Saturday, August 8, 2015

Bread & Butter Pickles

These bread & butter pickles were one of the first things I learned to can. I never thought I was much of a pickle fan until I tried these!! This variety is sweet and tangy. I make a big batch each summer, and even with giving some out to friends and family, I have enough to last a year!

Here are a few pictures of the process. You don't have to use this wavy cutter, but I think they look neat and it's pretty easy to use. (I also love it for slicing cheese- it's this one from The Pampered Chef). Another thing to note is that the hot syrup will stain anything that is white, because the turmeric makes it a bright yellowish orange. You won't want to use your white spatulas!

I found the recipe in this brochure. It gives more details, including changes for high altitudes. (Pickling Vegetables PDF)

Bread & Butter Pickles
Printable version here

3 pounds pickling cucumbers
4 cups (1 ½ lbs.) thinly sliced white onions
¼ cup pickling salt
2 cups white vinegar
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp. mustard seeds
2 ¼ tsp. celery seeds
½ tbsp. turmeric

1. Wash cucumbers; cut into ¼” slices (do not include ends of the cucumbers). Combine cucumbers and onions in large bowl (or bucket); add pickling salt. Cover with 2 inches of ice. Chill for 3-4 hours. Drain.

2. Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard & celery seeds, and turmeric in a large pot. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Add cucumbers and onions and slowly reheat to boiling. Turn off heat.

3. Fill hot, sterilized pint jars with pickles and syrup, leaving ½” headspace. Wipe rims clean and place lids on jars, and screw on rings until finger-tight.

4. Place jars on a rack in a pot half filled with warm water (120-140º). Add more hot water if necessary to ensure jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Heat water to 180º, and then start a timer. Process for 30 minutes, making sure water stays at least 180º. Immediately remove jars to a towel and/or rack to cool.

5. Store for 4-5 weeks before eating to fully develop the flavor. Store unopened jars at room temperature for up to 1 year.

Yield: 4 pints (recipe may easily be doubled)

Why I love it? They taste great, are economical, and I like knowing exactly what's in them. They lack the artificial food coloring that most store-bought pickles contain. They also make great gifts! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Chicken Taco Salad

This recipe is too easy to just keep to myself. We're also in the middle of the longest stretch of heat I can remember in the Seattle area, and this is a meal that doesn't heat up your house! It is quick (made within 30 minutes!), cheap ($5 to feed my family of 5), easy (if you can use a stove & a can opener, you can make this!), and summer-friendly!! Like I said, since it doesn't use the oven and needs a short time on the stove, it won't heat up the kitchen!

The instant rice in this recipe is your real friend. It makes the cooking time so brief. Did you know that instant rice also comes in brown? I didn't until recently, and it works great in this recipe. It's basically a taco-seasoned rice and chicken mixture that is served over lettuce. It also happens to be one of the more nostalgic recipes I have, as it's one my busy mom often made while we were growing up. She could get home from work at 5 and still feed us 3 hungry kids in time (to inevitably run off to a practice or game of some sort...). As kids we chose to eat it without lettuce, but now of course I love a good crunchy Romaine with this.
Lastly- it is also a very good camping meal. I just need to pack the cans, the rice & taco seasoning in a Ziploc bag, and stick some lettuce and cheese in the cooler, and we're good to go. It works well on our little camping stove.

Chicken Taco Salad
Printable version here

2 cups chicken broth
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (10 oz.) chicken, drained (or 1-1.5 cups shredded, cooked chicken)
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained (optional)
2 tbsp. taco seasoning, or equivalent (1 package or one recipe homemade mix, minus a little salt if you use this recipe)
1 1/2 cups instant rice (white or brown, note the different cooking times)
Chopped lettuce
Desired toppings (such as sour cream, lettuce, and salsa)

1. Put broth, tomato sauce, chicken, beans, and taco seasoning in a pan; stir well. Bring to a boil.

2. Pour in the rice, stir, then cook until rice is tender. WHITE RICE: after stirring in rice, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. BROWN RICE: after stirring in rice, lower heat and simmer uncovered, 6 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

3. Spoon rice mixture over chopped lettuce, add desired toppings & enjoy!

Serves 4-5

Broth 0.14
Tomato sauce 0.27
Chicken 1.98
Beans 0.67
Taco seasoning 0.15
Rice 0.60
Lettuce 1.10
Cheese & sour cream 0.50
TOTAL: $5.16

Why I love it? Right now, the main reason is because it feeds our family without heating up the house! But it's also inexpensive, tasty, filling, and relatively healthy (for a convenience-type meal).