Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Someone's sweet tooth needs a check up...

It's that time of year - time to try out cookie recipes for our family cookie exchange!  Ok ok, it's called Sweet and Treats - but cookies are easier - at least in my opinion.  I tried these cookies out because they looked like they'd be easy.  The original recipe called for white chocolate chips - well, I didn't really have any, so semi-sweet chips it was and wow were they awesome.   Right out of the oven the chips are all melty and yummy.
We had these cookies on the counter for a few days - I'd offer Andy a few in his lunch - nope, he wasn't interested.  Said they were Ok, but not something he really wanted.  Um… really?  But they are little nuggets of chocolate amazingness.  Hrm… time to get his sweet tooth looked at.  Sometimes I can't figure him out - he can't get enough chocolate candy bars and other sweets… but sometimes my baked goods fall very flat.  Oh well.  You know who DID love them?  My office mates.  WOW… did they ever go nuts over these cookies.  Let's be honest, if I dumped a container of store bought cookies into a container and brought them I might get a similar reaction.  At least I know they are appreciated, and every single crumb went.  No waste there.
So the test of are these going to be at the cookie exchange?  Probably not… time to look for another recipe.

Cream Cheese Brownie Cookies
Ingredients
1 (19.5 oz) Brownie Mix
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
2 cups Semi Sweet chocolate chips (or white chocolate chips)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°
Line baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
In bowl of stand mixer beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in egg and continue mixing until incorporated.
Turn mixer to low and add in brownie mix until dough comes together. It will be very thick.
Stir in white chocolate chips.
Using large cookie scoop, scoop dough onto lined pan and bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are set.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Healthy" Apple Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of those dishes that screams for flavor - this Apple Oatmeal?  Screams for you to eat it and more of it.
I saw this recipe and knew we should give it a shot.  The nice thing is that you can make it the night before - then bake it in the morning.  We baked it on a Sunday morning while we were getting ready for church.  It made the house smell amazing!  It also was great for left overs.  What a filling dish that feels a little like you are being decadent - but it's oatmeal - health food right?  And Apples!  How can you go wrong with apples and oatmeal in a dish?

Overnight Baked Apple Oatmeal with Crunchy Brown Sugar Streusel
Ingredients
for the sauteed apples:
2 T. unsalted butter
4 c. peeled and chopped apples (Use a flavorful variety that will hold up well when cooked.)
2 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. fresh pressed apple cider
for the oatmeal:
2 T. unsalted butter, melted
2 c. milk
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. steel cut oats
for the crunchy brown sugar streusel:
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. old fashioned oats
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2'' pieces, (do not melt)
Preparation
Butter a deep 9'' square baking dish or a similar dish that holds about 2 quarts. Set aside.
for the sautéed apples:
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and stir to coat. Pour in apple cider and cook until apples are soft and cider has mostly reduced and disappeared from the pan. This should take 10 to 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
for the oatmeal:
In a large bowl, whisk together butter, milk, applesauce, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla. Stir in the sautéed apples, then the old fashioned oats and steel cut oats. Transfer to buttered dish and spread oatmeal mixture evenly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the oatmeal mixture. Refrigerate overnight.
for the crunchy brown sugar streusel:
In a medium bowl, use a fork to stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder. Cut in the butter with the same fork until there are large pea-sized crumbs. This can be prepared the night before, and covered, but don't add it to the oatmeal mixture until you are ready to bake it in the morning.
The next morning, preheat oven to 375°. Unwrap the oatmeal mixture and top it with the prepared streusel. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until oatmeal is thoroughly hot and the streusel is golden brown. If you want the streusel to be more browned and crunchy, simply place under the broiler for a couple minutes. Serve hot with warmed milk or cream, and extra brown sugar if desired.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Andy Picked a Peck of Peppers and Erin Pickled Them...

Let's start with the fact that I desperately want to give you the whole Peter Piper thing…
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers;
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Where?  Canned in our storage room - that's where!  For some reason our garden had been amazing at producing jalapeno and banana peppers.  Far more than Andy could ever eat.  We had no clue what to do with them, so he suggested pickling them.  So, Google to the rescue.  I found a recipe and gave it a shot.  He says they are good - different with garlic - but good.  I'll take his word on this one since I refuse to go near them.  Sure I'll can them for him - but no thank you!

Pickled Peppers
1 lb. banana peppers (about 10)
3 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups water
2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 garlic clove per jar, minced
Instructions
Slice banana peppers into rings 1/4-inch thick. Remove seeds and ribs, if desired.
Fill each mason jar to the top with banana peppers. Add 1 clove of minced garlic to each jar.
In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar and stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. There is no need to bring your brine to a full boil, you just need to heat it enough to dissolve the sugar and salt. Cool the brine completely.
When cooled, fill each jar with pickling brine, screw on the lid, and store in the refrigerator.
Let the peppers pickle for at least 24 hours before eating. The longer they sit, the better they are!

To Can Banana Peppers, Follow These Steps
Prepare canner by bringing water to a boil. In a separate pot, heat lids and bands in simmering water until ready to use. You also need to heat your jars. You can do this by simmering them in the same pot as your lids and bands or run them through a cycle in your dishwasher.
In a separate pot, bring vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and garlic to a boil. If you are canning your peppers, smash your garlic rather than mince it. Boil for 5 minutes. Stir to make sure the salt and sugar is completely dissolved. Discard garlic.
To hot jars, add banana pepper rings leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Ladle brine into your jars leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles by running a knife around the edge of each jar.
Wipe the rim of the jar. Screw on lids and place in a water bath canner. Make sure the jars are completely covered with water.
Bring the water to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars, let cool, and wait for the home canner’s favorite sound, the “pop” of your jars sealing!
After 24 hours, check the seals. The lids should not bounce up and down when you push on them with your fingertip. Store in a cool place until ready to use.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

61 Year Old Makes Great Applesauce

It's that time of year - where we take big beautiful Michigan apples and cook them down into yummy applesauce.  Last year we picked our apples locally - but this year our local orchard sadly had no apples at all.  Imagine an apple orchard - apples are their only thing - THE thing - and not a single apple to sell.  I can't even imagine how rough that is.  Thankfully my mom's fruit guy was able to get us some apples from Michigan.  They were gorgeous and huge!  Someday we hope to make applesauce with our own apples.  We finally had a dead tree removed and hope to plant a few fruit trees.  Perhaps in a few years we'll be picking our own apples for sauce.
Our method is simple - use the apple peeler-corer-slicer, then cook those suckers down until they are as mushy as you like -then done.  Toss the apple sauce in clean jars, boil it in the canner for 20 minutes and tada!  Apple sauce!  We use my folks pressure cooker which was made in 1953 (don't be too impressed - it's stamped on the bottom of the pan).  We don't actually cook them with pressure, it's just a very sturdy giant pan that holds the heat and LOTS of apples.  Give homemade applesauce a try.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Canning Exchange 2014

This post feels very much like a broken record - but it's no less true than when I've said it the last time.  Several weeks ago my extended family had our yearly canning exchange.  Basically we all make something that goes into jars.   Not everyone in the family participates - but many do.  We don't ask much, even if you put chocolate covered peanuts in a jar - that works!  Or con someone else into canning something for you?  That works too. (I know this because I know a few who do it.)  We ask that you bring a jar for everyone to take home a jar to pass around that evening so we can taste it all.

We all gather around a table and one by one open a jar that each person has brought.  We pass it around with bread, crackers or chips - whatever compliments it best - and get to hear the stories of that recipe.  That is my favorite part.  I love hearing stories of dandelion hunting, cherry picking (or buying), crockpot adventures, and many more.  Such a wealth of knowledge and love in this group of ladies - I love it.  So thankful for my family and the generations of love in it.
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