Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Great Bread-N-Butter Pickle Battle

I love bread-n-butter pickles! 

I only planted two hills this year... just two.  They've been prolific though... very prolific.
When I got ready for the first batch of pickles I couldn't find the recipe I'd used last year ( and they were GOOD)!  And so began the inspiration for this new blog/kitchen diary.  I vowed never again to lose another recipe!  Thus also began the search for my replacement Bread-n-Butter Pickle Recipe.

First I tossed it out there on FaceBook, "Who thinks they have the best Bread-n-Butter Pickle Recipe?"  I didn't get a lot of responses.  I think my fav was, "Milwaukee Pickles"!  Thanks Amber!  Several of my cousins said that my Aunt JoJo had a great Bread-n-Butter Pickle Recipe.  Some time passed and my friend Kris messaged me with her family Bread-n-Butter Pickle Recipe "Crispy Lunch Pickles".  So I made them.  When I tasted them, I thought they were the best Bread-n-Butter Pickles I'd ever tasted!

Time went by and the pickles continued to prosper.  I gave some away.  I made some garlic dills.  I gave some more away...  When I again had my counter-tops full of ripe cucumbers I received a letter in the mail with my Aunt JoJo's Bread-n-Butter Pickle Recipe!  Woo Hoo!!  So I made them.  When I tasted them, I thought they were the best Bread-n-Butter Pickles I'd ever tasted!

Things may have ended there but the pickles kept on producing...  I made the Garlic Dills again, this time spicier and more garlicky.  And I gave some more away...  And they kept right on producing...  One day as I was pulling out condiments I saw that there were two jars of Bread-n-Butter Pickles.  Dane and I were standing around the kitchen island making sammies and that is how the side-by-side taste comparison happened, quite by accident.

Side-by-side tasting proved that they were very different indeed!  What a shocker!  This made me get the recipes out and compare, and re-taste and analyze.  I found I preferred the salt/sweet balance of Kris's pickles over my aunties; and I preferred the spice balance in my aunties pickles over Kris's.  Hmmm...  As my cucumbers continued to produce I continued to mull over and analyze those two recipes, look over a few more in various cookbooks and determined to come up with my own.  So thanks Kris, and thanks Aunt JoJo!  You guys gave me the inspiration and the courage to wing it!  So I shall procrastinate no longer and give you my results:

Betty's Bread-n-Butter Pickles
(makes about 15 Qts)

12-16 Qts. sliced cucumbers - I arrived at this number by filling my "Big Daddy Pressure Cooker" (you'll hear more about him in another blog!) almost full.  Later I backed them out and found they almost filled up my four largest bowls leaving a bit of room for my peppers, onions, and my secret ingredient... lots of fresh sliced ginger!
12 ripe (red) Serrano Peppers - sliced thin leaving the seeds and pith intact... pretty!
8 Large Banana Peppers - sliced in rings.  No special science to the 12 or 8 peppers, that's just how many we had ripe that day.  Plus we like SPICE!
4 Large Vidalia Onions - halved and sliced.  (Why four? One for each bowl, of course!)
4 Large knobs of Ginger - peel and slice thin across the grain.  I left the knobs un-halved, though I sliced them very thin I wanted the slices big enough to see.  I love the flavor fresh ginger brings to the table, but I don't very much like to actually bite into a piece unaware. 
2 Cups Canning Salt - divided

In my four bowls I put the sliced cucumbers, I topped them with the other veggies and ginger, distributing them evenly between the bowls.  I did this to keep the stirring later to a minimum.  I then dumped each bowl into my "Big Daddy Pressure Cooker" by turns.  After dumping in a bowl I topped it with 1/2 c. canning salt and some ice cubes.  Repeating until all were incorporated.  I actually had to wait a bit for some ice to melt between bowls 3 and 4.  I sped it up some by pouring cold water over it and stirring minimally until I could squeeze in the remainder.  

I left this to brine for around 3 hours then drained well (I did not rinse) After draining I put the cuke mix back into the pot and poured the vinegar/sugar/spice mix (below) over them.  Over high heat, I heated the mixture just to boiling. NOTE:  This took a long time and required more stirring than I wanted to do which broke up some of my nice slices.  Next time (since I have now figured out just how much of the mix I need) I will bring my liquids to a boil FIRST in another pan and pour the boiling mix over the veggies and then cook just until it almost reboils.  Should take much less time and stirring.

12 cups Red Wine Vinegar
12 cups sugar
3 1/2 T. Turmeric
7 T. Mustard Seed
4 T. Celery Seed - I only had one left on hand, so I added some fresh celery
4 T. Red Pepper Flake - Yes, I did say we like spice!
Then just to jack up the flavor a bit more... I added
4 more large knobs of ginger - this is ginger that had not gone through the brining, I wanted it to have a fresher bite.

This was enough to can 2 batches in my water bath canner (14 Qts.) and enough left over for a nearly full Qt. for the refrigerator that I didn't process...  'Cuz you have to have some right away the next day... right...?

Oh hey, I almost forgot to say that I filled my sterilized qt.jars with the hot pickles leaving at least 1/4 inch headspace, and processed them for 20 minutes once my water bath returned to a boil.  Details.

Weeeellll, it took nearly as long to record this recipe as it did to make it!  Whew!  And just about he time I went to publish...  I got a little trigger happy, hit a goofy key-stroke combo and deleted everything?!?!?  How do you spell f-r-u-s-t-r-a-t-i-n-g???  It was all worth it though, because it is here... for the duration... in the cloud... and I will never, ever again misplace my Bread-n-Butter Pickle recipe.  And the prince and princess lived happily-ever-after on their 40 little acres out in Banjo Land.......

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dane's Skillet Semolina Quick Bread

My husband is a master of the Quick Bread.

No, he doesn't use a recipe...ever. Seldom does he ever tell me 'how he did it', so today, when he practically volunteered (!) I decided I'd better jot it down.

Dane's Skillet Semolina Quick Bread

Preheat oven to 425, (reduce to 375 for baking after putting bread in oven)
1 T. Flax-seed Meal
1 C. Milk (2%)
1/3 C. Vanilla Yogurt (lo-fat)
2 Eggs
1 t. Sea Salt
Chipotle Powder, Cinnamon, Cloves & Nutmeg (to taste)
1 C. Semolina Flour
1 C. Self-Rising Flour

While pre-heating cast-iron skillet on stove-top, beat together all ingredients EXCEPT self-rising flour.  Beat well, giving the gluten a chance to develop.  Dane used an egg-beater, the old fashioned hand crank type.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

While semolina mixture is 'standing', spoon some bacon grease into the skillet.  When it is nicely sizzling, pour off excess.

Fold Self-Rising Flour into the Semolina mixture lightly.  Pour into pre-heated, greased skillet and place skillet in oven.  Reduce oven temp to 375 and bake until golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean.  (more than 10 min, less than 30)

After removing from oven, Dane spread a little butter over top and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Delicious, yes!  Not sweet and the spices come through in a very intoxicating way as the bread begins to cool... WOW!  If you like your quick bread sweet, I suppose you could add some sugar, but it is totally unnecessary.  A great Sunday Morning Breakfast; thanks sweetie (for the breakfast & for sharing...)!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Breaking Bread or 'doing what you were meant to do' or That Sexy Flat-Iron Steak

Tonite's Menu:

Shrimp Stir Fry
Grilled Flat-Iron Steak
Red Cabbage Cole Slaw
Grilled Sweet Corn with Garlic Lime Butter
Ice-Cold Water Melon Slices
Dane's Home Roasted Ethiopian Coffee
and chocolate cupcakes too!

First, the credits:

The Shrimp Stir Fry was based on an awesome guide I found in Food Network Magazine. Very handy guide! I used what was fresh from my garden ( snow peas & broccoli) made one mis-step that turned into a blessing; rice wine vinegar instead of rice wine... I added a little honey to balance out the extra tartness and it was swell. Anyhow, the recipe 'works', I will come back to this guide which had some very handy tips. Worth buying the magazine for even though I didn't! It was a much appreciated gift ;-)

The Cole Slaw I whipped up in 10 minutes flat!  First I sent my man (he had shoes on...) out to the garden to get me a nice fresh tight head of red cabbage, I LOVE this time of year! I shredded it and tossed it in a bowl with an awesome Garden Relish I canned recently. That's it!  This was set in the fridge to chill/marinate while we worked on the rest of the meal.  Could not have been easier...! (the link goes to "The Old Farmer's Almanac Garden Fresh Cookbook" I loosely based my relish on the recipe on pg 158)

The Grilled Corn was boiled for 5 minutes and then the guys threw it on the grill for a bit to get those nice grill marks and some smokiness, yum.  I melted a stick of butter, added 4 or 5 cloves of garlic minced small.  I placed the corn on a platter sprinkled it with Key Lime Juice, poured the Garlic Butter on top and another sprinkle of the lime juice. Simple.

The Flat-Iron Steak was an offering from our friend John... WOW!  What a wonderful sexy cut of meat!  Of course with Food TV almost everyone has heard of the Flat-Iron steak.  This being my first experience with it, I will say it is everything it is cracked up to be and I am a convert.  Since I was not the one to grill this baby, I am including a nice grilling guide I found here. John bought the steak, about a pound and a half, threw it in a bag with a teriyaki marinade and threw that in the freezer.  We thawed it in the fridge and the guys went outside and did whatever they did to it on the grill...  It came back in rare to mid-rare and freakin' delicious!  Bravo Boys!!

All that food talk aside, this is really what it is all about; sitting down with loved ones across the table from one another and simply breaking bread...  We may not sit and break from a communal loaf these days, but this meal was certainly a communal effort. We each contributed to the meal, we prepared it together and sat to eat and talk and enjoy it and each other together.  This entire weekend for me ran in the same vein.  The night before our friend Lukas dropped by and we shared a similar night of fellowship. 

As I lay in bed not sleeping (due to several cups of Dane's amazing coffee) I realized that this was what I had been waiting for and working for, for a very long time.  I, though not sleeping, was 'resting' in the knowledge that I was doing what I was 'made' to do...  All my life really I've had this sort of nagging desire in my inner parts to open a restaurant, or a cafe, or or or... something.  A part of me knows that, just that, in itself isn't 'the thing'. But it resembles the thing.  Not just any restaurant would do, a bed and breakfast type is what most comes to mind when asked to ponder what I would do if I could do anything I wanted to do.  But really, what I love to do is grow good food, go out and harvest it and create beautiful tasty food with people I love and serve them and sit and eat and get to know them better in the process.

I'm so grateful to my husband for taking that leap and deciding to 'go for it' out here on these 40 acres with me.  I told him that the kitchen would be what makes or breaks it for me, but I'm not sure if back then he really got what that meant.  He let me have pretty much free-reign though within our budget to create the sort of space that I could live out my dream in.  Where I could be fully a part of all that goes on, interacting easily with my guests while at the same time at work in my kitchen.  It's been a long time and a crazy amount of hard work but completely worth every bit of it.

Thanks sweetheart, I can't tell you how much I appreciate that!  And a big thank you too, to John and to Lukas and, to my friend *Christine and yes, to God for helping me to open my eyes to the reality that I AM living the dream...

*Christine is a gifted history writer and a story teller who is currently living out her life dream in her own way.  Reading her post made my heart sing in recognition.:-) 

Ok, so here's an after thought. Unless we are actively running in the opposite direction, perhaps we are all doing what we are made to do at any point in time, good or bad... comfortable or not...? Perhaps it's just once in a while we 'see ' it, or know it, or agree with it or feel good about it...  I guess this is not meant to be a complete thought, just to provoke thought.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A different kind of Pizza Night with Lukas

I'm not sure that I've ever made a blog post with no photos.

It was one of those impromptu get-togethers that turned out to be something special.  Dinner with my sweetie and a dear friend I haven't spent any significant time with in years... (not for lack of want-to)

We didn't have a plan, my house wasn't clean, I hadn't shopped or sketched out a menu... nothing.

It was really a perfect evening, we all got in the kitchen together and came up with a WONDERFUL collaboration that I really wish I'd had the presence of mind to photograph because we WILL be making this again!  But though the food was great, tonight wasn't about that.  It was about catching up with an old friend, not so much reminiscing as sharing all the new and beautiful things going on in our lives and reaffirming an old bond.  Not to mention great food and good music.  I knew Dane and Lukas would hit it off well, and they did.  They probably have a lot more in common than I do with either of them...  ;-)

But hey, since this is my kitchen diary...
I will sketch out a recipe of sorts to jog my memory the next time I want to make this, what shall we call it, a pizza roll up  I guess.

Pizza Roll-Ups ala Lukas  (makes 2)

2 pkg Pillsbury Crescent Roll Seamless Dough Sheets
1# Farmland 'Pork & Bacon' Pork Sausage (crumbled and browned)
1 8oz brick of cream cheese
couple of large spoonfuls of my Homemade Giardineira
drizzle of EVOO
(salt/pepper/fresh basil chopped/oh and 4 or 5 cloves of garlic-minced)
Thin sliced zucchini
Mozzarella cheese - shredded

Preheat oven to 350.
In a med sized bowl mix up the cream cheese, giardiniera, garlic, spices and herbs. Add EVOO enough to make it easily spreadable.  Divide into two parts and spread over the crescent dough sheets.  Top with the zucchini and the crumbled sausage. When my back was turned Dane also sprinkled on some more giardiniera...  Good move sweetie!  Top it all with a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.  Roll up from the short end and place the 2 pizza rolls on a large cookie sheet or baking pan.  Bake until golden brown and let stand for a bit before slicing and serving.

I served this with a standard of ours, Ginger Sodas:
(we have a gajillion variations on this!)

In a large glass put a couple scoops vanilla ice cream.
Pour some ginger-ale over it.  When it fizzes up nicely,
drizzle in a bit of Key Lime Juice.
Pour in more ginger-ale and serve.

Thanks for stopping by Lukas!  When my kitchen was still just a rough concept in my mind, before we had knocked out the first wall, this was the very sort of activity I had envisioned taking place there.  Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing the evening with us.

I love you friend...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

summertime "SMOOTHie TALKING" my sweetie

I look up from the blogosphere to notice that I am, save for the glow of my computer screen, completely in the dark. It's also dead silent, no TV noise drifting in from another room, no kitty carousing, nothing at all but he hum of my monitor...

Cue the "do-do do-do" Twilight Zone music...

I'm momentarily a little freaked out about how alone I feel and reach for my phone to call my hubby.  He could be anywhere and I'm not gonna tiptoe around 40 dark acres looking for him!

He answers his phone in a raspy whisper, "Hey!"  I whisper back, "Whacha doin'?" To which he responds, "sweatin my ass off turning casenecks" in the same raspy whisper...  That's greek to me but I whisper back a giggle, "jejejeje....." Still feeling a bit in the Zone."  By now I realize he's directly above me in his man cave which is completely isolated from the rest of the house which is why he is sweating his...  well, you get the picture.  "How's about I make us a little COOL treat then?"

"Ooh, that sounds good!" he says to me in his normal voice and the spell is broken.


1 - Magic Bullet Drink Cup
(oh yes! i lve my bullet!)
fill 2/3 full frozen pineapple chunks
fill remaining 1/3 with frozen blackberries
add water enough to blend.

cup is now about 3/4 full and thick

open 1 can ginger-ale
stir in enough to loosen and pour in martini glasses
add a scoop of vanilla ice cream
float some more ginger-ale on top

Try your very best

not to laugh out loud

when your big, tough

hunk of a man

puts that cute little umbrella

behind his ear...

Have I mentioned yet today how crazy I am about him?


Sufferers from Colitis... 
All those annoying little seeds from the blackberries...
settled right to the bottom of my glass!!
Not even one left behind to pick out of my teeth!

Naturally Chester is looking on in amazement.
Aren't you?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Cauliflower Burgers? Really?"

That's what my husband said when I told him that's what I was making for breakfast.
"They'll be delicious", I shot back  Hmmmmpf.....

We've had the best cauliflower this year, HUGE beautiful white heads.  I used one monster head to make a nice gardiniera a couple days ago, and blanched and froze some but I really wanted to use some fresh from the garden this morning.  There was just one small problem...

My hubby informs me as I was moving about the kitchen slowly, gathering ingredients, that he needed to roast coffee...  as in there was NO coffee!  That is a major crisis at our house.  We could even be accused of being coffee snobs.  Yes, I'm spoiled, my man roasts our coffee and grinds it fresh each morning, usually while I am still in bed playing with the kitties. :-)

This in itself could be the reason for the mis-adventure which followed. Operating in the kitchen without having had my morning coffee!

The cauliflower cooked up nicely, I mashed it and added a nice big helping of the gardiniera and grated in some yummy Fontiago (a nice blend of Fontina and Asiago) so far, so good. I'd browned a couple of slices of bacon to top my 'burgers' with and of course to have the bacon fat to fry them in!
 As I started shaping the burgers I had a bit of difficulty getting them to hold their shape, I figured I'd remedy that by adding a bit more cheese, perhaps a little Parmesan?  The olive oil in my gardiniera made my hands a little slippery and the next thing I knew my burger was on the floor along with one of my favorite plates!  Arghhhhh!!! (that may not be exactly what I said...)

Dane of course chooses that moment to run in and offer to 'get that for me' with the shop vac?!?  Why is it guys always want to 'get that' with the shop vac???  That's a whole 'nother blog in itself...!  In the mean time, when I politely refuse, he goes in to fire up his computer and finds he has no power.  He then unplugs the extension running to the computer room and plugs the vacuum cleaner in its place nearly causing me to jump out of my skin! Well, the outlet works, the breaker is not tripped, but in the resulting confusion I smell something burning!

Ahhhhh! $#*@%! It's the pan in which I had been melting some butter in which to grill my onion buns...  Yep, by this time I'm starting to get a bit flustered!

At least my burgers aren't burning...  They also aren't holding their shape very well either.  I can the 'burger' idea and decide to get them on a plate and get something in our stomachs before somebody gets hurt!

It actually turned out to be a very tasty breakfast hash of sorts which we gobbled down in a big hurry.  Yep, good enough to make it again on purpose...  minus all the theatrics!  Dane promised me as soon as he finished roasting the coffee he would take me down to Bullwinkle's and get some coffee in us for real.  Good husband that he is, he kept his word and the prince and the princess lived happily ever after on their cozy little 40 acres...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Giardiniera! Day two of (hopefully) only three!

Found this great looking recipe at
Posted by PHONETEK.

Of course, I had to let MY garden dictate the veggies... Yesterday was chopping/canning/pickling day.

By the time I was finished, I had three HUGE bowls of this beautiful veggie mix.  I turned two of the bowls (about 5 1/2 Qts) into a slightly sweet relish which is great.  The only problem was I was out of time and energy both and had to get back to life outside my four walls... :-(

The last bowl of veggies I decided to turn into the Giardiniera that I made last year, of course the recipe is nowhere to be found...  Anyhow, PHONETEK has one posted over at allrecipes that looks divine so I decided to use it a a guideline.  The veggies are now back in my fridge soaking in a brine solution (2c. salt and enough water to cover) Tomorrow I will drain, rinse and mix with the rest of the ingredients (equal parts white vinegar and EVOO, oregano, garlic, red pepper flake, black pepper and chopped olives)

Now, time to put my feet up and turn on the Food Network!  Ahhh.....!