Wednesday 30 September 2015


I haven't made salsa in about 3 years.  A couple of years ago I was just too pregnant to care about anything but stuffing my face with some sort of cracker/chip/tortilla/any carbohydrate loaded with salsa.  Last year I definitely had the tomatoes from the garden ready to do it but then my appendix decided it wanted to nearly explode.  That experience really waylaid my salsa making.  

So, here I am, with a decent batch of tomatoes with salsa written all over them.  No ginormous belly holding me back.  No exploding organs holding me back.  To add to this turn of great luck, peppers were also on sale this week.  I even have a bunch of cilantro at the bottom of my crisper begging to be used before it turns into a green river at the bottom of the drawer....... 

The time is now.

Ready for salsa

My kids spent approximately an hour chasing each other with snakes yesterday afternoon.  Somehow two dollar store plastic snakes in the toybox were resurrected yesterday and more time was spent loving these toys yesterday than their entire existence.  Again, it's like the moon and stars were aligning....Because that's about the amount of time I spent chopping all of the veggies required for this delicious recipe.  I've used my food processor in the past, but I just don't like the consistency of the results.  I like a nicely diced salsa.  Not the haphazard chopped mess that the food processor provides.  If I was making more than one batch I would change my tune.  Or if the snakes weren't out in full force.  I had the time though, so I hand chopped.  

Now that's an hour of chopping

Here is what you will need:

7 cups diced ripe tomatoes (I don't peel mine.  Some recipes do)
5 cups diced mixed sweet green, yellow, orange and red peppers 
3 cups diced onions
1.5 cups diced jalapeno peppers.  I leave the seeds in one or two of the peppers for a little kick
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
6 cloves finely minced garlic
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup white vinegar
1 can of tomato paste (the little 5 oz can)
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp oregano

Gently mix all of the above ingredients together in a large heavy pot.  Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil.  Simmer, uncovered, for one to one and a half hours.  The mixture should reduce and become thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  

Fill sterilized, small jars (I used 1 cup jars this time, I often use 2 cup sizes) to within 1/4 inch of top. Make sure the rims are free from any salsa splatter, and seal with new, sterilized rims.  Twist rings over top of jars until finger-tight, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

This recipe makes exactly 9, one cup jars of salsa.


Golden Oatmeal Bread

There is nothing better than the smell of fresh bread baking.  Nothing is cleared as quickly off of my kids' plates at lunchtime than fresh bread dipped into some kind of soup....or smothered in peanut butter.  Sometimes both.  Eeew, I know, that's weird, but if they're eating happily, I don't stop them!

Sometimes I throw a bread recipe into my breadmaker before we head out in the morning to run errands or meet up with friends.  I come home to a perfectly baked loaf, just waiting for the munchkins to tear into.  On the weekends, I'll make up the dough and split it into two loaf pans, and I slice it up for sandwiches and freeze the other loaf (much more civilized than the ravenous vultures eating piece after piece after a big morning at the zoo or playground).

The only bread recipe so far that i have created (bread is a tricky beast sometimes, so I usually stick to a published recipe), I like to call Golden Oatmeal Bread.   Molasses and brown sugar give the loaf a very light golden color, while the oatmeal gives it a little bit more of a hearty, chewy texture than your standard whole wheat or white loaf.  This recipe bakes up consistently great time after time.  It's dairy free for those that can't indulge in the best food group since meat, and it can easily be made by hand, with a mixer, or done all in the breadmaker.   It basically meets every requirement for awesomeness.

To make:

1 & 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 & 1/4 tsp yeast
3 tbsp canola oil
1 & 1/2 tsp salt
3 & 2/3 cup flour
1 cup quick cooking oats

If you're making this recipe in a breadmaker:  Toss all of the above ingredients in.  Press start.  Walk away. Eat away at your 2ish lb loaf of bread.

If you are making it in a mixer:

-Combine warm water, molasses and brown sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit for about 5 minutes, until foamy.
-Add canola oil, salt, and flour, one cup at a time and combine on low (I use my dough hook here to avoid the inevitable "poof" of flour that envelopes my workspace if I use any other attachment).  Add oats and continue mixing on low until combined.  Allow the mixer to work its magic on the dough for about 5 minutes.  Add up to 1/3 cup more flour as you go if your dough is looking too sticky.
-Put the dough into a greased bowl and allow to rise in a draft free place for approximately 45 minutes to one hour (until doubled in size).
-Punch dough down and split into two halves.  Shape and place into two greased standard loaf plans.  Allow to rise again in a draft free place for about 45 minutes (or until double the size).
-Bake for approximately 25 minutes in a preheated 375F oven, until golden brown.
-Place on wire racks to cool.  Enjoy!

You can also make these loaves by hand.  Substitute "wooden spoon" for dough hook attachment, above.  You'll have to knead your dough for 8-10 minutes instead of letting the mixer work its magic.


Tuesday 29 September 2015

Pumpkin Carrot Muffins

One of my favorite food personalities on TV is Anna Olson.  I don't think I've ever had an Anna Olson recipe flop on me.  My favorite fall-themed muffin is no exception.  This recipe uses a full cup of both pumpkin and carrots, and they are so moist and tender.  They are spiced perfectly with a little bit of cinnamon and ginger, both of which even the most beginner bakers always have on hand.  They whip up so quickly and easily every time!

Anna's original recipe pairs this with a vanilla frosting, but I find these so flavorful and moist that no frosting is needed.   What?!  Shocking!!  Anyone who knows my love of sugar would be shocked to think that I would dare turn down a frosting on anything, but these truly don't need it.  This recipe makes 18 regular sized muffins for me each and every time.  I whipped up a batch at the beginning of naptime today and am so excited to see my oldest eat carrots, despite her hatred of them.  Maybe I'll grab a cup of coffee and enjoy one (or two) myself when they wake up....

Pumpkin Carrot Muffins - without frosting - adapted from original recipe, courtesy of Anna Olson

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pure pumpkin
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup very finely grated carrot

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined.  Stir in pumpkin, sour cream, and vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger.  Stir into wet ingredients until just combined.  Fold in carrots.

Fill paper lined or greased muffin tins 3/4 full.  Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until slightly golden.


Wednesday 16 September 2015

Chocolaty Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

I make chocolate chip cookies so often with the kids that it is a real mystery why they are not listed anywhere on this blog.  We make them at least monthly and there is always a supply in our freezer.  This is precisely why I wanted to change it up the other day when we were contemplating making some cookies to send with my husband on a roadtrip.

I was craving a brownies too.  Like the BEST brownies I have talked about in the past here on this blog.  Those are almost all done on the stovetop though, and my daughter was anxious to help.  I wanted to come up with a cookie that kind of tasted like a brownie, but with a chocolate chip component.  That was my intent.....  but then I found some peanut butter chips in my cupboard and that idea went out the window.

So, behold:  A brownie-like cookie,  bursting with peanut butter chips!  I've gotta tweak them a bit to make them chewier, but in the meantime, these will NOT disappoint.

1 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups peanut butter chips

Cream butter and shortening together until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and vanilla and continue creaming thoroughly.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth and fluffy.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a medium sized bowl.  Add gradually to creamed mixture.  Stir in the peanut butter chips.

Drop by teaspoons onto parchment lined cookie sheets and bake in a 350F oven for approximately 12 minutes.  Do not overbake, or they will be too crispy.  I like a chewier cookie. When you remove these from the oven, allow the cookies to firm up slightly on the pan before transferring to wire racks to cool. Enjoy!

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Dill Pickles

My parents live on a farm and have a huge garden every year.  I always hope to be visiting in late August or early September to get my hands on some of the cucumber bounty.  My friends and I made some dill pickles together a few years ago, and although buying the beautiful cucumbers from a local farmers market is wonderful, it certainly adds up quickly.  Our pickle making was such a success that soon it became a tradition.

This year, we were visiting at just the right time and I got to make pickles with my mom.  I haven't done that since I really just pretended to help as a kid.  It really is SO simple...especially when you can do it alongside the person that taught you almost everything you know in the kitchen.  In the end I came away with 15 quarts of pickles.  My mom said she has done about 50 so far this year since....
She can't see anything go to waste!

This easy pickling brine is courtesy of my friend, Janay.  I think it's her dad's recipe.  My mom can't believe the salt to vinegar ratio (apparently hers is much lower), but these are DELICIOUS!  Sorry mom, this is the recipe we're using :)

To make 15 quarts, I multiplied this recipe by 2.5  So in theory, this recipe should make approximately 6 quarts of packed pickle jars.

7 cups pickling vinegar
7 cups water
1/2 cup pickling salt

Peeled Garlic
Lots of cucumbers*

Use as many cucumbers as you have or want to pickle and make your brine accordingly.

Thoroughly wash and sterilize all of your equipment as you would when canning anything. (Including the measuring cup you'll be pouring brine with, and tongs that you will be using to lift your lids out of their water bath).

Get your brine going by mixing vinegar, water and salt in a large pot over high heat.

In warm jars, toss a couple cloves of garlic, and a sprig of dill (think the stalky seed part, not just the herb you're used to seeing in cooking.  See photo below).  Pack cucumbers on top.  Put larger cucumbers on the bottom and save those tiny ones for packing spaces near the top.

Pour boiling brine over top of packed cucumbers.  Ensure you wipe the rim of your jars so that no salty brine mixture is there.  Your lids won't seal if there is any spillage there.  Add a sterilized lid to your jars and tighten a ring until it's just finger tight.  Don't overtighten as the air needs to escape when the seal sets.  I recommend having your lids sitting in a little pot of boiling water so they are clean, warm, and handy to just throw on your jars.  The less heat you lose in this step, the more likely you'll get a good seal.  Once they seal you can tighten the rings more if you like.

There are varying schools of thought on processing dill pickles.  I am with the school of thought that sterilized tools and jars, boiling brine and copious salt with a good seal is sufficient.  Boiling pickles in a water bath only serves to take away from the "crunch" factor of your pickles later because it essentially cooks them.  Note, this is probably not the "official" word from any organized health organization, but do your own research and decide.  I don't process, nor does my mom.  Nor did my grandma.  Or great grandma.   A couple have died from old age.  Not from bad pickles.  NOTE:  My thinking does NOT apply to other canned goods such as tomatoes and other non-salty things.  Process that business. Definitely.

I usually test the first jar in December or so for a batch made in late August or early September.

Happy pickling!

Use this dill. Photo courtesy of:

15 quarts of pickles all done and waiting for those seals to "pop".  Once they cooled off, all had sealed.  I got panicky because it took longer than usual....but all sealed!

Friday 4 September 2015

Autumn Apple Pie

I can't believe I'm using the word "autumn".  I can smell fall in the air.  You can definitely feel it when you go outside in the morning.  I especially feel the fall season approaching when people start asking you whether or not you need any apples.  Everyone's apple trees are starting to drop their bounties on to the ground.  I managed to get my hands on over 50 lbs (probably more?) of apples from someone wanting to unload their produce.  I have peeled apples, baked pies, or made applesauce for almost every naptime for the past week.  There are 24 cups of sliced apples bagged up in my freezer.  And I still have at least 10 lbs of apples to go!

Everyone that I come into contact with takes home a pie.  This is my no-fail apple pie recipe.  It's perfect because it's not too sweet.  Even with a really tart apple (which these seem to be), it is just right with a scoop of ice cream to sweeten it up.  Or cheddar.  My husband really likes cheddar with apple pie.  Delicious!

Here is my foolproof recipe:

Pie Filling
6 cups peeled, coarsely chopped apples
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp flour

Mix sugar, spices and flour together in a large bowl.  Add apples and gently stir to evenly coat.  Pour into prepared 9 inch pie shell.  Add top layer of pastry.  Pinch together and seal pie with your fingertips.  

Pastry for a double crust pie;
3/4 cup crisco shortening
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp cold water

Cut shortening in with flour and salt until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Add water, one tablespoon at a time until it just holds together.  Split into two equal balls, and flatten into 1/2 inch disks.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for approximately 30 minutes.

Bake pie for 55 minutes at 350F.  Be sure to bake on a cookie sheet, as I find apple pie often lets a few delicious juices escape while cooking.  This will scorch and smell terribly if it burns in the bottom of your oven!!!!!  Trust me, I had an incident last week where I got cocky and didn't use a cookie sheet underneath.  Let's just say the self clean feature got a good workout!