Monday, December 30, 2013


I am trying to organize my cookbooks...not sure if I have a system nailed down or not.  I've got:

36 canning/food preservation books
35 celebrity chef cookbooks, NYT Cookbooks
4 Christmas baking
11 books on pressure cooking or crock pot cooking
18 books on camp cookery or cooking wild or foraged foods
61 cookbooks that I consider "the standards" - i.e. Joy of Cooking, Farm Journal, Cooks Illustrated, BH&G
15 vegetarian
11 various and sundry cookbooks like candy making, soups, Jello etc
6 books on BBQ and meat smoking
5 cooking reference books - i.e. McGee, etc
13 ethnic food cookbooks - many of them Polish food
37 Michigan cookbooks
20 American region cookbooks, most of them Southern or Amish
67 vintage cookbooks that don't fit into the above categories
at least 5 (but there are more, I just haven't gone through all my books to find them and reshelve, about cooking i.e. Laurie Colwin, Ruth Reichl, etc

That's 344 and counting!  I don't have very many of them cataloged yet in Eat Your Books, but I hope to get it done some day. It's a great tool to keep track of all your recipes in all your cookbooks.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas

Last night (Christmas Eve) was busy for me – I sang in the choir at 7:30 pm Mass, and I made a lasagna to cook while we were at church for a late supper before we opened our gifts.  the teenagers now like to sleep in on Christmas morning.   I remember the days when they wanted to get up really early to see what Santa brought.   So as the midnight hour approached, I contemplated Christmas breakfast….what to make?   Cinnamon rolls sounded awfully good, but I wasn’t in the mood to make the dough.  I have become a big fan of combining leaveners in bread to get a quicker result – the combination of three kinds of leavening in “bridal” or “angel” biscuits is the secret to the world famous Loveless CafĂ© biscuits in Nashville.   So when I saw a recipe in Cook's Country for a quick cinnamon roll, I decided to give it a shot.    There’s only 2 minutes of kneading and 30 minutes of rising!  Perfect for Christmas morning.  I am always the first to get up anyway.   Here's my take on their recipe....these were fantastic!  My son said they are better than Cinnabon - and they only took about an hour and a half, start to finish, to make.  

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

1 1/4 cups milk
4 teaspoons instant yeast (aka bread machine yeast)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Melt 10 tablespoons butter in the microwave in a measuring cup.

Grease 9-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, and grease parchment. Pour ¼ cup milk in small bowl and microwave  15 to 20 seconds. Stir in yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar and let sit until mixture is bubbly, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, make the filling - combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt in bowl. Stir in melted butter and vanilla until mixture resembles wet sand; set aside.   Returning to the dough - whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 5 teaspoons sugar together in large bowl.  Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, yeast mixture, and remaining 1 cup milk until dough forms (dough will be sticky). Transfer dough to well-floured counter and knead until smooth ball forms, about 2 minutes.

Roll dough into 12 by 9-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge. Brush dough all over with 2 tablespoons butter, leaving ½-inch border on far edge. Sprinkle dough evenly with filling, then press filling firmly into dough. Using bench scraper or metal spatula, loosen dough from counter. Roll dough away from you into tight log and pinch seam to seal. Don’t be afraid to pinch it hard.  Roll log seam side down and cut into 8 equal pieces.   Start by cutting the roll in half, and then the halves in half, and then the quarters in half and then they will be even thickness.  Stand rolls on end and gently re-form ends that were pinched during cutting.   Repinch any pinches that have started to unravel. Place 1 bun in center of prepared pan and others around perimeter of pan, seam sides facing in. Brush tops of buns with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cover rolls loosely with plastic wrap.

Use your microwave as a proofing box! I learned this trick from Christopher Kimball’s The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook. I'm not sure why they don’t tell you to do this in the ATK magazines, but this trick works like a charm.  It revolutionized my bread baking for sure!  Heat a measuring cup with about a half cup of water in it in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Leave the cup of steaming water in the oven – move it to the back corner and put the pan of rolls in the oven and shut the door, and let rise for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375 degrees and put the rack on the bottom position. 

Discard plastic and bake until edges are well browned,  about 25-30 minutes. Loosen rolls from sides of pan with paring knife and let cool for 5 minutes. Invert large plate over cake pan. Using potholders, flip plate and pan upside down; remove pan and parchment. Reinvert buns onto wire rack, set wire rack inside parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze.  Place cream cheese in small bowl and whisk in the butter that is left, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Whisk in sugar until smooth. Pour glaze evenly over tops of buns, spreading with spatula to cover.

These cinnamon rolls were wonderful!  Merry Christmas and happy cooking. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gift Idea: Hot Cocoa

Here is a Christmas gift I want to try this year...saw this all over Pinterest. but I am going to make it with a hot cocoa recipe I saw in The America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook

The cookbook suggests mixing it with milk, but I'd do it with water if I was also using Baileys.  I'd also make it in pint jar, so it could make one serving.  

Makes 10 jars

10 pint jars
10 "airplane sized" bottles of Bailey's
1.5 cups nonfat dry milk
1 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4  cups Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cups white chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon Salt
bag of mini marshmallows

Combine ingredients in large bowl. Pulse ingredients in food processor until chocolate is finely ground.  Put 1/3 cup hot cocoa mix in each jar, top with marshmallows.  To make hot cocoa, stir contents of the jar into 1 cup of hot water, add Baileys.

The SodaStream Experiment

the start of the snowstorm
On Friday, there were dire predictions of a big snowstorm, but we were taking it with a grain of salt since so often the TV news likes to whip up a weather frenzy.    I decided it was time to experiment with my new kitchen gadget, the SodaStream Genesis.   The good people of SodaStream sent me one to evaluate last month, and I was curious about them because I couldn't see why they were flying off the shelves at the stores.  Do people really need a soda water maker?  I lived in an old house in Hancock when I was in grad school, and it had a vintage seltzer water bottle in the bar.    In the days before a person could buy club soda in a bottle or can, you'd have to make your own.    Plus, I have always wanted to try my hand at making my own tonic water for vodka and tonics, but have yet to figure out where I can get the cinchona bark to make my own quinine.   But I am getting ahead of myself...

The snowstorm was late - it was supposed to start at 9 pm.  I was nervous to let the teenagers drive to the movies to see the new Hobbit, but since the snow wasn't happening yet, common sense prevailed.   As it happened, my son saw the actual start of the snowstorm when he returned after midnight.   So much for meteorological predictions!   The SodaStream people had sent me tons of syrups to evaluate, and so far, so good.  Their cola tastes surprisingly good, and it's very fizzy.  I decided to make my own syrup for this holiday cocktail (shown above) by using cranberry juice concentrate - the frozen stuff in a can.  It worked out fantastic!

Cranberry Fizz

1 oz. cranberry juice concentrate
1 shot vodka
Club soda (either storebought or home made)
Lime wedge

Add cranberry juice concentrate and vodka to glass, stir.  Add soda and ice, stir.  Garnish with lime wedge.

Making the cocktail this way reduces the calories, and thus the WW points for this cocktail to just 3, which is great for a cocktail. 

So, I had to sit down and "do the math" on whether it's actually worth it to buy a SodaStream.  The cost of my Genesis is around $100.   I thought that I'd have to buy a new SodaStream CO2 cartridge after it was used up (it can make 60 L of soda) but I found out yesterday when I was at Costco it can be refilled at Home Depot for about $5, but SodaStream doesn't recommend that.  Instead, you can exchange it at Target, Home Depot, Kohls, etc. for a recharged cartridge for about $15. 

I prefer to buy my soda in 10 oz. glass bottles, instead of larger plastic bottles.  At my local grocery store, I pay $4.99 for 6 10 oz bottles, but I could make it for over a $1 less with the soda stream, including the cost of the machine.   All in all, the SodaStream is well worth it.  I am looking forward to taking less returnables back to the store, which is a good thing.    The snowstorm actually DID still is happening in fact.  We got a total of 6 inches here....

....and here is the view from the front door....

Glad we are going to have a white Christmas this year!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Plans

We used to spend every Thanksgiving proper at my in laws.   I loved to see my in laws, and we used to pile into the car on Thanksgiving and drive 4 hours round trip to visit them and eat my mother in law's "green slime" -  it was a lime jello salad with cool whip and celery in it.  We'd also have my brother in law Dan's cranberry relish - it was fresh, not cooked.  I'd bring a dish to pass; once I made an oyster dressing no one would eat.   Another time I made a pumpkin swirl cheesecake and broke a glass in the kitchen when I was making it.  My brother in law cut his tongue on a stray shard and suggested that I was "trying to kill him".  I was so embarrassed!  We'd all play Trivial Pursuit (Boys vs. Girls) and then get back in the car to do it all over again at Christmas.   Now, Thanksgiving has gone to the wayside; my sister in law Kathy, the family matriarch, doesn't cook much and is a nurse that usually works Thanksgiving.

We get together with my family on another day during the long weekend; this year, it is Friday.  My Aunt Lauretta just passed away and her funeral will be on Saturday, so we pushed back our meal until 4 pm so we could hit the funeral home first.   I can't believe Aunt Lauretta outlived them all, but she did!  Her husband, then my mom, then my dad.  She always went to the funerals and told stories of the old days.   She was a spunky gal and we always believed she was a gypsy.  She had dark hair and looked exotic.  She was full of superstitions - if you dream about a baby, it meant someone was going to die.  I didn't dream about a baby this time, so I was caught off guard.   Another thing is that she could predict a newborn baby's birth date and time with eerie accuracy just by asking a few simple questions like when your birthday was, how old you were when you got your first period and the date of your wedding.   It was some kind of gypsy mathematical formula.  She guessed my daughter's birth date and time and only missed it by 18 minutes....considering she was due on Dec. 8 and she was born on Dec. 22, that kind of accuracy still gives me pause.    I can remember celebrating Thanksgiving at her house when I was a kid .  She made the best gravy with lots of mushrooms in it and her own jello salad - it was made with black cherry jello.  My mother had decreed long ago that my sister would host Thanksgiving and my brother Christmas because she didn't want to risk the drive from Warren to Ann Arbor because there could be "black ice" on M-14   She was a very fearful driver.   Even though she died in 2010, we still hold her schedule.   I get Easter at my house so that the risk of  "black ice" will be mitigated.    Christmas will be at my brothers....

Since my mother in law died back in 2008, we have celebrated Thanksgiving on the actual holiday with just our family, which is very relaxing.  I get a small bird and roast it.  I usually start the day by cleaning out the fridge or the pantry, whichever needs it more.  This year, it's the pantry.  Then, I listen to Lynn Rosetto Kasper's Turkey Confidential while making sides and dessert.   I'm not sure what I am going to make this year, outside of the classic Campbells Soup green bean might be:

Ann's Mom's Layered Cranberry Salad - a challenge to make, but very, very good.   Lime sherbet is difficult to locate, but if you can get it, make this salad.

Cranberry Apple Crisp -  can also be made with pear.  Very easy and very good

And for the day after Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley.  So good that I wonder why I don't make it more often.  I should! It would work equally well with a roast chicken carcass, too.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?  Do tell!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Christmas Wish List

I told my husband I was going to put together a Christmas Wish's the start....

Magnetic knife strips - I keep acquiring knives and have no place to put them.   I need to ditch my knife block and hang my knives up on the wall using a magnetic knife strip.  I'll need a couple of them....this is the one recommended by Cook's Illustrated:

Messermeister 16-1/2-Inch Bamboo Knife Magnet

A new pressure canner!  I am teaching a pressure canning class this would be great to show my class this top of the line model:

All American  21-1/2-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner

A popover pan....specifically, this cast iron muffin pan.   I had the most delicious popovers at a wedding that I can't wait to try to make myself at home.  Plus, I can take it camping with me.

Lodge L5P3 Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Muffin/Cornbread Pan

I am sure I will think of some more kitchen items I just absolutely need.  Your thoughts? 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pasty Making 2013

I work in the automotive industry, and so each November (thanks to the UAW) I have a paid holiday called "Veterans Day Observed" which is actually always timed to be as close to November 15 as possible.  Why November 15?  That's the start of firearm deer hunting season here in Michigan.   So many people would take the day off that cars and trucks couldn't get built, so we just get the day off now.   Deer season lasts from November 15 until the end of the month, and in some parts of the upper peninsula of Michigan, some schools don't even have classes because so many of the students are hunting the first days of the season.  

As is our family's custom, my husband and son have traveled up north to my sister's cottage to go deer hunting with my brother and my brother in law.   I'm not quite sure how much hunting actually happens; mostly it's a time for the menfolk to hang out together and drink beer and play poker and eat chili, I think.   We ladies are back here at home - we are called "hunters widows" - and my friend Alison and I always take the opportunity to use our day off from work to make pasties.   This year was no exception - we got up early yesterday and went to the gym and shopping first; then by 10:30 am, we were up to our elbows in pasty making.   We make them using this recipe, although over the years, we have changed our techniques a little.   Yesterday, we cut up our meat smaller than a 1/2 inch - instead we made it about the size of the tip of the pinky finger.   And we diced all the vegetables instead of using the food processor, since Alison doesn't have one.  We also used lard in the crust instead of the shortening, too.    We made about 80 pasties yesterday, including some little appetizer sized ones as shown in the upper left corner of the picture.

When the pasties are cool, we split them, wrap them in foil and freeze them.  Then we eat them all winter.   So I don't forget for next year - I need to remember to bring these kitchen gadgets with me to make pasty making even better:

A good knife sharpener is a must!  I prefer this one to a honing steel or even an electric one.  It's cheap and easy to use.  Cutting rutabaga is hard!  Without a sharp knife, it would be impossible....

half sheet pan like this one is perfect for pasty baking, because it is larger than a typical cookie sheet and thicker, too.  Years ago, I ditched all my cookie sheets and switched to food service style half sheet pans for any task that a cookie sheet is required.

bench scraper like this one makes keeping the counter top clean a snap, plus it makes moving pasties easy from the counter to the pan.   Plus, we can never have too many cooling racks....when your entire kitchen is full of pasties, they need to cool off somewhere!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Cherry Nut Muffins

I've been plagued with insomnia my whole life, but the past couple weeks have been stress, plus 2 kids in high school  (i.e marching band, football, fall theater, etc) have led to many nights of not enough sleep.   I can always fall asleep just fine, it's just that I wake up in the middle of the night.   Last night was no exception; I awoke in response to a nightmare which was an amalgam of all my stress related nightmares of a lifetime: I was back in high school again myself at age 50, but didn't have time to go to class because I had to go to work, and I had a final in math and had no idea how to answer any of the problems.   Also, because I forgot to go to practice, I wasn't going to get my varsity letter in swimming.    The only thing that would have made this nightmare complete would have been me walking to my locker and realizing that I forgot to wear pants to school and everyone was laughing at me!  I was startled awake at 4:30, which (to quote a song) is not late, it's early.....

Normally, this throws me into a panic because I worry I'll be too tired and crabby all day, but since it is Halloween today, I decided to embrace it and make pumpkin muffins for breakfast.   Why not?

Pumpkin Cherry Nut Muffins
(makes a dozen regular size ones)

1/2 c white whole wheat
1 1/4 c self rising flour (all I had in the pantry, regular AP would work)
2 t baking powder
3/4 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t ground cloves
1/2 c canned pumpkin
1 egg
3/4 c milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 c dried cherries
1/4 c chopped pecans

For glaze
1/2 c powdered sugar
2 T milk
chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 F.   Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well in the center.   Mix wet ingredients and pour into the well, stir until well mixed.  Add cherries and nuts, stir.   Fill muffin papers 3/4 full and bake for 30 minutes.  After the muffins have cooled, drizzle with glaze and sprinkle with nuts.

Whatever happened to the Spin Doctors?   I don't know, but they were certainly ahead of their time with this bearded look not unlike the current day beardly Bosox, who just won the World Series 20 years after this video came out.  So all is not lost - if I have to be tired today, at least I can start the day off right with a good breakfast!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Apples Studded with Cherries and Raisins

vintage 1938 4H canning camp participant

Isn't this an awesome picture????  I found it in the archives of the Ann Arbor News in the Ann Arbor District Library's Old News online database of vintage newspapers.    I've got lots of canning projects going on this weekend.  The season is winding down and there is so much work to do!  Yesterday, I canned apples for a canning demo at the Dexter Farmer's Market.  I made this recipe...I liked that I didn't have to peel the apples but my propane stove cooked really hot and my wedges got mushier than I liked.  If I make this at home again, I would add some Pickle Crisp to keep the apples more firm....and of course, on the kitchen stove, I could manage the heat better.    I can't remember a better year for apples ever in the 20+ years I have lived in the Dexter/Ann Arbor area.   The trees are heavily laden with fruit.  I've had countless offers of free apples from friends with trees.

I made crab apple butter earlier in the week that I need to finish off, and my friend Vivienne gave me a bag of tomatillos that I am going to transform into salsa.  Here's the recipe I canned yesterday at the Dexter Farmer's Market:

Apples Studded with Cherries & Raisins

Makes about 8 pint jars or 4 quart jars

8 lbs medium-sized tart apples (such as Granny Smith), cored, cut length-wise into eighths, treated to prevent browning
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups water
1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine apples and sugar. Toss gently to coat apples. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes. Add dried cherries, raisins, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes.

3. Using a slotted spoon, pack hot fruit into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar. Ladle hot syrup into jar to cover fruit, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot syrup. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process both pint and quart jars for 20 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 10 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Thrifty dinner: Chicken and Dumplings

Sometimes, there just aren't enough hours in the day.   Busy days at work  + After school activities + Volunteer work = No time to cook dinner.   On days like that, I sometimes resort to rotisserie chicken for dinner.   The good news is that they are a relatively tasty and healthy option.  The bad news is that no one in our house really likes dark meat, and I have a teenage boy that could probably eat an entire chicken by himself, if left to his own devices. So we usually have to get 2 chickens and we have lots of leftover dark meat.  That can get a little spendy....

Part of my collection of chicken salt and pepper shakers

So usually, my rotisserie birds (or roast chicken carcasses) end up making an encore performance later in the week as chicken and dumplings.   My crew will eat dark meat served in soup or stews, so none of it goes to waste.  Plus, I keep a stock bag in my freezer of onion skins, carrot ends, limp celery stalks, pretty much any kind of vegetable trimming will work except  potato peels.   Made out of stuff I would have normally thrown away, chicken and dumplings are the most thrifty recipe I make - in my view, it's virtually free.

Here's how I make it....first, right after dinner, I dump the chicken carcasses and the contents of my stock bag into my crock pot, along with a couple bay leaves.   I cover the chicken bones with water and set the pot on low and cook it overnight.   The next morning before work, I strain the stock and put it in a container in the fridge.   In a separate container, I save what was in the strainer - bones, chicken meat, veggie scraps.  The next day, or whenever I have time,  I pick all the meat off the bones - this takes a little time, but it's well worth it.  

Chicken and Dumplings

Reserved chicken stock (see above)
Reserved chicken meat  (see above)
2 carrots or parsnips or a combination, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper, to taste

Put all ingredients in a crock pot, cook on 4 hours high or 8 hours low, and then transfer it into a Dutch oven.  Or, you can cook it on the stove top in a Dutch oven for about 40 minutes until the carrots are soft.    Taste the broth at this point - add salt and pepper as needed. Don't be afraid to add enough salt! When you've got it right,  turn the flame up to medium high until the broth is boiling. 

Meanwhile, make the dumplings.   I like to make my dumplings out of self rising flour;; I buy it to make biscuits, so I am always looking for other uses for it.  It makes for a nice light dumpling. 


1 1/2 c self rising flour
1/4 c shortening, cut into small cubes
1/2 c hot chicken stock

In a medium bowl, cut shortening into the flour until it resembles small peas.   With a soup ladle, add about a 1/2 cup of hot stock from the simmering pot and stir with a fork until combined.  On a floured countertop right next to the stove, spread the dough out into a rectangle until it's about a 1/2 inch thick.   With a knife, cut the rectangle into 1 inch squares.   Drop squares individually into the boiling broth, taking care not to crowd them or they will stick together,  stir them gently to separate.   Put the lid on the pot and turn down the heat a little and cook until the dumplings are done, about 15 minutes.   The flour will naturally thicken the broth and the dumplings will float on top when it is done.  

That's it, super easy and super thrifty! This also works for turkey carcasses....Thanksgiving is right around the corner.   I always have a crockpot of turkey remains going every Thanksgiving evening.  

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Where I've been....

I know that some people keep track of all the states that they've visited, and will proudly tell you that they have visited every state in the Union.  Until now, I never took stock of all the states I've been to - and  I was shocked when I discovered I am pretty darn close to visiting all of them:

Better start planning that long awaited trip to New Orleans!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Slow Cooker Ratatouille

Ratatouille is the sangria of summertime sauces - it's a great way to use whatever you have kicking about. I've written before about my miracle sangria - I use this recipe whenever I have some fruit that needs to get used up.  This year's gardening has been a little strange - it's been a cool summer, so everything has been thriving well, except my tomatoes, which need warmer nights to ripen.  Plus, I've got some kind of terrible fungus, and an invasion of tomato horn worms, which also like green peppers, evidently.   And who knew that the deer would eat serrano peppers - really?  I thought they'd be too spicy for them, but I was wrong.

This year, I've got a lot of eggplant and basil.  We don't really eat a lot of eggplant around here - of course, eggplant parmesan would go over well, as would anything that is fried.  But I am not sure I want to go through the effort.   I thought about ratatouille, which would be great to freeze for winter time (no safe way to can it because of the squash).  I borrowed a trick from Cook's Country magazine, that suggests roasting the vegetables first to keep it from getting too watery.   Feel free to adjust proportions of whatever you have too much of in your garden - for me, I didn't have any red peppers yet so I skipped it.    Since tomatoes weren't doing so well for me this year, I used my favorite brand of local canned tomato products - Red Gold.   they sent me a case of tomato products earlier this summer, and it came in handy for this recipe.  Also, they are having a contest this summer for a Big Green Egg Smoker on their Facebook page....meander over there and "like" them to get a chance to win.

Slow Cooker Ratatouille

2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 zucchini (about 8 oz each), quartered lengthwise and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 onions, roughly chopped
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix all ingredients together, and spread out on 1 or 2 baking sheets.  Heat the broiler, and broil each pan 10-15 minutes until slightly browned.    Mix the vegetables with:

1 (28 ounce) can Red Gold diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

and put in a slow cooker.  Cook on low at least 4 hours - I have let it cook for 8 hours and it is still great.  

Before serving, add:

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Add salt and pepper to taste.   Serve with crusty Italian bread. or on pasta or chicken.  Makes about 8 cups.

So,  what are you making from your garden's bounty?  Leave a comment in the comment section, along with your email address (either in the comment or send it to me via email at momskitchen at comast dot net), and I will include you in a drawing for a tasty Red Gold product pack.   I will pick a winner on Labor Day, Sept. 2.  You must include your email address to win!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Canning Salsa

Today, I made 24 pints of Salsa #5 from 2 pecks of tomatoes.  This salsa recipe is the best home canned salsa recipe ever!  Everyone loves it - I tinkered with a Ball recipe after reading lots of online recipes that included canned tomato sauce and paste.  Unless you know really know what you are doing, it's not safe to tinker with canning recipes ever, especially salsa ones. I started with a canning safe recipe and tweaked the seasonings to get this one tuned in.   It really does make a great salsa This year, I used the food processor for the hot peppers and onions.   Also, I found out that I didn't need to cut an x in the bottom of each tomato before peeling them by dipping them in hot water.  I didn't can the peaches yet, I will do it tomorrow.  Peaches need to be perfectly ripe or it is hard to get their skins off, plus I am totally tired.   It took me 4.5 hours to can this salsa; I got the tomatoes this year from Goetz Farm at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market because my farmer friend Ann's tomato crop didn't do well this year.   My own tomatoes have a horrible fungus, too.  The pickles were some additional that I made with my friend Ellen earlier this week,  9 more half pints to add to my larder in addition to the ones I made a few weeks ago.  They are my version of a famous local pickle called McClures.   I have never been able to make enough salsa or pickles for my family - this year, we ran out of salsa in January.   

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My favorite canning books

Last week, I taught a canning class at Whole Foods Market, and I think it was the best group of students I have ever had - everyone had really thoughtful questions, everyone actively participated, no one stole anything* and they all laughed at my jokes.

*one time, someone stole another participant's jar of strawberry jam.  I've had people steal my cookbooks, too!    

I have a ton of canning books, both vintage and recently published,  I promised my students I'd publish my list of of my favorite canning books, so here it is....

Best All Around Canning Book: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

If I was lost on a deserted island with only one canning book (and all my canning supplies),  this is the one book I would want to have with me.   It's perfect for beginners, and it has plenty of interesting recipes for the more advanced home canner. 

Best book for a novice on a budget:  Blue Book Guide to Preserving

Published since 1909, this book is ideal for first time canners.   It is relatively inexpensive and features water bath, pressure canner, freezing and drying recipes.  

The Wonder Twins:  The Joy of Pickling and  The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves by Linda Ziedrich


These books, together, provide tons of creative water bath canning recipes.   I have learned so much from both of them.   

The 2 new books I acquired this year...I'm not sure if they are going to be my favorites, but  they are off to a good start.   First is Preserving Made Easy: Small Batches and Simple Techniques by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.   It features some new ideas for recipes and I like the small batch aspect of it.   The second one - Saving the Season: A Cook's Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving by Kevin West a book so beautifully written and photographed that I have been reading it all summer before bedtime.

Read this review:

 “Part cookbook, part manifesto, and part crypto-memoir . . . literate and lyrical and fanatically well researched. . . . The kind of cookbook you can read for pleasure. . . . It has more than 200 recipes but is shot through with little essays, too—about preserving, food gathering, gardening, family.”  —John Jeremiah Sullivan, Lucky Peach

Kevin West is my kind of canner - he loves Linda Ziedrich's books like I do, and also flames Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber, which is a canning book I would definitely put on my "do not recommend" list.   It's very difficult to follow - must be something was lost in translation from French.   When I was in France earlier this summer, I saw some of her preserves in gift shops.  

Kevin West's book is so lovely, it even has poetry in it.   I'll close with this one:

"Blackberry Picking" by Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Happy canning!