Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fresh, Hot Cookies Anytime

Have you discovered the easiest way to have homemade cookies, right out of the oven, in just a matter of minutes?

First, mix up your favorite cookie dough.  We use the Nestle Toll House recipe most often.  Sometimes we use mint and dark chocolate chips and other times we prefer the semi-sweet chunks.  My son, ZJ, calls the minty cookies "Dragon's Breath Cookies".

Next, use a scoop to make uniformly sized balls of dough.  Place them on a cookie sheet and freeze them for ten minutes in the freezer.

While the cookies are freezing, we clean up the kitchen.

Place frozen cookie balls into a labeled plastic freezer bag.  They will not stick together.

Now, anytime a craving hits or company drops by, you can bake them directly from frozen and serve melty, warm cookies in minutes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strawberry Peach Jam {canning 101}

This jam is so heavenly I could eat it right off the spoon.  I first found the gooey goodness on the shelves at TJMaxx for $6.99 a jar (regularly $10.00!).  I already owned Sarabeth's Bakery cookbook and recognized the name on the lovely label.   The discounted jam came home with me because we were having out of town guests.  We didn't just like this jam, we loved it beyond description.  Imagine my delight when I found the recipe was included in her cookbook.

I have never canned before.  As in, never seen it done by someone else much less attempted it myself.  When I thought of canning I imagined bubbling pots of splattering fruit goo, steamy kitchens and exploding glass canisters cracking upon immersion into their bath.

One day while shopping at WalMart I came upon an entire section of canning items.  These adorable jars whispered my name and next thing I knew I was committing.  I would be making jam before the summer ended.

A few additional supplies turned out to be so valuable.  I highly recommend getting tongs, a funnel, and the magnetic stick used to lift sterile lids from hot water.
I also loved using my immersion blender.  Most jam recipes suggest mashing the fruit but we prefer jams without large chunks of fruit so blending is my solution.
The powdered pectin is for a basic strawberry jam recipe I tried first (and will post later).  The strawberry peach version uses no pectin whatsoever which makes for a runnier but still perfect jam.

You'll need a large deep pot for boiling the jars as well as processing the finished product.

Use a separate pot to sterilize the lids and screw tops.  Take the screw tops out but leave the lids to soak and soften the sealing edge.

For this recipe the peaches first take a jacuzzi and then an icy cold shower.

This makes for easy peeling later.

I wish you could smell these beauties.  Their juices were like syrup all over my hands.  

It made me fantasize about canning spiced peaches as well.
The whole process was much easier than I thought it would be. It does take a while though so I recommend a good four hour block of time for your first attempt.  Giving away these adorable little jars has been so rewarding that I have plans for salsa, tomato sauce and more varieties of jelly in the weeks ahead.  Stay tuned!

makes 10 half-pints (my version made 15)

(only slightly adapted from the original recipe by Sarabeth Levine)
4 pounds ripe peaches (I used nearly 6 pounds)
7 cups granulated sugar, divided
8 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (I used pure, organic bottled)
1 Tbsp. butter (my addition)

(these are my own directions - check her beautiful cookbook for Mrs. Levine's own instructions)
1.  Put large canning pot of water on to boil.  When boiling, add half-pint jars and boil 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow jars to sit in hot water until needed. Simmer lids in a separate pan then turn off heat and allow to sit until needed but remove screw tops to dry towel.
2.  In a separate pot of boiling water, blanch peaches in batches for 60 seconds then transfer to an ice bath.
3.  Peel and slice peaches into a large non-reactive pot.  (I use a Dutch oven.)
4.  Add 3 1/2 cups sugar to peaches and bring to a boil. 
5.  Puree peaches and sugar with immersion blender while cooking for about ten minutes over medium heat.
6.  Add strawberries, remaining 3 1/2 cups sugar and lemon juice.
7.  Return to a boil, stirring often, then puree until all is smooth and well blended.
8.  Cook for forty minutes, stirring often so as not to burn on the bottom.  Occasionally skim foam from top.
9.  Remove jars from hot water (I placed mine onto a cooling rack over a cookie sheet to catch drips) then turn heat to high to return  canning pot water to a boil for processing. 
10. Using funnel, pour jam into sterile jars leaving 1/2 inch of head space.  (I just stop pouring when jam reaches bottom edge of the funnel.) 
11. Wipe rims with damp paper towel. 
12. Top jars with lids and screw on the covers.
13.  Using tongs, place jars of jam into boiling water and allow to boil gently for 10 minutes.
14.  Remove with tongs to cool on thick towels so jars don't crack on cooler counter top. 
15.  You will hear popping as the jam cools.  That is the lovely sound of the jars sealing. 
16.  After jars have cooled, tighten screw tops and store on the shelf for one year. 
17. Refrigerate once opened.

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fresh Food Friday {featured!}

I was lucky enough to have my recipe link featured today on her Fresh Food Friday post.  These things are so exciting for a new blogger like me!  Stop on by la bella vita today to link your latest recipe or gardening post and see what others have shared this week.
Thanks Roz!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cookbook Chronicles :: Grill It Magazine :: Absolutely Perfect Steak by Fred Thompson

When I turned the page of Grill It! magazine published by Fine Cooking and read the words, Absolutely Perfect Steaks, I  was interested. We actually don't grill much steak at our house.  Probably because we find it dries out more than we'd like and we just haven't found the perfect recipe.  But Absolutely Perfect Steaks?  This I needed to see.  Only five ingredients? My interest grew.  Melted butter?  Now I was convinced we needed to try this recipe.  

4 NY strip steaks
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup melted  unsalted butter
8 tsp. kosher salt
8 tsp. freshly cracked pepper

Besides being very easy preparation, this recipe provides such specific grilling instructions that I felt capable of grilling it myself - something I rarely do.  The one thing we did wrong was grill it to his total cooking recommendation of 12 minutes.  Our grill must have been a little too hot because we would have preferred more pink.  Ten minutes max next time!  

Two other recipes I have dog-eared and look forward to trying in this magazine are Grilled Chicken with Goat Cheese and Grilled Scallops with Remoulade Sauce.

If you're looking for an easy, delicious, buttery moist steak for Father's Day, check out the entire recipe for Absolutely Perfect Steaks here and get grilling!

Cookbook Chronicles is a new series I am starting at Bake Me Away.  My shelves are loaded with cookbooks and food magazines that I need to use and want to share the results with you here on a regular basis.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rhubarb Cake with Warm Butter Sauce

Having lived in four different states in the past fifteen years, I have found that many, many people have never heard of rhubarb, much less eaten it.  This has amazed me as just about everyone I knew as a child grew rhubarb in their own backyard.  Never mind that the wide dark leaves are toxic, the stalks are edible, sharp and tangy, and when cooked, soften like berries.  While technically a vegetable, rhubarb is used as a fruit in pies, bars, jams and cakes.

This recipe represents the essence of summer to me.  It brings back memories of 4th of July nights when we had guests and Mom always made this cake.  I must admit that without the sauce, the cake is just a cake, but when bathed in warm, glossy butter cream goodness, it becomes elevated to spectacular status.  (Hint, consider doubling the sauce!)

Rhubarb stalks, trimmed

Rhubarb, chopped

The cake batter is very thick

INGREDIENTS (for the cake)
1 egg
1 cup white sugar
1 cup regular sour cream
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
4 stalks rhubarb, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350.
2.  In a large bowl, beat the egg.
3.  Add white sugar, sour cream and vanilla.  Whisk until smooth.
4.  Add flour, salt, and soda.  Stir until incorporated then STOP!  Do not over mix.
5.  Add rhubarb.  Again, stir until well coated but do not over mix batter.
6.  Pour into lightly greased 7x11 Pyrex cake pan.
7.  Sprinkle brown sugar over top.
8.  Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

INGREDIENTS (for sauce)
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 scant Tbsp. white vinegar

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix sugar and flour.
2.  Add butter and cream.  Stir until melted and bubbling.
3.  Add vanilla and stir while bubbling.
4.  Remove from heat and add a bit less than one Tbsp. white vinegar. Stir.
5.  Serve warm over slightly cooled cake.

Please stop over at la bella vita to see more food and gardening posts.

Tidy Mom

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage
It's a Keeper

Transformation Thursday

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Home Ec Sloppy Joes

Are you of the generation that had to take home economics classed in Junior High?  Well I am, and besides the nifty duffel bag we sewed and a recipe for Party Fluff (to be posted at a later date!), this sloppy joe recipe is all that has stayed with me from Home Ec.  

On one past episode of The Next Food Network Star, a contestant made sloppy joes and to her bad luck, Martha Stewart was guest judging.  After one look at the sloppy joe before her Martha commented under her breath, "I never eat food like this."  Harumph!  I immediately thought of this recipe, now a family summer-time favorite, and had to make it in defiance of Ms. Stewart's refined opinions. (She would absolutely freak if she saw it topped with a melty slice of Velveeta but that's just how we roll!)

If you're in the mood for a little old school comfort food, try this sweet and savory twist on a barbecue cheeseburger.  Don't forget the all-white-flour buns!  

2 lbs. lean ground beef 
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/3 cup ketchup
1/2 c. water
1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard

1.  In a large and deep saucepan, brown meat with onion, celery and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until browned.
2.  While meat is browning, stir together the ketchup, water, juice of half a lemon, vinegar, brown sugar and dry mustard.
3.  When meat is cooked, add sauce and stir until combined.
4.  Simmer on medium-low for about 30 minutes until the sauce thickens.
5.  Serve on buns with a slice of cheese if desired.

Linking with:

Mommy’s Kitchen

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Triple Berry Trifle

Recently I found myself in a berry-buying frenzy.  They were so delicious and fresh and summery I wound up coming home with more berries than I knew what to do with.  There was a tub of Cool Whip thawed in the fridge that I needed to use up and so this handy little dessert was born.  My son loved it so much he had some after dinner, before bed and again for breakfast the next day!

1 loaf angel food cake, store bought or homemade
1 tub Cool Whip, thawed
1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 granulated sugar

Place rinsed and sliced berries in a bowl.  Cover with sugar, about 1/4 cup, and stir.  Set aside to become juicy.
Cube cake.  Stir cool whip to lighten.  Begin layering with cake, then berries and their juice, then a layer of Cool Whip.  Continue until ingredients are gone.  Cover with plastic wrap and store in fridge overnight.
Serve with a fresh sprig of mint on top.

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