Tuesday 27 September 2016

Pear Preserves

It's Taste of Home Tuesday, as organized by Maureen from Red Cottage Chronicles.......so be sure to check out all of the other delicious recipes at the bottom of this post!

It's also that time of year when my local supermarket has their orchard-run sales.  In September there is always a bounty of pears.  I bought a 7 lb bag and then found myself in a race to eat close to 20 pears. Pears are not a favorite for my husband.  My kids eat pears like they're the greatest food on earth.... but....only at grandma's house....

They were starting to become overripe and I was in trouble!  Preserves always bail me out when the fruit flies are looming like little vultures.  This recipe, from Taste of Home, is a perfect way to use up pears.  It also has no pectin.  It had no reviews when I tried it, which is crazy, because it's a gem!

You can find a link to the recipe, here.  I copied it below, making slight alterations for the fact that I halved the recipe.

Pear Preserves
Ingredients (halved from the original recipe)
8 cups peeled and chopped pears (this was about 10 medium pears for me)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1.5 tablespoons lemon juice

1. In a stockpot, combine pears, sugar, water and lemon juice; bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until mixture reaches a thick, spreadable consistency.

2. Remove from heat. Ladle hot mixture into three (original recipe says 7) hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.

3. Place jars into canner, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool.
Yield: 3 half-pints. (original recipe says 7)

Editor's Note: The processing time listed is for altitudes of 1,000 feet or less. Add 1 minute to the processing time for each 1,000 feet of additional altitude.

Nutritional Facts
2 tablespoons: 79 calories, 0g fat (0g saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 1mg sodium, 21g carbohydrate (18g sugars, 1g fiber), 0g protein .
© 2016 RDA Enthusiast Brands, LLC

Taste of Home Tuesday

Sage Pork Chops with Apple Pan Gravy - Amy's Cooking Adventures
Bite Sized Apple Pie - Jolene's Recipe Journal
Best Ever Stuffed Mushrooms - LPHJ Kitchen
Scalloped Apple Casserole - Red Cottage Chronicles

Sunday 25 September 2016

Paw Patrol Birthday Cake

We were out at the farm this past weekend for harvest.  My husband took a couple weeks off of work to help get my dad's crops off the field for the winter and to work on his own wheat.  It's also our little guy's birthday this upcoming week, and based on the time of year he was born, it's likely he'll be spending a lot of future birthdays at grandma and grandpa's house.  Since we're crossing all our fingers for sunny skies for the next week or so and a busy harvest, we thought we'd celebrate a little bit early.

A request was made for a Paw Patrol themed cake.  Marshall is his favourite character, so I went to Pinterest and whipped up this little number.  This is far from perfect, and one side of it pretty much crumbled when I went to frost it, but it recovered fairly well.  Some evenings a person should just trust their gut and stay out of the kitchen.  Especially when you're rushing and not in your own kitchen.  In the end I was happy with the results, but it definitely wasn't a smooth road to get there....

Happy 3rd birthday little fella!  He enjoyed a hotdog roast, cake, and presents before the guys fired up the combine for the day! Happy harvesting!

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Taste of Home Zucchini Cupcakes

Fall is here.  All the leaves are changing, the air is crisp in the morning, and it's getting darker earlier every evening.  The imminent approach of autumn obviously means that summer is pretty much over.  This also means my creativity to continue using the endless supply of zucchini is also over.  Just done.   The crazy thing is that this wasn't even as bountiful of year for zucchini as it usually is.  Still though, I felt like I was just out of zucchini ideas.

Luckily, I'm trying new recipes a lot more now.  I have been a Volunteer Field Editor for Taste of Home magazine for a little over a year now, and part of that role is to review several recipes each month from the thousands to choose from, and submit my own, original recipes several times per year.  It has been a fun hobby for me, and fits well with my love of baking and cooking.  It's also been a great way to push me to try things that aren't the "old standby" recipes that I always make.  So, naturally, my search for recipes always begins now at Taste of Home.  

That's where I found this little number..... behold the Zucchini Cupcake! 

This is definitely a keeper. You will find the original recipe HERE.  I loved everything about this cupcake.  The consistency of it was nice and moist, and very cake-like.  I loved that because sometimes I find baking with such a moist vegetable can make the end product seem dense.  However, what really set the cupcake apart for me was the icing.  It's not quite caramel....it's not quite maple tasting.....but almost a cross between the two.  It's hard to describe.... but it was AMAZING!   My only suggestion to make this better?  Do yourself a favor and halve the icing portion of this recipe (especially if you're like me and have no shame in eating it right out of the bowl....).  Mine were generously iced, and I still had oodles of the frosting left over.  Enjoy!

One more thing! 

Being a Volunteer Field Editor for Taste of Home has also connected me to an incredibly talented group of people with a similar interest:  all things food!  One of these fine people is Maureen, from Red Cottage Chronicles.  Among many other great ideas, she runs a Taste of Home Tuesday piece on her blog each week, where she features something delicious from Taste of Home. Sometimes other Volunteer Field Editors will join in too.  Check it out!  I will try and be a part of it occasionally too.

Taste of Home Tuesday
Please be sure to visit these lovely VFE's and see what they cooked up this week!
Ellen from Family Around the Table - Sparkling Cranberry Kiss
Jolene from Jolene's Recipe Journal - Spiced Ginger Coffee
Maureen from Red Cottage Chronicles - Gluten Free Brown Sugar Baked Oatmeal
Three recipes that embrace the autumn season!

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Gingersnap Maple Pecan Ice Cream: Tastes like Fall!

My husband got me an ice cream maker for my birthday this past August.  I think he was wary that it wouldn't get used that much... but I have proven him wrong.  I think I've bought more dairy products in the past month then I have bought in the past year.  I've also had to make a vow to myself that I will only eat ice cream when there is another adult in the room.   It's a good way to govern my consumption given that I spend a large portion of my day alone with a four and three year old.

So far I have successfully made vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, mint chocolate chip and coconut ice cream.  Some of these flavors have been made multiple times.   I'll have to combine all of them into one post because they all start with one tremendously awesome base recipe.

My most recent creation, however, deserves it's own accolades in a single post.  This ice cream combines so much deliciousness I almost feel like it's impossible to describe.  Is ginger cookie the first thing I can taste?  The pecans?  Or the maple?  I feel like everyone that tries it says something different.  One thing I do know, is that it tastes like FALL.  Those who know me also know that I'm a fall hater, so for me to declare this happily is a big step.  The only good thing about fall is eating the delicious things that seem to be associated with fall.  Which, really, is barely a reason because in this day and age and the miracle that is the supermarket we can actually eat these things whenever the heck we want........

Anyway... make this ice cream.  This recipe is reason enough to go out immediately and  buy an ice cream maker.  Or, if you're a friend, knock on my door and ask me to make you some.  Then I can share the calories with another and have a good visit.  You have to be over 18 though so that I can stick to my solemn vow of having to eat ice cream with other adults.  I joke...sort of.

You will need:

2 cups whipping cream
2 cups half & half cream
1 cup sugar
2 tsp maple extract*
2/3 cup coarsely** chopped ginger cookies***
2/3 cup coarsely** chopped pecans
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp maple syrup

*Maple extract is widely available next to any other extract in the baking aisle of your grocery store.  Have you ever actually looked at the variety of extracts out there?  Even the imitation ones are delicious!  The key is to start with a small amount.... you can always add more, but can't take an extract overload away.  I toyed with the idea of using real maple syrup in lieu of the sugar, but decided against it, as I've learned you really need to leave the creaminess ratio alone in ice cream to get the creamy texture.  Too much liquid that isn't creamy really throws the texture for me.  That's just my preference.

**By coarsely chopped, I mean about the size of a regular chocolate chip.  My ice cream maker recommends not adding any chunks larger than this.

*** You could use store bought ginger cookies, but I highly recommend the Lara's Tender Gingersnap recipe from Taste of Home, OR, Big Soft Ginger Cookies, also a Taste of Home Recipe, which I have previously featured on my blog, here.

To Make:

Start by toasting your pecans.  Place pecans in a small frying pan over medium to high heat and give a good shake or stir every 30 seconds or so.  Once they are fairly warm and just starting to produce a delicious aroma, add butter and maple syrup.  It should start bubbling at this heat right away.  Stir constantly until syrup and butter mixture starts to evenly coat each piece of pecan and look like it's thickened a little (this should take less than one minute).   At this point, remove from the pan immediately and place onto a plate to cool.  They must be totally cool before adding to the ice cream.

Coarsely chop the cookies and set aside.

Mix together cream, half and half, sugar, and extract until sugar is nicely dissolved in the mixture. Pour into your ice cream machine and process according to manufacturers directions, adding cooled pecans and chopped gingersnaps in the last 5 minutes of processing.  I add mine at the 25 minute mark.  Remove from your machine and smooth into a 2-quart airtight container.  Allow to freeze for approximately 4 to 5 hours before serving for the best, commercial quality texture!

Monday 12 September 2016

Aloha Cupcakes

One of my favorite parts of cooking and baking (besides eating it, obviously) is when someone makes a request for even more cooking or baking.  Or...makes a specific request for me to create something.  I'm talking about when someone describes in detail something they would like...and then asks.....can you make me something like that?

I created these by request for a good friend.  There's really nothing more to say than that :)  Thanks, Mona, for inspiring me!

Coconut Cupcakes (yields approx 16 cupcakes)

1 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted (DO NOT substitute all purpose flour.  Cake flour is magical)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp vinegar

-Combine all dry ingredients and set aside.
-Beat eggs and sugar with a mixer for one minute.  Add coconut extract and oil and beat for one more minute.
-On low speed, add half of the dry mixture.  Combine coconut milk and vinegar.  Add half of this to the batter and beat until just combined.  Repeat with the remaining half of the dry mixture, and then end with the milk mixture, beating just until smooth.  Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full.  Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden and spring back lightly when touched.  DO NOT overbake.

Pineapple Frosting

1/2 cup vegetable shortening (such as crisco)
1/2 cup butter
4 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup very finely chopped pineapple*
3 tbsp pineapple juice
1/2 cup toasted coconut*
16 small chunks of pineapple

-Cream together shortening and butter until very light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in icing sugar a half cup at a time, adding pineapple juice and finely chopped pineapple after about two cups of sugar.  Add additional pineapple juice if required to get to desired spreading or piping consistency.  I used a Wilton 1M tip.  Pipe on desired amount of icing and garnish with coconut and pineapple.

*I used canned pineapple tidbits so that I could easily just use the juice from draining them, but using fresh pineapple and juice would also be delicious.
**For garnish, toast 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut by heating over medium high heat in a skillet for 3 to 4 minutes.  Watch it very carefully as it will start to toast quickly once it gets going!