Archive | July 2012

Jalapeno Poppers

I am FINALLY the proud owner of my very own deep fryer!  Gadget queen that I am, I find it utterly remarkable that I waited this long to acquire this fantastical kitchen appliance.  In the few short days I’ve owned said gadget I have made drop donuts, fried bread, fried chicken, and now some jalapeno poppers!

My new fryer hasn’t made if off the counter into a yet-to-be determined storage spot.  I figured what the heck.  I waited this long for this bad boy, I am going to really break it in before storing it away.

So today when I went to the garden and found lots of jalapenos ready for harvest I just didn’t have the heart to make jelly, or dehydrate or pickle them.  It was lunchtime and I was hungry!  So I did what any self respecting deep fryer owner would do: I fried ’em!

As lunches go, I don’t usually put this much effort (or calories for that matter) into it.  But I had a craving and I succumbed.  Even still I think it took me about 45 minutes from the time I cut into the first pepper until I was enjoying the my first (of many) poppers.  It’s a good thing I ran this morning!

Here’s what I collected from the garden.

I sliced off the tops, cut them lengthwise, and used a spoon to deseed and devein them.

I didn’t even bother to measure the stuffing ingredients.  I mean really, how can you go wrong with cream cheese, cheddar and bacon bits?

Just mix it all together…

…and stuff the peppers.  I just pinched off a bit of the cheese mix and stuff the pepper halves.  Pretty easy really.  I ran out of the cheese mix before I finished stuffing all the peppers so I just stuffed the balance of my peppers with plain cream cheese.

Each stuffed pepper was then dipped in milk and rolled in flour.

Next they went back into the milk and then rolled in some Panko bread crumbs.  Regular bread crumbs would have worked just fine, but I am fresh out.

I put the plate of peppers in the freezer while I waited for the deep fryer to heat the oil.  Then I fried them up at 365 degrees for a couple quick minutes.

With my hunger satiated and my craving satisfied, my deep fryer has earned yet another gold star for most beloved kitchen gadgets!  What did I ever do without this thing?

Jalapeno Poppers

Ingredients:

12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon bacon bits
12 ounces jalapeno peppers, seeded and halved
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry bread crumbs
2 quarts oil for frying

Directions:

1.    In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, Cheddar cheese and bacon bits. Spoon this mixture into the jalapeno pepper halves.
2.    Put the milk and flour into two separate small bowls. Dip the stuffed jalapenos first into the milk then into the flour, making sure they are well coated with each. Allow the coated jalapenos to dry for about 10 minutes.
3.    Dip the jalapenos in milk again and roll them through the breadcrumbs. Allow them to dry, then repeat to ensure the entire surface of the jalapeno is coated.
4.    In a medium skillet, heat the oil to 365 degrees F ( 180 degrees C). Deep fry the coated jalapenos 2 to 3 minutes each, until golden brown.
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Quickie Garden Update

 

After a fabulous week at the beach with my family I’ve been busy playing catch-up here at home.  The garden harvest is beginning to pick up the pace and I’m start kick my dehydrator and canner into high gear.  So far I’ve been dealing mainly with cucumbers, zucchini, and herbs, but Lord willing, my tomatoes and beans will soon be throwing everything into overdrive.

From this vantage point my garden looks healthy and really pretty darn lush.  However, there are a few problems with bugs and disease lurking.  Yet, I was really happy to see all the new growth when we returned from our vacation.  We installed a soaker hose watering system right before we left, but didn’t have time to test it to make sure it was watering everything sufficiently.  I must admit I felt much like a mamma leaving her babies with a sitter for first time all the while we were away.  I kept wanting to phone home and check on all my precious little ones.  Nurturing an itty, bitty little seed from sprout into a mature, fruit bearing plant has a way of making one a little sappy and protective.  I was so afraid I would return only to find many of my plants had keeled over due to lack of care.

I think we’re all a little shocked that the trellis is actually holding up to the weight of this pumpkin.  Granted it’s just one, but it is pretty darn cool!  Unfortunately, this plant is looking pretty sickly.  I think it’s suffering from powdery mildew.  I need to do a bit more research, but unfortunately if I am right I think the plant might need to be uprooted and destroyed.  This particular bed is home to pumpkin, watermelon, zucchini, corn, sunflower and beans.  I think I went a little overboard when I planted this bed and it’s suffering due to overcrowding and inadequate air circulation.

Here’s a shot of the overcrowded bed.  It’s no wonder I have probably have a mildew problem.

This beautiful sunflower is a crowning jewel in our garden!  We’ve never grown such a tall growing variety and it is truly a sight to behold.  I planted the sunflowers in the center of my garden plot and it (albeit accidentally) has become the centerpiece of our garden.

Here’s one of my gianormous cucumbers!  We have been blessed by an abundance of long, slender cucumbers many of which are in excess of 12-15 inches!  I’ve used these for salads,  pickling and relishes though I am not sure they are known as a pickling variety.

Amazingly, after a couple terrible storms knocked our corn almost flat they righted themselves and are actually producing lots of ears!  So far they are all on the smallish side and I really have no idea if they will continue to get bigger since we have no prior experience with corn.  But we are hopeful that we’ll soon be munching some of our own delicious, home grown sweet corn!

I can just never seem to resist snapping a couple photos of the nasturtium whenever I take the camera with me to the garden.  Its vibrant flowers get me every time.

And finally, my cosmos blooms are just beginning to appear.  I wanted our garden to not only be functional and productive, but beautiful as well so I interspersed flower seeds throughout the beds.

Now, if you look very closely at the cosmos photo you’ll see one of my greatest garden nemesis just under the big blossom: a dratted cucumber beetle!  We were doing a pretty good job of keeping up with these little buggers before we left on our vacation, but I am currently facing a virtual infestation!  I’ve been so busy playing catch-up and recovering from a nasty virus that I haven’t had the time to keep up with picking and drowning the nasty little critters.  I am planning to spend some time this week fertilizing and investigating some organic methods for pest control.  I’ve also noticed some earwigs and caterpillars and a few other bad bugs, so the cucumber beetles aren’t the only pests I am dealing with.  DH sprayed everything with BT last week, but I think I’ll try some Diatomaceous earth as I read that it is a great organic pest control.  Our edamame and cucumber leaves are starting to look like swiss cheese!  Fortunately, the plants are still producing and, from the looks of it, we’ll soon be harvesting a boatload of edamame.

 

Sweet Heat Pickle Relish

So far this season I have put up dill pickles, dill spears, dill stackers, bread and butter pickles, and zesty dill relish.  Today, with a plethora of freshly picked cucumbers I decided to make a sweet pickle relish to add to my pantry pickle stash.  Somewhat a newcomer to the world of canning I don’t yet have many go-to pickle recipes.  So I flipped through my canning books and browsed the Net for recipes until I came up with something that caught my fancy.

Most all of the recipes called for the addition of red bell peppers.  Sadly however, my garden has not yet offered up any of these gems for harvest and, with a packed schedule for the day, I didn’t want to go to the store to buy some.  Instead I headed out to the garden to see exactly what I had to work with thinking I could adapt the recipe to my particular pepper situation.  I found a few smallish green bell peppers and some Hungarian wax peppers.  The pickings were a bit slim since I had recently pickled lots of the Hungarian wax peppers and dehydrated some of the bells.   But happily it appeared I would have enough for the relish recipe.  On a whim I decided to snatch a few jalapenos to add to the mix!  What can I say?  I like it hot!

The players for this recipe:  cucumbers, sweet and hot peppers, onions, kosher salt, cider vinegar, sugar, mustard and celery seeds.  I didn’t end up needing all these gianormous cukes.  I really like these  cucumbers for pickling, but I don’t know that they are technically used for pickles or relish.  I think the variety is called Green Dragon.  I’ve had many grow as long as 15 or more inches and they don’t have an over abundance of seeds.  I am not really sure what makes a cucumber good for pickling.  Perhaps it’s the crunch factor.  If you know please feel free to leave me a comment.  To me a cucumber is good for pickling if: 1. It’s ripe.  2. We don’t need it fresh for salads, etc.  Or 3. It might go to waste if not it doesn’t get pickled in a hurry!

I processed the peppers in the food processor.  I ended up adding a total of 3 jalapeno peppers to the mix.  I just cut off the stems, quartered them, and chopped them in the food processor.  I didn’t even bother to remove the hottest part of the peppers, the seeds and veins!   This should be interesting…  (Be sure to use kitchen gloves when handling jalapenos or I promise you’ll be wishing you had!)

I also processed the cucumbers and onions with the food processor.

Once I had everything chopped up nice and dandy, I put all the veggies in a big bowl, covered with some ice water and mixed in the kosher salt.  While this rested for a few hours I made some dill stackers with the rest of my harvested cukes and then took the kiddos to the dentist.  What fun!  (Well, at least it wasn’t my turn to go!)

When we returned I rinsed and strained the veggies really well.  I used the back of a spoon to help remove most of the liquid.

We’re in the home stretch now!

The vinegar, water, sugar and seeds went into a big pot to boil.

Once this mixture was boiling I added the veggies to the pot.

I brought it back to a boil and was simmered for 10 minutes.  Here’s what it looked like when it was done.

I ladled the relish into sterilized jars and processed for 10 minutes.

My mouth is watering as I think about trying this relish on a big juicy burger, mixed in with some deviled eggs (the jalapenos give the “devil” in deviled eggs a whole new meaning!), or some tartar sauce.  I tasted a tiny sample of the cooked relish to make sure it wasn’t going to be a Chernobyl disaster of the mouth, but to my surprise it wasn’t too terribly hot.  But I’ll have to wait a few weeks to let the flavor meld before I can make my final report.  Until then I plan to experiment with new recipes and ingredients for whatever else my garden throws my way!

Sweet Heat Pickle Relish

Adapted from Donna Matthews recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cucumbers, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 cups onions, chopped
  • 1 cup green bell peppers and & Hungarian wax peppers, chopped (Or 1 cup of any variety of mild peppers will do)
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon celery seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds

Directions

  • Put all the vegetables in a large bowl.
  • Sprinkle the salt over the chopped vegetables.
  • Cover with cold water and let stand for 2 hours.
  • Drain vegetables well, then press out as much liquid as possible.
  • In a large pot, combine sugar, vinegar and seeds.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Add vegetables.
  • Bring back to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Using a slotted spoon, put into pint jars according to standard canning procedures.
  • (Note: Although some of the brine needs to go in the jars, I use a slotted spoon to keep it from being too soupy.).
  • Process in a hot water bath according to your altitude (10 minutes for up 50 1000 ft.).

Homemade Labels For Homemade Brew

No more naked bottles!

At last, I have finally tackled the troublesome task of learning how to label my home brew.  The challenge for me wasn’t so much that I didn’t know how to design the labels.  I design things all the time in Photoshop.  The pesky problem lie more with choosing the print medium and method of adhesion.

Scraping labels from recycled bottles ranks right up there with cleaning the refrigerator and doing sit-ups as my most loathsome tasks.  The last thing I wanted to do was add to my label scraping misery by putting homemade labels on my bottles using an adhesive that would evoke four letter utterances from my mouth.

But, I just knew that the Skeeter Pee project had to be the one that finally freed me from the bondage of presenting naked bottles to my humble guests.  The naked bottle vs. label standoff is finally over!   I vow to never again subject partakers in my home brew to indecent vessels or mystery brews!

My adhesive solution: milk.  Yep, milk!  I read about it on a wine making forum and I thought I’d give it a try.  It made sense really.  If you’ve ever cried over spilt milk you’ll know it has a lot to do with the sticky mess spilled milk can leave behind.  Maybe milk was just the adhesive I have been hoping for.  Something to keep the labels in place just long enough for our beverage consumption pleasure but without the major label scraping headache I am accustomed to.

Utterly energized with the hope of at long last licking this troublesome problem, I sent my design to my printer.

Then, with printed labels in hand I then pondered the problem of the milk potentially smearing the printer ink (alliteration at its best!).  My crafty instincts told me that I needed to seal the ink in some fashion before applying the milk.  So I grabbed my trusty spray acrylic sealer and sprayed the printed designs.  After allowing the paper to dry, I used my paper trimmer to cut out the labels.

The first round of labels did smear a bit as I was too heavy handed with the spray sealer and I used my fingers to apply the milk to the back of the labels.  So the next round of labels I merely misted the labels with sealer, and used a basting brush to paint the back of the labels with an even coating of milk.  And voila!  Virtually no smearing and the labels were perfectly adhered to the bottles!  Hooray!

At this point I do not know how well the bottles will stand up to the chill of the refrigerator or being packed in a cooler full of ice.  But rest assured I will post an update after my milk slathered labels have been subjected to more adverse climate conditions.

If all goes well and the labels do the job they were hired to do, I plan to invest in a better quality printer paper for my labels.  The el cheapo paper I used for these bottles was a bit flimsy and I don’t think the ink saturated the paper as deeply as I would have liked for the best possible print quality.  My dear family will be my guinea pigs for my first batch of Skeeter Pee this weekend so I will have an opportunity to test their endurance as well as the ease in which they come off the bottles when it’s time for recycling.

July 10 Garden Update

Such a beautiful evening to take a few quick snapshots of some fun things in the garden.  After a stifling heat wave gripped a huge part of the country, our temperatures have finally dropped back within the normal zone.  Whew!

During the heat wave my DH and I spent an entire day setting up an irrigation system of sorts, and though I really find watering the garden therapeutic, it will be nice to have the option for automatic watering.  Ultimately we’d like to install a drip irrigation system, but for now we went with soaker hoses set up on an automatic timer.

The most exciting discovery in my garden this week was the appearance of this little guy.  Our very first fig!  I was so tickled to discover this tiny fig growing on one of the two fig plants we planted last summer.  I found two fig plants for $4 each on the clearance rack at Lowe’s and I just couldn’t resist picking them up.  I am still dreaming about all the fig preserves and fig and goat cheese pizzas we’ll be enjoying some day in the not too distant future… Lord willing!

Here’s another first for our garden: butternut squash.  I am not a very experienced cooking with winter squash, but I am going to have fun experimenting with some new recipes this fall.

Some peas…

a pumpkin growing on the trellis…

and one on the ground.

This last photo is of an anise plant I’m hoping to harvest seeds from pretty soon.  I haven’t used the leaves for anything yet, but I read they make a nice addition to salads.  I’ll have to do a little more investigating to see what other things the leaves can be used for, but I love using the seeds for baked goods.  The plant is a gorgeous addition to my herb garden!

That’s all for today’s update, but there’s a lot more fun stuff going on in the garden as well as some not so fun stuff too..  My poor tomatoes are still being affected by blossom end rot so I need to try to figure out how to remedy that problem.  If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!  In the meantime I am going to spray more calcium chloride solution and see what other information I can find about it.

Zucchini Gummy Candy

Yes really.  Zucchini candy.  Sounds strange I know, but hang with me on this.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.  I am about to show you that you can take an ordinary zucchini and turn it into something akin to gummy worms or gummy bears.

To me, zucchini has to be one of the simplest vegetables to grow and it usually produces such an abundant harvest that I find I don’t really know what to do with all of it.  So when I heard about this recipe I knew immediately I had to give it a try.   Having just acquired one giant zucchini from my in-laws and with two smaller, freshly harvested ones from my garden I was all set in the squash department.  I also had a very nice stash of Kool-Aid thanks to a fabulous coupon deal at my local Super, so I was able to immediately tackle this rather intriguing looking recipe.

I gathered all the essentials: zucchini, sugar, Kool-Aid, knife, cutting board, vegetable peeler, and my favorite little kitchen helper.  We both washed the veggies and then my little sous chef begged me to let him peel the zucchini, but well, as he is still so new to the world of culinary arts I thought it best if I handled this particular job myself.

With all the zucchini cut up it was time for the next photo opp, sweet as you please.

And a little silly to boot!

Once peeled, the seeds needed to be removed and the zucchini cut into strips or bite-size pieces.  I found the giant zucchini to be much easier to de-seed than the little ones.  In the future I plan to use only the largest ones for this recipe.

Since I couldn’t decide which size I like best I opted for both: cubes (the bears) and some strips (the worms).

The next step is to put the water, Kool-Aid and sugar in a large pot to boil.

Once the Kool-Aid mixture came to a boil, I added the zucchini.

Here’s what it looked like after tossing with the Kool-Aid mixture.

I let this simmer for about half an hour until all the zucchini became translucent.

Using a slotted spoon I scooped out the zucchini pieces and placed them on my dehydrator sheets and then placed the trays in my dehydrator at 125 degrees for 20 hours.

I dried my candy longer than the original recipe called for, but I didn’t want to worry about them sticking together.  I also tossed them in a little powdered sugar for a little added anti-stick protection.

The verdict?  Well, according to my little helper and official taster, the recipe is a keeper!

As for me, I love them too! I plan to allow lots of my zucchinis to grow to gargantuan porportions just so we can make more of these delightful little tidbits.  Such a cool way to use up the inevitable excess of zucchini.  I think I will also try experimenting a bit and use some cinnamon oil and red food coloring instead of Kool-Aid to make some “hot tamale” gummies.  Stay tuned…

Zucchini Candy

10 cups peeled diced zucchini into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cups water
2 pkgs. unsweetened Koolaid (any flavor)
2 1/2 cups sugar

Directions

Peel and dice zucchini, removing the seeds. Mix the liquid syrup together. Add zucchini. Bring to a boil and them simmer for 25 min; drain. Put on dehydrator trays. Dry 14 hours at 125 degrees. Turn pieces over and dry another 4 hours. This will feel dry and not sticky when done. Store in jars or other tightly sealed containers. If you dip in sugar when you turn them, they will be more like “gum drops” on the outside.  You can also toss them in a bit of powdered sugar to prevent them from sticking together.

Yogurt & Basil Dipping Sauce

One of my very favorite things about summer is the abundance of all the yummy “skinny” food that is so readily available.  Even more, I love all the skinny food growing in my very own garden!

These days my lunches often consist of a handful of freshly picked veggies dipped in a little salted butter or yogurt sauce.  So far my harvest has not yielded quite enough beans or sugar peas to serve my family, but by the looks of things in the garden those days are coming soon.

Today I decided to try a new recipe I found and it did not disappoint.  I used some of my homemade Greek yogurt and some sweet basil from my garden.  It was super simple to whip up and I will be adding this to my “company’s coming” repertoire.  I adapted the recipe a bit by reducing the amount of lemon juice.  I find that my Greek yogurt has just the right amount of tanginess to suit my taste buds.  The next time I make this I am going to give it a try with some purple basil.

Yogurt & Basil Dipping Sauce

  • 8 ounces Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 tablespoon minced garlic ( more or less if you like)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/4 to taste salt
  • 1/4 to taste pepper

Mix all ingredients together and let stand for at least 15 minutes in order to allow flavors to mingle.