Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Crepes with Strawberry Preserves

Yes, I know what you may be thinking…”Strawberry season?  I thought that was in the summer…?”  You are right, strawberry season is in the summer around here.  However, when a friend of mine got an ad in the mail for our local grocery store, strawberries were listed at $0.97 a pound!!  She discovered that this year Florida’s strawberry season has been very late, and is coinciding with California’s strawberry season…good news for us canners!! 

Ideally, I would have loved to have gotten these strawberries more locally, maybe even from my farmer’s market, but the lure of the deal I would be getting got the best of me.  At least the strawberries are from this country. 

I used the recipe for Strawberry Jam by Food In Jars to process my strawberries.  I loved the idea of using vanilla beans and lemon zest for a warmer, more interesting flavor.  Additionally, many other recipes that I saw used much more sugar, sometimes twice as much.  I like my preserves to taste more like the fruit itself then like candy.

Preserving for the first time this year showed me how much I had already learned in canning, as well as how much I have yet to learn.  I know the process well, sterilize, cook, fill, process, cool.  But I have so much more to learn about the art of canning.  It takes so much intuition and experience.  My jam turned out delicious, but a bit on the loose side.  I know that as I can more and more fruits and vegetables, I will be able to tell when a recipe is not going exactly as planned, and hopefully will know how to fix the problem.

Not all was lost for this “jam”, however.  Last night I threw together one of the tastiest desserts I have had in a long time…crepes with strawberry syrup and powdered sugar!

CrepesAdapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter (plus more for oiling the pan)
  • dash of salt
  • dash of vanilla or a bit of vanilla bean
  1. Mix flour and eggs as well as you can.  Slowly add 1 cup of milk, whisking to eliminate lumps of flour.  Add butter, salt, and vanilla.  Whisk to combine.
  2. With a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt a small bit of butter to coat.  Pour 1/4-1/3 cup of crepe batter, and tilt the pan to coat the bottom.  Cook until golden, then flip.  When the second side is done, spread a small bit of butter over the crepe.  Fold or roll crepe and place on plate.  Repeat with remainder of batter.
  3. Lightly dust the crepes with powdered sugar, and drizzle with warm strawberry syrup (or your favorite topping).  Eat all of them!!

It was so great to start the season with a big canning adventure!  How do you feel about canning with food bought from the grocery store vs. local food?


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Pi day Pie

Having a Math Nerd for a husband (and many Math Nerds as friends) means that there are little things my family may do differently than your average family.  Take for example Pi Day (3/14)…a whole day devoted to a number…or for me, a whole day of eating pie!

making the pie

I was really happy to finally use up the cherries that I canned over the summer.  I didn’t have enough of either sour or sweet cherries for a full pie, so I decided to  put them together to make one Super-Cherry Pie.  It made for interesting flavors.  I also, of course, made the vent in the shape of the Pi symbol, on Mike’s request.  It may be my very favorite part of the pie!

Slice of Cherry Pie

My friend Stephanie made a very delicious strawberry pie, which was beautiful, and tasted even better than it looked…I went back for seconds!

Stephanie's Strawberry Pie

Stephanie's Strawberry pie, detail

The second pie that I made (which of course I didn’t take pictures of….sorry!!) was a chicken/tomato/parmesan hand pie.  I know you can’t see what it looked like, but it was delicious!

Chicken Parmesan Hand Pies

  • 2 chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 batches of Pate Brisee (omit the sugar)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
  • ice water
  1. Heat a medium pan over medium-high heat.  Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of the pan.  Saute garlic and onions until the onions are transluscent.  Add tomatoes, oregano, nutmeg, and red pepper flakes, bring to a boil.
  2. Place chicken breasts in sauce and cover pan with a lid.  Adjust heat to bring sauce to a simmer.  Simmer the chicken breasts in sauce until they are fully cooked.  Turn the chicken once or twice while cooking to coat in sauce.
  3. Remove chicken from pan and allow to cool on a plate.  Cool the sauce as well.  Cut chicken in thin strips against the grain of the meat.
  4. Roll the dough out to 1/8″ thickness and cut into 4″ circles (work in batches if needed).  Place the circles of dough in the frige for 30 minutes.
  5. Place dough circles on baking sheets.  Fill each piece of dough with a couple strips of chicken, a tablespoon or two of sauce and a sprinkling of mozzarella and parmesan. 
  6. Dab ice water around the edges of the circles, fold one half of the circle over to the other side, and pinch closed with a fork or your fingers.  Make a small slit in the top or stab it a couple of times with a fork.  Refrigerate hand pies for another 30 minutes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place pies in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden (May take more or less time depending on your oven.  Go by the color, not the time!).
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before enjoying!

 Have you ever celebrated Pi Day?  or Pie Day??

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A piece of Baklava

Probably the number one thing pregnancy is known for is the cravings.  So far, there have not been too many weird things that I crave (though once I ate a whole jar of green olives).  My main problem has been TV commercials.  Everytime a new food item pops up, I feel like I have to have it.  Lately I have taken to looking away, or concentrating on something else when commercials come on so that I won’t have to worry about craving a huge Big Mac with extra-large fries and a Coke!

One of the things I have given in to however, is Baklava.  I figured since I have already made this twice (in the last 7 days), I ought to share it with you.  The first time I made Baklava was for Valentine’s day last week.  I thought it was a special dessert that went perfectly with the kabobs and humus that Mike and I were having for dinner that night.  What I didn’t know was how much I would love it.  The kind of love that makes you wonder where this has been your whole life.  I proceeded to have it for breakfast for the rest of the week.  I ended up taking some of the dessert to work so that I wouldn’t eat any more of it.

tray of baklava

But now, I’ve made it again.  Luckily, this time I have another social function that I can take leftovers too as well…assuming I don’t eat the whole tray over the next few hours.

I only made one tiny adjustment to the recipe…instead of filling the pastry with a mix of walnuts and almonds, I only used walnuts, because for the second time in a row, I forgot to purchase almonds.  Um yes…I also have a severe case of pregnancy brain.

What is the craziest craving you have had, or experienced a friend having?

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Christmas Baking

With Christmas less than 2 weeks away, I decided it was time to do some Christmas baking!  My friend Stephanie and I spent the day making cookies and candy, and listening to Christmas music.  As you can see, we had some fun with decorating sugar cookies…my poor gingerbread man’s arm fell off, so i frosted it like it was meant to be that way.  I hope he is not in too much pain!

Stephanie said something that really stayed with me…this time next year, I will have a little one to make cookies with.  I am looking forward to that so much.  I know that I should cherish being pregnant, and all the bonding that is already happening between my baby and I, but sometimes I just want the baby to be here already!  I can’t wait for all the fun stuff we will do together.

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Apple Butter

This weekend I was able to get in what was probably the last bit of canning for the season.  I kinda missed out on a few of the things that I wanted to can when I was gone for my sister’s wedding, but thats ok…there’s always next year.  One thing I have really enjoyed is canning with other people.  It is so much fun to do canning with friends, and the tedious parts (like stirring apple butter for and hour and a half) seem to go by quickly.  I have also noticed that it is easier to mass produce jars with more people, which makes canning much more worth while.

Like the rest of the produce I have canned, I got these apples from the farmer’s market.  The farmer recommended using a combination of apple, which ended up being perfect!  There was a great combination of flavors and textures in the resulting apple butter.  An added bonus of the red-skinned apples was a beautiful pink color that turned into a rich redish brown as the apple butter cooked.  Here is the recipe I used for the Apple Butter.  If you have not come across Simply Recipes before, take a bit of time to look through it…Elise has tons of simple recipes, and even has a category for budget friendly recipes, which I have referred to often.

If you are looking for a recipe to use apple butter in, besides the basic toast, try Apple Butter Hand Pies.  I have made these quite a few times in the last couple years, and they are a real hit!  The crust is almost like a cookie, and the sweet and tart apple butter on the inside is a perfect contrast to it.

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Pumpkin Pies

This weekend I found myself wondering where fall went, and how I had suddenly stepped right into winter.  We had our first snow, which came a bit early this year, and nothing seemed more fitting than staying home and eating pumpkin pie.

I got the recipe for the pie at Martha Stewart, and made it into a bunch of tiny pies instead.  One recipe of her Pate Brisee made 24 mini pies, and there was plenty of filling left over at the end, which I froze so that we could have pumpkin pie again in a few weeks.  I basically followed the recipe, except for cooking time.  I cooked the pies at 450 degrees F for 5 minutes instead of 10.  Then I switched the oven to 350 degrees F and cooked them for about 15 minutes more.  I kept a careful eye on them, though because they cooked much faster than their full-sized counterpart.  If you don’t have a mini tart/pie pan, you could use a muffin tin instead.

For the whipped cream on top, I made up a recipe as I went along, and it turned out absolutely delicious.  It is so incredibly quick and easy, and the difference in taste between this and the store bought whipped cream is huge.

Maple Whipped Cream

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pour heavy cream into a clean glass bowl.  Whip on high until it holds shape.  Slowly drizzle in the maple syrup and vanilla with the mixer on low.  Mix until fully incorporated.

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If you asked people what the number one thing they would like to can is, I think most people would answer tomatoes.  Tomatoes are such a fundamental part of my diet.  Canning tomatoes is very easy, because tomatoes have a high acidity level, which means that you can can them without using a pressure canner.  Other veggies, like corn, cannot be canned with a regular canner.

Last year I canned some tomato sauce.  I thought that it was alright, but I decided to just can tomatoes by themselves this year.  I prefer adding the other ingredients fresh because I think the flavor is better.  Also, I can use the tomatoes in other recipes as well.  In the picture above, you can see that I also preserved some pickled hot peppers and some marinated sweet peppers.  The harvest season is definitely upon us!

Canned Crushed Tomatoes

  • 20-25 lbs tomatoes
  • vinegar or lemon juice
  • 12-14 pint jars with 2 piece lids
  • salt, if desired

Prepare a large bowl by filling it with water and ice.  Keep more ice on hand for when the ice melts.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Blanch tomatoes in the water for 30 seconds, and then submerge them in the ice water.  Peal off the skin of the tomatoes.  I found that the whole blanching, submerging, and peeling process worked best in batches.  I don’t have any pots or bowls that can hold 25 lbs of tomatoes!

Cut out the center stem scar, and squeeze out the seeds (be careful at this point because sometimes the seeds can squirt out the wrong end…I ended up with a lot of tomato on me).  Cut the tomatoes into 4 pieces.

In a large pot, layer the bottom with tomato pieces.  Smash them with a spoon, or with your hands.  Keep adding tomatoes, smashing them as you go, until the pot is full.  Heat the tomatoes over medium-high heat, stiring constantly until the mixture is boiling.  Turn heat down and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in each of the jars.  If you want, you can also add 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Pour the tomatoes in the jars, leaving 1/4-1/2 inch of headspace.  Close the jars with hot 2 piece lids.  Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 35-40 minutes.

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