makes two regular sized loaves but the pictures I'll share are for a triple batch that I make when I am making mini-loaves for the market.  

Here we go:


Here's what you'll need.  My smart-aleck husband pointed out that my Clorox wipes are not listed in the recipe...I didn't notice that they were in the frame when I sat all these ingredients next to the sink.

Before anything else, mix some of the cinnamon and sugar (see recipe) together and set aside, you'll need this later.




Here is a hint that I use when baking in larger quantities, as I put the (in this case) flour in the bowl, I put each cup in little piles around the bowl.  If I lose count, I can count the piles.  It happens.  Often.

Once all of the dry ingredients are added to the bowl, I use a wire whisk to mix it all together.  


Push most of it to the sides to make a well in the center.


In another bowl, beat the eggs well.


Once the eggs are beaten, the oil is mixed in.  Set it aside with the dry ingredients, it's time to prep the pans.  After spraying the pans with Pam, sprinkle some of the cinnamon sugar mixture in the bottom of the pan, don't use it all as some goes on top of the bread before baking too.


Also, take a minute to mash some of the blueberries, not all of them, just some.  This will give the bread that "blueberry" color.  I just use a potato masher.


It's really hard to not grab a few of these as they sit there looking all yummy, but try to resist, you want the whole berries in the bread!  

((Just a side note here, frozen blueberries are a wonderful snack, in my humble opinion, even better than frozen grapes and they're a super food!))


Ok, back to it!  At this point, add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients.


Using a spatula or a big spoon, mix this just until it comes together.  Do NOT over mix it.  


It will be lumpy and bumpy and that's ok.  Next carefully fold in both the mashed blueberries and the whole ones.


Stop picking the blueberries out of the mix.  Wait, that's me.  LOL

Next, put it in the pans.  The recipe calls for using two full size bread pans but I use the mini loaf pans  You can get them at Walmart pretty inexpensively.  They fit in small Ziploc bags well and are perfect size to grab one at a time as needed.  If you want a full loaf, go for it.


Now is when you sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon-sugar mix on top.


Bake per the recipe, if you're using mini loaf pans, I generally start checking them about 10 minutes before the recipe says for a large loaf.  

It's important that when it comes out of the oven that you let the bread rest in the pan for at least 15 minutes before trying to take it out of the pan or it WILL fall apart.  It's worth the wait people!  


It's dark and crispy on the outside and moist and yummy on the inside.  These mini loaves freeze well and re-warm well in the microwave.  

Here's the actual recipe:

3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbls cinnamon
2 cups sugar
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
3 eggs, well beaten
1 ¼ cups canola oil
2 pints blueberries (mash about 1 cup of these)
2 tsp lemon extract

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour 2 - 9x5x3 inch loaf pans.
Mix ¼ cup of the sugar and ½ the cinnamon, sprinkle bottom of pans with this.
Place flour, salt, baking soda, sugar, cloves, nutmeg and the rest of the cinnamon in a large bowl. 
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
Add eggs, oil and lemon extract to well.
Stir until dry ingredients are moistened.
Stir in all blueberries.  (Mashing some gives the bread a nice blueberry color).
Divide batter between the two prepared pans
Bake 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool 15 minutes in the pan.
Remove from pan.

Cool completely on wire rack.  

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.  And if you're ever in Beech Grove, Indiana, stop by the Farmer's Market and say Hello!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ribbons!

As everyone knows, I love, love, love the State Fair.  This year, I decided to finally take the plunge and enter some things in the contests.  I didn't do so bad, if I do say so myself!  LOL



In order, I got participation for entering my Strawberry-Vanilla jam in the President's contest.  I got second place for my Gram's biscuits.  I call them 1-2-3-4 biscuits...it helps me remember the ingredients.  I won third place for my Cherry jam and fourth place for my Strawberry-jalapeno jam.  The honorable mention ribbon is for my Strawberry bread.  

I entered a bunch of things, just for fun and I enjoyed reading the comment cards from the judges.  From the comment cards, my Alabama Blueberry Bread wasn't quite done in the very center (I generally make mini loaves but for the fair they had to be large loaves so I wasn't as accurate on that one) but had it been it was a unique enough recipe that I'm sure it would have won.  It WILL be back next year.

Gram's biscuits are amazingly easy, here's the recipe:


Biscuits


2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup cold butter
¾ cup milk.

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.
Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mix resembles cornmeal.
Using a fork, stir in milk just until mixture pulls from side of bowl.
Turn out on lightly floured board.
Knead gently and minimally, touch as little as possible, just until it comes together.
Cut with biscuit cutter and place on ungreased sheet pan.
Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.

Notice 1=salt, 2 =flour, 3=baking powder and 4= 1/4+3/4 is 4/4....it's just how I remember the recipe.  LOL

An even better part of the fair was sharing it with these littles:


They had to get a pic with my jams


One of my favorite pics from the fair, my son and grandkids.  

In my next post, I'll share the recipe for the blueberry bread!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Psstt...I'm still here!

Hello everyone!  It's been a minute since I've stopped to write.  I've been so busy, sometimes it's just not funny.  Of course, the short Dude has had multiple camps this summer to keep him busy and the teen is keeping my schedule full with college visits.  School here starts on July 31st so we're getting all that back to school stuff done too.  Tired yet?  I am!

My little jam business is really hot this summer.  We've had a booth at the Beech Grove Farmer's Market this summer and it's been fabulous!  I love meeting so many new people.  The customer's are great and the vendors are amazing.  

If you get a chance to go to a local Farmer's Market, you really should.  There is nothing better than farm fresh produce that was more than likely picked within the past 24 hours.  It's also a great chance to try something new.  You might like leeks or kale or even rhubarb.  There can also be some pre-made items there as well.  You may find breads of various types or cakes, cupcakes, etc.  You just never know what you may find at a market. 

Check out Market near you!