Saturday, July 28, 2012

I want to say a big thank you for the messages, comments, and emails from you the past few months as I've been absent.  There have been a lot of big changes and trying to accommodate and acclimate to them all has proven to be challenging at best.
The natives and I went to my home town in Alabama to be with my Grandmother in April while she was gravely ill.  I was fortunate to be bedside, holding her hand when she passed away the first week of May.  I've always looked at her as my mother since she helped my dad to raise my siblings and me till my dad remarried when I was 12.  The loss has left me with a void to big to ignore and try to carry on with routine.
Also, I've been working at designing an entirely new site dedicated not only to canning, but gardening, moving our family towards a cleaner diet, living frugally, sewing, and confessions from our tribe.  I've not worked at it diligently.  
The site was registered two months before my grandmother passed away and named in honor of her since she inspired, taught, and fostered much of those topics in my life.  I had hoped to have the site up completely before sharing it with.  Sadly, I never got that chance.  I just didn't have the heart to work at it as I should once we were back in Texas.
I've begun to write a post on this, but it's not complete.  I just wanted to let you know where I've been and why.  I will be back.  I have lots to share.  And, I'm finally getting to a place where I'm ready to do so.  Now, on to the canning!  It is a canner's favorite season you know.  

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Smokey Black Bean Dip

Remember my last post? You know, the one I wrote last month and have neglected to write since? Yup, that's the one, Slow Cooker Frijoles Negros. It's been a while, right? Sorry about that.
Well, as you know if you gave this recipe a go, it makes massive amounts. That can be good or bad.
If you're the only one in your family that eats them, bad news, sister. You'll be eating on them all week. I'm talking every meal. Setting your alarm in the middle of the night to get up and have snacks as well. Yeah, it makes a LOT.
Then again, it's great if you've got a large gang to feed. But, you're probably still going to have leftovers, and that's where this post comes in to play.
Typically on Sunday or Monday, I make a large pot of beans as our main side dish and repurpose them throughout the week. Whatever I have left at the end of the week I freeze to be added to soups and chilis later on. This week, however, I made the slow cooker frijoles negros and as we discussed earlier, I had mucho leftovers. Typically, I'll use the leftovers to make black bean quesadillas, or throw into a port of Southwestern style soup. But, the gang and I had grown weary of these beans making an appearance at every meal, so I knew I had to do something drastic to keep our interest, as well as appetites, piqued. Enter, smokey black bean dip.
I drained the beans and placed in a sauce pan.

Then, using my handy dandy emulsion blender, I buzzed the beans till they were the consistency I preferred. If you want your dip to be super creamy, then go to town on the buzzing. We like ours slightly chunky .

After the buzzing I added 1 cup of thawed, frozen corn kernels, 2 frozen, chopped chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, 1 can of tomatoes, drained, minus the third of the can I accidentally spilled in the sink, 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, and 1 teaspoon of ground cumin and simmered at medium low heat.
The chipotles need not be frozen. It just so happens mine were. Also, garlic powder could be used in place of the granulated garlic. And, if you wanted too, you could substitute a can of Rotel tomatoes in place of plain tomatoes. This is how I did mine, but the dish is flexible.
My beans were still thin and runny so I cooked them down to a thicker consistency.

I ladled the dip into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish and had the oven ready to go at 350 degrees. You can stop right there and have the dip as is. Or, you can layer your favorite cheese on top and bake till cheese is bubbly. I love tangy goat cheese or oaxaca cheese with black beans. I went with sharp cheddar for today.

I would include a photo of the dip with the browned cheese, but let's be honest. Melted cheese isn't the most appealing in appearance.
Possibilities abound on how this could be served. This could easily be slapped between two tortillas and cooked up quesadilla style. Or, I imagine this would make a yummy burrito. But, I like serving it with fresh avocado slices, chips, and sour cream.
Kelly over at The Meaning of Pie makes a black bean soup with lime sour cream that sounds devine. As soon as we're over our black bean hang over I intend to give it go. Once I have this posted I plan on making her lime sour cream. Can't wait, yummers.

Leftover vegetarian frijoles negros, drained roughly 2-3 cups
1/2 - 1 cup thawed, frozen corn kernals
1- 2 chopped chipotle peppers and adobe sauce
1 can of tomatoes, drained
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground cumin

Place beans in a sauce pan and using stick blender, blend to your preference in consistence. Add corn and next five ingredients. Simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking till desired thickness in texture is achieved.
If baking with cheese, cover with cheese of preference and bake at 350 till cheese is bubbly and browned.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Slow Cooker Smokey Frijoles Negros

*Not canning related, but I've been asked for this recipe.

Most Sunday afternoons I cook a meal to carry over for several days in repurposed ways. And, this meal must meet certain requirements.
1. It can be used for Meatless Monday in some way.
2. It must incorporate a large pot of beans.
For this week's pot of beans I'm making my slow cooker smokey frijoles negros. The frijoles will be our side to accompany stuffed peppers for supper tonight. Tomorrow they'll top freshly cooked rice and have a side of fruit salsa to keep them company on the plate. Tuesday night we'll take a break and have a roasted chicken with brussel sprouts, carrots, and potatoes. And, then back to the beans on Wednesday with black bean chicken quesadillas. If we have any left on Thursday I'll probably turn them into a salsa to munch on for a few lunches.
I find that if I plan out my menus ahead of time not only does it save time and money, but it also saves me a hassle.
You know what I'm talking about. That day where everything's falling into place and you're owning that to-do list. Showing it who's really in charge. You're going along and thinking that you deserve a break and fix a cup of tea only to realize you've forgotten about supper. Crap. Now what? That's the hassel and headache I'm talking about.
Menu planning works. Trust me. And, making a huge pot of beans at the beginning of the week makes it so much easier. That's one less side dish you have to worry about. Beans can be added to soups, stews, and chilis if you're bored with eating them on their own. And, they're full of fiber. Remember, boys and girls, fiber is our friend.
I make these in my slow cooker, because again, it makes my job easier. I don't need to extol to you the virtues of the slow cooker. I often refer to mine as my personal assistant since it does the dirty work I don't always have time to.
Here's what you'll need:

2 cups of dried black beans that have soaked overnight
2 chipotle chilis chopped with 1 TBS of the adobe sauce they're packed in
1 sweet bell pepper seeded and chopped
1 to 2 jalapenos seeded and chopped *These are optional if you want to omit some of the heat
1 medium to large sized onion *I usually use yellow onions, but red work just as well
2cloves of minced garlic
1/2 TBS oregano
1 TBS cumin
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 Bay leaf
8 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
*optional a dash or two of red wine vinegar after cooking

If you forgot to soak your beans overnight you can always follow the instructions on the packaging for a quick soak.

Add all the ingredients to your slow cooker and cook on high 5-6 hours. The beans should always be covered with liquid and add as necessary. Remove the bay leaf and serve. Sprinkle with Oaxaca cheese or any other cheese you might prefer.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sweet and Sassy Red Onion Marmalade

This marmalade is what you'd call a quick marmalade, but I call it Sweet and Sassy Red Onion Marmalade.
Sure, it's quick. Better than that is how versatile it is. But, best of all is just how good it tastes. The first time I opened a jar I came awfully close to eating the entire thing by myself. It's just amazing how wonderfully all the flavors play together in this delicious spread.
I've used it as a salad dressing, thinning it down some with apple cider vinegar and a little olive oil. I've used it on burgers and sammis. And, as an appetizer with goat cheese or cream cheese, it just can't be beat. Of course, one of my most indulgent ways of enjoying it is smeared on fresh out of the oven bread with goat cheese.

Yields roughly 6 half pint jars

2 cups thinly sliced halved red onion
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp grated orange zest
3 cups unsweetened apple juice
1 package of regular powdered fruit pectin
4 cups granulated sugar

Prep work for this marmalade would be made easy peas-ey work if you've got a mandoline slicer hanging out in your kitchen. I don't. Just me and the trusty Wusthof. Hubby was a chef and kitchen manager for nearly 15 years and insists that I must take a safety course from him before I can bring a mandoline slicer home to live with us. Yeah. I'm that accident prone.

Slice your onion in half, and thinly slice the onion after you've readied your canner, jars, lids, and all equipment that is to be used once your ready to fill jars.

Using a large skillet saute the onions, dried cranberries, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar over medium heat. Cook down about 10 minutes.
* You may want to dice your cranberries before adding to the skillet. I like the way my jars look with the whole dried cranberries. Totally up to you.
Once the onions have cooked down, add the orange zest and apple juice. Dissolve the pectin, constantly stirring over high heat. You will want to bring this to a boil and continue stirring frequently. Measure your sugar into a large container. Once mixture is at a boil, add sugar all at once.
Stirring constantly, bring mixture back to a rolling, hard boil for one minute.
Skim off any foam and remove from heat.

Fill jars to 1/4 inch headspace. Using a chopstick or handy, dandy tool from Ball, remove air bubbles, adjusting headspace if needed. Wipe rims with a moist paper towel. Place lid and band on. Tighten band, and then tighten a scosh more.
Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for half pints. Remove canner lid and wait an additional 5 minutes before removing jars to their cooling spot.
All that's left to do now is clean up. Now, where is my kitchen fairy?

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Break Time Over

Wow. That was a really long break, much deserved with all the hoopla of the holidays. We did traveling, family in town as well, school performances, Santa, and the New Year, complete with my glass of champagne in a half pint Ball.
It was wonderful and exhausting all at the same time. I've been warned though, that after having children it never slows down. This season certainly proved to be true.
I did manage to get quite a bit of canning done during that time and I've lots to share with you. I put up chicken soup, sweet potato with chorizo and spinach soup (recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, cranberries, orange juice jelly, sweet red onion marmalade, chicken stock to replenish my shelves, and a few others. I'm working on a recipe for a cranberry chutney that I'm really excited about, as well. I've also had several crochet and sewing orders to throw into the mix to almost drive me nuts. But, I seem to thrive on it all. Oh, and did I mention that we're in the midst of potty training? Not me, that would be weird. My two year old daughter.
I hope the holidays were lovely to all. And, I just can't wait to get back into the groove of things. Happy new year's and cheers to all!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sausage and Dried Cranberry Cornbread Dressing

This is one of those posts where I don't have many pictures due simply to forgetting to take pictures. I'm going to apologize for the pictures I do have. They aren't great. You'd think after all those classes in photography that my pictures would be better. Sometimes, they're not so bad, and sometimes, well, they're just really bad. You must understand though, that I spent most of my time in the darkroom. That was the part I loved most. But, I digress. Let's get on to the dressing, shall we?
In the southeast we do a traditional cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. The base of it is just that, cornbread. Sometimes turkey is added, sometimes not. I've tasted some that was dry as dirt, and others that tended to the soupy, sloppy side, if you know what I mean.
I may have my Southern Girl Status revoked for what I am about to say, but hear me out first. I was never impressed with most dressings. There I said it. Oh, dear. I can hear them coming for me now. I liked my grandmother's dressing, but I didn't dream about it. What? You don't have daydreams of food? Well, maybe this dressing might help remedy that sad situation. Food should be dreamt about. Trust me.
It was one year that I didn't make it home for the holiday that I embarked upon my very first dressing date. Oh, yes. I made a date out of it. I scoured magazines, cookbooks, web sites, and polled many, many people on what made dressing important to them. You see, after years of hearing people fawn over their favorite dressings, I knew there had to be more for me. So, after much research, and probably a glass of wine or two, I spent an entire day working on a dressing modge podged together from what elements I liked from all the research. This is what I've come up with. Since concocting what is my favorite dressing, I've found others similar out there on the web. That's awesome! I'm not the only one that likes this variation. So, take a look. If you like what you see, give it a go. But, you know your taste buds best, deviate and have fun. But most of all, make it yours, your favorite.

1 9x13 pan of baked cornbread
1lb of sage ground sausage
1 medium yellow onion diced
1 cup celery diced
1 Granny Smith apple cored and chopped
1 liberal cup of dried cranberries, I really wanted to make a political joke in there, but it was lame.
roughly 1 pint of chicken stock, I tend to use more because we like a moist dressing. Between 2-3 cups is fine.
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375. Saute sausage in a large, heavy skillet till brown. Remove sausage to a large bowl with crumbled cornbread.
2. Melt the butter using the same skillet; add onions, celery, and apple to butter and saute till tender.
3. Toss sauteed veggies into the large bowl with the sausage. Add the dried cranberries, salt, and pepper. You can also add more rubbed sage if you're really fond of it.

4. Add the eggs and chicken stock bit by bit mixing all ingredients together. Don't add too much and make the mixture mushy. As my grandmother always said, "You can always add more, but you can't take it out."
5. Pour dressing into a lightly greased 9x13 casserole dish. I tend to make more dressing than this dish holds and have to add the remaining dressing into an additional dish. I told you I really like this dressing.
6. Place dressing in oven uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on your baby. If the top looks like it's getting too dark, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Think I left something out? Don't like what I put in? Change it! Make this dish distinctly yours. And, then have sweet dreams of you and your new crush.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding, Oh My

I'm from the south and we are most fond of our sweet potatoes. There's sweet potato fries, mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato pie, sweet potato casserole, and sweet potato souffle just to name a few of our favorites. Then there's bread pudding, another traditional Southern staple. You can imagine my excitement when I ran across a recipe for sweet potato bread pudding several years back. I can't be sure, but I believe there was jubilant dancing.
And, while I would like to give credit for this most yummy of yummy recipes, I can't. Unfortunately I'm not completely sure where I came across this one. If memory serves me correctly, and that's a rare thing on some days, I believe it came from the Loveless Cafe from Nasvhille, Tennessee. Again, I'm not sure. All I have is a recipe written down on a bar napkin.
This bread pudding is everything you would think it to be and more. You get the creamy, rich, custard mixed in with a healthy cup of mashed sweet potato, molasses, and heaping mounds of meringue folded not only into the pudding, but heaped on top as well. The only thing to make this taste any better than a warm serving drizzled with caramel sauce, is having good kitchen help to make it.
2 loaves of French bread cut into 1/4 inch segments. For this batch I made two loaves using my old fashioned white recipe but only used 1 1/2 loaves.
8 egg yolks
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup roasted and mashed sweet potato
2 cups heavy cream
1/8 cup molasses
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
bourbon, optional
8 egg whites
1 cup granulated white sugar

Step 1. Cream egg yolks and sugar.

Step 2. Mix in remaining custard ingredients. Layer bread into a well greased, read buttered, oven safe dish and saturate with the custard. In the past I have soaked the bread in bourbon before transferring to the baking dish and saturating with the custard. It's fabulous either way.

Step 3. Remind your brood it must be baked before consumption. Proceed to bake for 25 minutes at 325.

Step 4. While baking mix together the 8 egg whites with the cup of granulated white sugar till stiff peaks are formed.

Step 5. After the pudding has baked for 25 minutes gently fold the meringue into the bread pudding and mound on top. Return to oven and bake an additional 25 minutes at 325.

It's best to let this cool a few minutes once out of the oven, if for no other reason than not to scald the roof of your mouth. Serve with whipped cream, caramel sauce, or ice cream. Or, if you're feeling especially sassy, all three.

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