Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Saucy Saturdays at Cedar Road... (seemed like that would work... nope...)

Two years ago we had an abundance of tomatoes I had the 'great' idea to make pizza sauce.  I bought a package mix from the store and got busy!  The problem  I encounter was it never thickened up - the package mix said not to cook it too long, so I had hope that some sort of magic would happen once it was in jars and on the shelf.  I'm sure you are as shocked as I am that no actual magic happened.  Serious?  What the heck?

Fast forward to this year - an abundance of tomatoes is an understatement.  I wanted to make pizza sauce again but was afraid of that package mix.  You see, anytime I wanted to use the sauce?  I'd grab two jars, then cook it on the stovetop until it reduced enough to actually be like pizza sauce.  What a pain in the butt.  This time, I found a recipe that seemed pretty simple - but something else about it struck me.  There was some information about tomatoes.  The suggestion was that even if you picked your tomatoes fresh that day - freeze them.  What?  Yes - freeze them.  Here's why… One of the struggles with tomatoes is the massive amount of juice in them.  So when you are trying to make a sauce that is somewhat thick - you have to cook it until it's killed to get the juice out.  Guess what freezing does?  I have no idea… but when you thaw the frozen tomatoes - all that extra liquid - melts away and you are left with just the meat of the tomato.  It's like magic.  See… there's magic in this sauce!  Unlike the recipe maker - I am not worried about seeds and skins.  I used my immersion blender to smooth the sauce out.  Also, it's not very red since I mostly used my yellow tomatoes.  

I love being able to can and preserve food from the abundance of our garden.  With just a few simple ingredients you can make something special.

Psst Barb!  I think this one is gluten and dairy free!!!

Home Canned Pizza Sauce

Yield: Makes 7-8 pints or 14-16 half-pints
22 lbs. tomatoes, fresh or whole frozen
3 c. chopped onions
6 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c. olive oil
2 Tbl. dried basil
1 Tbl. dried oregano
1 Tbl. dried thyme
1 Tbl. black pepper (or to taste if you're not as much a pepper fan as we are)
1 Tbl. sugar or honey (or to taste)
2 Tbl. salt
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
bottled lemon juice or citric acid: 1 Tb. lemon juice OR ¼ tsp. citric acid for EACH pint and 12-oz jars; ½ Tb. lemon juice OR ⅛ tsp. citric acid for EACH half-pint jars

To prepare tomato puree from frozen tomatoes: (assuming they were cleaned and cored before freezing) leave to thaw 24 hours; drain accumulated juices and put through a strainer to remove seeds and peels.
To prepare tomato puree from fresh tomatoes: wash, core and halve tomatoes; heat to boiling (I use a 12-qt. stockpot and a 6-qt. soup pot for 22 lbs); put through a strainer to remove seeds and peels.
Make the pizza sauce: in a 12-qt. or larger stockpot cook onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion softens, 5-10 minutes. Add tomato puree and all the seasonings (basil through pepper flakes), bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 30 minutes, uncovered. Process with an immersion blender to make a smoother sauce (or carefully blend in batches).
Bring back to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until sauce reaches desired consistency (reduced by ¼ to ⅓), usually an hour or two, depending on if you started with fresh or frozen tomatoes. Make sure to stir occasionally to prevent sticking (if you have a thin-bottomed stock-pot, stir more often to prevent scorching).
To can: add the lemon juice or citric acid to each clean, warm jar, fill jar with sauce leaving ½-inch headspace and attach lids and rings until fingertip-tight. Place in canner rack and repeat with remaining jars to fill canner (keep sauce and jars warm, as you will need to do a couple canner loads when using half-pints).
Process both pints and half-pints for 35 minutes in a boiling-water canner (find more details in our Canning 101 steps found in the recipe index).
Remove to a towel-lined surface and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours before checking seals, labeling and storing in a cool, dark place.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Story telling as its worst...

Once upon a time in a land north of us (called Palos Heights), there was a couple who liked to cook dinner.  One-half of this couple decided to try a new recipe, pizza skillet - yum.  The other half was quite unsure - this needed to be cooked in his precious cast iron skillet - this could cause it irrevocable harm.  But he acquiesced, as he often did, to the blonde half who thought it was a good idea.  Not surprisingly the dish was great but the cast iron skillet's loving coating was damaged and the red-haired one was upset.  The blonde one hid.  She vowed to never touch the skillet again.
And she hasn't.
Ok, that's not true I move it all over the place.  I mean she moves it around the stove or to the basement as needed.  But any recipes that call for a skillet - nope… not going to do it.
Until now.
What?  What's that? Why?
Well…. The red-haired one bought the blonde her very own enameled iron skillet of her very own to use as she desires.  It even has a butterfly on it.
Clearly, you aren't buying this 'story' that is someone other than Andy and me.  Pffft.  My story telling needs some work I guess.
Well… now that I have this gorgeous skillet - I had to use it right?
Labor Day weekend I decided to try out my skillet with a Cinnamon Roll Skillet Bread.  It was really easy to make, especially now that I just let anything with yeast rise in the oven overnight.  The toughest part was twisting the 3-foot rolls of dough covered in butter and sugar… like nailing Jell-O to a wall.
I even convinced my whole family to eat it!  I even saw Andy snacking on it during the day!  This recipe - a success!  Bring on the next skillet recipe!  Woo!

Cinnamon Roll Skillet Bread

For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup water, warmed to 105-110 degrees F
1 cup milk, warmed to 105-110 degrees F
3 tablespoons butter, melted

For coating the dough:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

For the streusel topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, cold

For the glaze:
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Begin by making your dough. In a small bowl, mix together the yeast and warm water. (This mixture should bubble. That's how you know the yeast is active.) In the meantime, in a bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Then add the warmed milk, melted butter and proofed yeast. Knead with the dough hook until smooth. Add more flour if the dough is feeling too sticky. Remove the dough and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, then a towel, and let it rise until it's doubled in size (about an hour).

Grease a 12-inch skillet and set aside.

For the coating: in a small bowl, combine the melted butter and and vanilla. In another small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Next, divide the dough into two pieces and roll each piece into a rope about 3 feet long. Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper. Liberally brush with the melted butter and vanilla mixture, making sure to cover all sides of the dough. Once buttered, coat all sides of the dough with the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Then, pinch the ends of the ropes together and twist them together. Pinch the other ends once twisted.

Starting in the center of your skillet, place the twisted dough inside and wind it around. If you have any extra butter from the brushing, drizzle it over the dough. Cover the skillet with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size (about an hour).

In the meantime, prepare the streusel topping. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Then, using a fork or pastry cutter, cut in the cold butter. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Once the dough is doubled, sprinkle with the streusel topping and bake for 40-45 minutes. If you notice that your bread is getting too dark, lightly cover it with a piece of aluminum foil. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Prepare the glaze by whisking together the confectioner's sugar, milk, melted butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir until smooth, adding more milk if necessary to achieve the desired consistency. Pour evenly over slightly cooled bread.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Like camping, without the slugs...

S'mores are awesome - amazing... the perfect camping food.  But honestly?  I am usually too hot, too sticky, too buggy, too.... everything to really enjoy them when we are camping.  Do I really want to get that close to the fire to roast a marshmallow?  Ugh... I got marshmallow in my hair... oh that's not marshmallow that's a slug!  Oh now I have mosquitoes all over my legs!  Oh can you just hear my whine?  (Just ask Andy, this about sums up most of our camping experiences when it's hot.)
These S'more Treats are pretty much the awesome.  You should make them somewhat close to the time you plan to eat them if you want the graham crackers to be crisp, but we found even a day or two later they were almost easier to eat when they were softer.
The recipe is super basic - cut the cracker, slather on some fluff, make some ganache, make a sandwich, dip in chocolate... done.  But honestly?  these are a s'more any time, no need for the slugs or the tripping over the roasting stick.  No burning your friend with the roasting stick because "Oops! Didn't see you sitting there."
Enjoy these yummy treats...
And full disclosure - actual campfire s'mores are actually very delicious.  Even the ones made over the warm cozy fire of the stove in the A/C with full access to soap and warm water for easy clean up.

S'mores Treats
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 package (14.4 ounces) whole graham crackers, quartered
1 cup marshmallow crème
2 cartons (7 ounces each) milk chocolate for dipping (Or melt semi-sweet chips for dipping)

Place chocolate chips in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil. Pour over chocolate; stir with a whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature or until mixture reaches a spreading consistency, about 10 minutes.
Spread chocolate mixture over half of the graham crackers. Spread marshmallow creme over remaining graham crackers; place over chocolate-covered crackers, pressing to adhere.
Melt dipping chocolate according to package directions. Dip each s'more halfway into dipping chocolate; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; let stand until dipping chocolate is set.
If desired, drizzle tops with melted white candy coating; let stand until set. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Yield: about 4 dozen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Night time pictures make for yellow looking cookie bars...

Cookies - cookies are good.  I like them.  They are on the go easy all in one snack.  Need a quick snack - grab a cookie.  I like soft cookies and sometimes that's hard to achieve without getting too crispy or too thin.

Enter in the bar.  Oh yeah, the cookie bar.  Toss in an entire bag of M&Ms and some chocolate chips - we are in business - let me tell you!

I brought these bars up to Wisconsin for the yearly summertime gathering of Andy's family.  I like bringing new recipes - to give them a good test - and in disposable containers so I don't have to think about getting the containers back.  These bars were certainly a hit.  I even saw my father-in-law brought a few home from the party in a bag for a little late night snack.

This recipe would be easy to mix up with different add-ins, different chips, different candies, even ... raisins... Ugh!  Raisins!  It has enough edges to please those crazy edge people who want that crispy edges (this is not me) and enough middle to please the people like me who want a soft chewy cookie.

Also a bonus is you don't have to spend an hour scooping these out on trays and messing up more dishes.  One bowl and one pan done and done.

Enough rambling - go make these.

Large Batch Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

1 1/2 C butter
2 C brown sugar
1 C white sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
4 tsp vanilla
4 1/4 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 C milk chocolate chips
2 C M&Ms

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
2. Place 1 1/2 C butter into a large glass bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave.
3. Add 2 C brown sugar and 1 C white sugar and stir to combine. Then add 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks and 4 tsp vanilla. Whisk it together until well combined.
4. In a separate bowl combine 4 1/4 C flour, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp baking soda.
5. Stir the dry mixture into the sugar mixture. Don't mix it in all the way. The trick to making these bars nice and soft on the inside is not to over mix and not to over bake. So, at this stage...leave a bit of the flour showing. It will incorporate nicely for you as you stir in the chocolate.
6. Add 2 C milk chocolate chips and 2 C of M and M's (almost all of a medium sized bag). You can use any kind of chocolate chips.
7. Stir the chocolate in to combine.
8. Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray (mine is 12 x 17). Press the dough evenly into the pan.
9. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until the outside is slightly golden. You want to be sure not to over bake. They are much better if the inside is nice and soft.
10. Allow them to cool for about 10 minutes then slice into bars and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Chocolate and Veggies - a yummy combo

Zucchini has been another item in our garden this year that has been quite plentiful.  I love that we buy a $1.50 seed packet and end up with so many zucchinis to share with people.  I love that we have fresh produce and can experiment with different recipes.
Rumor has it that zucchini is amazing with chocolate.  I'm here to confirm that rumor as truth.  These muffins - you can't even taste there is a veggie in your muffin because you are too busy in awe of the chocolate.
I brought these muffins with camping because I figure even if it's warm out - they would still taste good - and for sure that was truth.  Bronwyn was sad I didn't bring any vanilla muffins... (Let's be honest when I made vanilla muffins she said she didn't want any - silly girl.)  Nicholas - he's my baked good eater!  Like Father Like Son!
If you want a moist (eew that word!) chocolatey awesome muffin - give these a try.  I promise you won't be pulling strings of zucchini out of your teeth.
Full disclosure: These are NOT health food.  Yes, they contain a veggie - no they are not healthy in any way.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups finely grated zucchini, slightly drained
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup mini milk chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin pan wells with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the sugars, oil, eggs, and vanilla until thoroughly combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
Gradually add the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture and mix until just combined.
Fold in zucchini until it is evenly distributed into the batter. Stir in semisweet chocolate chips.
Use a large cookie scoop (about 3 tablespoons) to distribute batter amongst the prepared muffin wells.
If desired, sprinkle mini milk chocolate chips onto the top of each muffin.
Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes.

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