Tuesday 30 August 2016

Apple Hot Pepper Jelly

I have officially taken on too much again!  I have found myself in a situation of apple overload this week.  After tackling making two batches of plain apple jelly, 6 apple pies, and 3 batches of this apple pepper jelly, I STILL have plenty more apples available for additional pies, crisps and sauces.  This was BY FAR my favorite recipe I came up with for this year's apple bounty. I've never made hot apple jelly before, but I combined a few recipes for other fruits and have decided this is a winner!  Be sure to finely chop the peppers in the blender, first. Properly skim the jelly so you don't end up with the dreaded floating peppers!

·         2.5 cups fresh* or store bought apple juice 
·         3 tbsp white vinegar
·         3/4 cup water
·         4 to 5 hot peppers
·         1 package pectin powder
·         5 cups sugar
·         1/2 tsp butter or margarine (optional)


-*Prepare apple juice ((*Cook down 3 quarts of cooking apples + 3 cups water, mash, and then strain the juice for fresh apple juice), OR measure 2.5 cups of store-bought apple juice (any variety will do).

-Combine peppers and water in a blender and whiz until finely chopped. I do not seed any of the peppers, but you can remove them if desired to control the heat level.

-Stir together prepared juice, vinegar, hot pepper mixture, and pectin powder in a large stock pot or sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

-Add sugar and butter, and bring mixture to a rolling boil. Stir at the rolling boil stage for one minute

-Remove from heat. Gently stir and skim foam for 5 minutes to prevent "floating" peppers. This step slightly cools the mixture and helps the larger pieces emulsify

-Ladle mixture into 4 or 5 prepared (sterilized, warm) 1/2 pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Cool and allow to rest for 24 hours prior to opening.

Now bust out some crackers and cream cheese, and dig in!  Or, enjoy with some grilled pork or chicken....yum :)

Thursday 25 August 2016

Grill It Then Forget It BBQ Chicken

I feel like this is a big of a cheater grilling recipe.  This recipe is so simple, I hesitate to even call it a recipe. This two ingredient combination is fantastic because you get the best of both worlds: the smoky BBQ taste from the grill, with the fall-off-the-bone tenderness from the slow cooker. 

I've probably made this a half dozen times this summer.  Given that I feel almost every afternoon has been rainy since early, this is a good one because you can grill in the sunshine, and then the smell slow cooker makes your house feel cozy when it's dark and stormy.  Every. Darn. Day.  I'm kind of exaggerating, but I feel that has been the routine all summer long :(

-2 lbs chicken drumsticks (about 8 to 10)
-1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (divided)*
-Salt and fresh ground pepper

*I personally would use my own fave sauce recipe, found HERE, but any store-bough sauce will do.

-Remove skin from chicken and season as desired with salt and pepper
-Place chicken on a hot BBQ grill (about 450-500F) and allow to sear for about 4 minutes on each side, brushing with about 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce during the last couple of minutes.  You basically want to get a few grill marks and caramelize a bit of the BBQ sauce during this time.

-Transfer chicken to a 2 quart slow cooker, and brush with remaining 1/4 cup of sauce.  Cook on low for about 4-5 hours, until tender.  

Monday 15 August 2016

Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut is one of my favorite flavors in the whole world.  Besides chocolate, I think I could safely say it is a baking staple.  If there are a selection of squares to choose from, I will always pick one that contains coconut.  Cookies or cupcakes?   Definitely one with coconut.
So, it sort of boggles my mind a little bit that I have never, ever, in my history of baking, attempted a coconut cream pie.

I guess there are a couple of reasons for that.  First, my household does not embrace the delicious world that is pie.  My husband is pretty "meh" about all pies except for lemon meringue.  He's also keen on Flapper pie (basically a sweet custard pie) made by his grandma, but that's about it.  No one in my house likes any sort of berry pie.  Apple also isn't a winner. When it's Thanksgiving, I basically take down a pumpkin pie on my own.

The second reason that I've never attempted a coconut pie is that they are either a custard base (which I previously found too daunting), or a pudding and whipped topping combo (which I kind of think of as a cheaters way to bake).  Don't get me wrong....I cheat sometimes too.  Pudding has it's place, but it just never seemed appealing in coconut form.

When I recently came across the recipe for this version of the pie on the Taste of Home website, I thought it was time I give the coconut cream pie variety it a whirl.  We were having a dinner guest that night too, and I know his love of pie is right up there with mine.  At least someone would overeat with me if it turned out to be a winner.  It's nice to have someone else to shame spiral with.

Here is the link to the original recipe:  Coconut Cream Angel Pie.

My adaptation:
For the pie:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks (reserve egg whites for the meringue)
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 tsp coconut extract (Note, the original recipe does NOT call for this)
1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1, 9 inch pastry shell (pre bake it until golden brown first)*

* Yes, I cheated and used a frozen one.  However, you could use a halved version of the pastry recipe found in my post for Autumn Apple Pie.

-Combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and milk in a medium sized saucepan.  Whisk and stir over medium high heat until thickened and bubbly.  Reduce heat and continue to stir for a couple of minutes.

-Remove the milk mixture from the heat, and stir a small amount (I added just a couple tablespoons) into the egg mixture.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!  The purpose of this is to increase the temperature of the eggs, so that when they're added to the hot milk mixture they don't scramble.  Keep adding a few tablespoons of the hot mixture to the eggs, stirring constantly, until the egg mixture is just warm.  Then add all of the egg mixture into the hot milk mixture in the saucepan.  Whisk quickly while doing so.  Bring this all to a gentle boil and cook for about 2 minutes.  It should be a silky smooth, thick texture.

-Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut, butter and vanilla extracts.  This is where I branched out and added some coconut extract.  Pour into the pre-baked shell.

For the Meringue:
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup flaked coconut

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar and continue until peaks stand on their own and are nice and glossy.  Gently spoon onto prepared pie, spreading over the edges of the pastry to seal in the filling.  Sprinkle with coconut.  Bake in a preheated 350F oven for between 17 to 20 minutes (I went almost the whole 20), or until golden brown.  Allow pie to cool on a wire rack for approximately one hour.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Not only did I think that this pie was amazing, but my husband agreed!  He went even further by saying that he's pretty sure this now overtakes lemon meringue.   That may be one of the best compliments he's ever given me on a pie.   The leftovers didn't last more than a day.  Since I finally had someone to share them with, I didn't overindulge, and my shame spiral was limited :)

Epic Fail Watermelon Cake

So this happened.  Why not make a cake that looks like a slice of watermelon?  That seems to easy!

Here was my inspiration:

Here we are, when we were so excited!

And here was the result, right before we threw it in the garbage: