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. NEW: I now make this in my Instant Pot while camping. (I have a small table set up near an outlet.) To do that, put all ingredients in the pot (except for lettuce and toppings), cook for 3 minutes on high pressure. Let pressure naturally release for 8 minutes, then open valve and stir.

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).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chocolate Chip Snack Cake

This chocolate chip snack cake is an easy thing to whip up for a yummy snack or simple dessert. It's a light vanilla-flavored cake, with a layer of chocolate chips & cinnamon in the middle and on top. Just mix it in one bowl, bake in a square dish, and serve just like that! It doesn't need frosting, cooling, or anything like that.

I lightened up the original recipe a little bit- I reduced the butter, subbed yogurt for most of the sour cream (you could probably use all yogurt if you had no sour cream), and reduced the amount of chocolate chips.  Even with all that tinkering, this is still a soft and flavorful cake!

You might notice this calls for room temperature eggs. This is common with baking cakes from scratch, because if you add cold eggs to a sugar/butter mixture, they're likely to make the butter clump up and look like bits of cottage cheese. With the ingredients at room temperature, this doesn't happen and you have a smoother batter. If you're taking your eggs right out of the fridge (like I normally do), you can put them in a cup or bowl of warm water for 10 or so minutes to take the chill off them. Problem solved!

Adapted from: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Chocolate Chip Snack Cake
Printable version here

Cake batter
4 tbsp. butter, softened
2 tbsp. applesauce (or an additional 2 tbsp. butter)
6 oz. vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup flour (all-purpose)
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Filling & topping
Cinnamon/sugar mixture (I keep mine in a shaker container)
1/3 cup (or more) chocolate chips

1. Combine all wet ingredients, including sugar.  Mix until it is relatively smooth.  Add dry ingredients and mix just until no streaks of flour remain.

2. Grease a metal* 9x9 pan with cooking spray or shortening.  Spread half the cake batter into pan (it will be somewhat thick).  Sprinkle top with cinnamon/sugar and half the chocolate chips. Repeat layers one time.

3. Bake at 350º for 28 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs).

 *If using glass pan, lower temperature to 325º and add a few minutes to the baking time.  I haven't tried it, but the original recipe suggests doing this. 

Why I love it? It is ridiculously simple & good.  It's fluffy, vanilla-y, and chocolatey!  It just dirties one bowl and one pan!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Freezer Beef and Bean Burritos

We all need some convenience foods every now and then, but the options at the grocery store can be lackluster at best. Food you make yourself is usually healthier and cheaper, not to mention way more tasty. These beef and bean burritos are perfect- they're homemade, delicious convenience food! I love having these in the freezer for a quick lunch!

Normally when I make these, I do a double batch- we eat some that night for dinner, and I freeze the rest. They're more involved than just opening a can of refried beans and plopping them in a tortilla (which happened to be our lunch today...), but the flavor is worth it! They have beans, ground beef or turkey, spices, rice, cilantro, and cheese! When topped with sour cream and guacamole, there's not a better burrito around!

Rather than taking the time to retype the recipe, I'll just direct you to where I found it. I make it exactly as written, except that I've found I prefer to add the sour cream at serving, rather than freezing it with the sour cream inside. I also use baked brown rice instead of white. I make this recipe, and use half of it for this recipe (plus the cilantro stirred in after baking) and set aside half for another use. Enjoy!

Why I love it? They are HUGELY flavorful, healthy, and a perfect make-ahead meal!