Tuesday, September 16, 2014

BEST Chocolate Cake

This is a really good chocolate cake.  Even though there is only a half cup oil, it is super moist and light.  It is not a dense chocolate cake.  It has tons of flavor.  I highly recommend it.

I decided to go with a mint chocolate cake for my birthday.  Yes, I make my own cake.  You see, I like making cakes.  I love making exactly what I want for my birthday.  I think it is kind of a foodie thing. Yes? 

Best Chocolate Cake- Ever!

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
1 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup boiling water

Line two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa (sift it in), baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a 2 cup measuring cup or a smaller bowl, measure milk, oil, eggs, vanilla.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Beat just enough to mix.  Make sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.  Add in boiling water. Beat briefly scrap and stir.  Pour into prepared pans and place on the middle rack of the oven.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes. Cool for ten minutes in pans. Flip and peel off paper.

Mint Frosting

1 cup butter
3 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup Creme de Menthe

Beat together until light and fluffy.  Add more or less sugar until desired affect is achieved.  Like wise add the Creme de Menthe.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pickled Jalapenos

SOOOOOOOOO good.  I made four jars plus a little one to go in the fridge the first time.  I loved them- ate half the jar with my dinner, so I decided to can some more.

Here is what I know about jalapeños and what has worked for me and not worked for me.   A few years ago I canned jalapeños, sliced, with lots of seeds.  These were so hot!  I can barely eat one with a whole meal.  Just five will turn a whole pot of beans into fire.  Seriously.  This time when I canned them, I only allowed a few seeds.  I would slice them and whatever would remain on the slices I would leave.  The main heart of seeds at the core I discarded.  It was totally enough heat for me.  You will have to play with the seed thing to discover your own level of heat.

Always wear protective hand cover.  I use a latex glove on the hand holding the jalapeño while chopping.  Be careful not to inhale fumes while cooking.  It will hurt your lungs.

So far I have canned 7 pints of these.  I have some jalapenos in a bag in my fridge about to be canned as well.  I love these!

I have wrote the recipe for 3 pints.  Double it if you would like more.  Maybe even triple it if you are loving them like me.

Pickled Jalapeño Slices 

Makes about 3 jars- pint size.

2 1/2 cups jalapeños, sliced, most of seeds discarded
1 clove of garlic for each jar

1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons Kosher salt or non iodized salt

In a stainless steel saucepan heat salt, water, vinegar, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and peppercorns until it comes to a boil.  Simmer one minute and remove from the heat.

Slice and core the jalapeños.  Place in jars. Press firmly as you go along to get as many as you can into a jar.  Don't smash them though.  Once all your jars are packed, pour brine into the jars filling them up to within one quarter of the top of the jar.  Place lids on, screw tops down and place in hot water bath.  Process 10 minutes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Preserving Herbs

Here is what I do with my herbs.

Basil: In a blender, I combine 2 cups of basil (packed) to one cup of olive oil.  I then pour it into ice cube trays or baby food jars.  When I need it I just pull out a cube and add it to soup right before serving.  Pow! Lots of basil flavor!

Cilantro:  I don't preserve this because it is so delicate of a flavor.  If you really want to I would use the "basil" method.

Dill:  Freeze this in baggies.  Wrap the dill in paper towel, then plastic, then aluminum foil and label. Note: if you have a vacuum sealer, then by all means use that.

Lavender:  Tie stems with twine and hang in dark dry place. Once dried remove leaves from stem.  Discard stem and place leaves in air tight glass jar.

Mint:  Tie stems with twine and hang in dark dry place. Once dried remove leaves from stem.  Discard stem and place leaves in air tight glass jar. Note: The best time to pick mint is in the spring, early summer. As the summer goes by mint becomes tougher.

Oregano:  Tie stems with twine and hang in dark dry place. Discard stem and place leaves in air tight glass jar.

Rosemary:  Freeze a few stems in baggies. Wrap the rosemary in paper towel, then plastic, then aluminum foil and label. Note: if you have a vacuum sealer, then by all means use that.

Thyme:  Tie stems with twine and hang in dark dry place. Discard stem and place leaves in air tight glass jar.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Canning Peaches: A Step by Step Process

I have been canning peaches since I was a kid.  Ahem, well, assisting my Mom as a kid.  Peaches are a little very messy and with all that sugar, a little very sticky too.

First, prepare light or medium syrup. I prefer light syrup. Simply heat water and sugar in a sauce pan until sugar dissolves. Bring it to boiling point and boil one minute, making sure all sugar is dissolved.

  • Light – 2 cups sugar to 1-quart water
  • Medium -3 cups sugar to 1-quart water

I did a bushel last time, yielding 21 quarts.  I needed just under 5 quarts of water/ 10 cups sugar.

Second, scald the peaches.  They don't need to be in there real long- a minute or less will do.  This part will loosen the skin of the peaches and take the fuzz away.  If your peaches are really ripe the skin will come off easily without this.  But really ripe peaches make for soggy canned peaches. Some kinds of peaches give up their skin easily, others do not. Unfortunately the ones below did not give up their skin to easily.  Note to self buy the first freestone peaches that are out at the market.
When doing a lot of peaches I lay them out on a cookie sheet to cool while I peel them. 
Third, Place peeled, sliced and cooked peaches into a jar.  Pack them in pretty good without smushing them too much.  Pour hot liquid into the jar.  Wipe rims to make sure there is not any stuff on it.  Place lids and screw on the rings. Give a nice firm, twist. Place in hot water in canner.

Fourth, bring canner to a boil. This is called the water bath. Once it has reached the boiling point, time it for 20 minutes.

Here is one tip that will save you some effort and a lot of time.  After you have processed your peaches, let them sit in the canner for five minutes with the lid off and the heat turned off for five minutes.  After that, pull the tray up and then remove your jars from the canner.  This step will prevent bubbling over.  If you take the jars out right after you turn the heat off, they sometimes will bubble over, creating a hot, sticky mess.

I place my jars onto a glass cutting board.  I never place them directly on the counter.  If I am canning a lot I will place them on heavy towels.

Another little tip is to place any hot pads that you might have gotten wet, onto the jars while they are cooling.  The heat from the jars will dry them out real quick.

I leave them out all night on the counter.  The next morning I make sure that all the tops are depressed making sure they have been processed adequately.  Then I clean the jars.  In recent years I actually remove the ring, clean it real well and store without the rings.

If any of your jars did not seal properly, place them in the fridge and eat them up! Honestly, this does not happen very often.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Zapple Bars

Summer is winding down here at our house.  Even though I know there are roughly 18 days left... What I mean by winding down is that the flurry of activity is coming to a close (at least with the kids). For me it is all about the harvest now and spending many days in the kitchen freezing vegetables and fruit or canning them.  While I love it and love the fact that I have it in the winter even more, all I want to do is sit down with my sewing machine and sew.

The day I made these bars I was literally in the kitchen the entire day with all my produce from the Farmers Market! Phew!  These bars were totally worth the extra time that I had to be there to make them.  You would NEVER know it was zucchini.  If you carefully peel all the green off, no one will have a clue.  And this is a good thing because my daughter is not exactly keen on zucchini.  The slight pale green that is under the skin is okay because it is kind of like a green apple. This recipe was a lot of fun because it was like an experiment.

Source: The Classic Zucchini Cookbook , by Nancy C. Ralston, Marynor Jordan, and Andrea Chesman.

A very nice lady at the farmers market told me about these bars.  I had to try them.

The filling:
6 cups zucchini, peeled and diced
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup Dutch Jell ( you could use corn starch or tapioca or some other thickener)

The crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the zucchini and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Simmer, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly thickened.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.

To make the crust, in a food processor combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. Process or combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press half of the crust mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Spread the zucchini mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining crust mixture evenly on top of the zucchini. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown.

It is delicious served like a crumble while still warm.  If you want bars, then serve after it is completely chilled.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Oven Baked Zucchini Chips

I am totally burnt out from summer.  Run, run, run! And then of course because it is harvest time- lots of freezing and canning.  I am not complaining, mind you. I just feel like holing up in my house for a couple weeks.  

Today, I made a pork shoulder for the next few days eating, short ribs for tonight, froze peaches, zucchini dill soup, salsa verde, beets.... um, what else?  Oh, I made some zucchini bars that I will show you on another day. I also cut up a bunch of veggies for a veggie tray to take to a party, mowed my parents lawn and shopped for fabric.  I love productive days like these.  However, I am looking forward to some much needed R and R.

I made these a week or so ago.  I don't mind baking things like this.  Most people prefer frying it. This is less calories and less messy.

Baked Zucchini Chips

2 zucchinis (medium size)
2 cups panko
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 425F.  Line a few cookie sheets with parchment or a silpat.

Beat egg and milk together in a bowl.  In another bowl place panko mixed with garlic powder.  Slice zucchini 1/4 inch thick. Dip slices of zucchini in egg mixture and then into panko mixture, then place on parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake until golden, alternating racks.

When you take them our of the oven sprinkle with salt or whatever seasonings you like.

Ranch Dip

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried dill weed (use fresh if you have it)

Mix together, cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight

Friday, August 29, 2014

Old Fashioned Graham Crackers

I found this old recipe for Graham Crackers.  I have made graham crackers on a few occasions.  This one, in my opinion, is the best one yet.

Graham Crackers

1 cup shortening (you could use half butter and half shortening)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups white flour
4 cups graham flour (or wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream shortening and sugar together until fluffy.  Add in vanilla extract.

In a bowl combine flour, salt,baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the dry infredients to the sugar mixture alternately with the milk  Chill dough over night in the refrigerator.

Roll out dough and cut into desired shapes or just squares like store bought graham crackers.  Poke with a fork all over cookie to prevent puffing.  Place on cookie sheet about an inch apart.  Bake in a preheated oven, 350F until golden brown for a crispier cookie. About 12 minutes give or take. If you like them a little soft and chewy take out a bit early.

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