Saturday, February 18, 2012

Refrigerator Pickles

Mmmmmm..... Cucumbers. One of my favorite fruits (yes they are fruit). Right now my garden is bursting with them. Especially Pickling Cucumbers! (If you haven't tried growing them, they are a snap here in Hawaii, just be sure to keep them watered!)

At the start of my harvest I only had 4 to use, not enough to make a huge water-processed batch. So I looked up how to make refrigerator pickles! This was my first pickling endeavor, and it couldn't have been easier or turned out better!
For all of my preserving needs, I turn to Foodinajar. A blog dedicated entirely to preserving and jar-foods! Take a peek!

I used her method for Refrigerator Dill Pickles with a few spice and ingredient adjustments. You don't need to worry about changing up the ingredients, because they don't need to be shelf safe, they life in the fridge!

My Pickles are longer than 4 inches, so I doubled the recipe and put them in 2 Quart jars. I used cucumbers of course, but also added some fresh picked hericot-vert (great for cooking with to add a tangy crunch like in one variation of my Zucchini-Noodle Pasta), and Baby Zucchini. I'm going to tell you a secret, you wouldn't be mistaken to make an entire batch of only zucchini pickles. They are the best pickles I have ever eaten. My family agrees. Don't get me wrong, the cukes are spectacular, but the zucchini are to die for! Also, the don't forget to enjoy the pickled garlic, its great in cooking, to eat, or sliced thin in salad!

This recipe can be halved, it can also be packed in pint sized jars

Ingredients:




  • about 2 quarts of veggies   I measured using a 2 quart sauce pan, just pile in the uncut veggies and eyeball it  
    • I used 4 5-in pickling cucumbers, 2 small baby yellow zucchini, and a handful of hericot-vert)
  • 10 cloves garlic peeled (~5 per jar)
  • 2 tsp dill seed per jar
  • 1/2 tsp each Yellow Mustard Seed, Crushed Red pepper per jar
  • 3 green onions (whites) chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tsp sea salt salt


Method:
  
Clean Mason jars with soap and hot water

Slice ends off veggies and cut into spears (be sure to take off blossom end of cukes, they make mushy pickles!)

Add cloves of garlic, green onions, and spices to each jar.

Bring water, salt, and vinegar to boil

Pack veggies into jars as tightly as you can without crushing them.

Pour brine into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head-space, and put on the lids

Let cool on counter until room about room temp (6+ hours or overnight)

Store in the Fridge and let set at least 2 days before enjoying!

Keep in fridge up to a month

ENJOY!!!!!

Zucchini-Noodles Pasta!

I mad a discovery! I wanted desperately to share it with you the moment I ate it, but I had to go to bed + the internet decided to spaz out. That's life.

Currently my garden is pumping out Zucchini and Pickling Cucumbers out the Wazoo. Needless to say, I love zucchini, but one must get creative. That is where this spectacular dish comes in.
Du-du-du-DAAAA!  :

Zuchinni Pasta

No, not pasta with zucchini, but the zucchini makes that pasta itself. This was incredibly easy, adaptable, AND healthy too! Even better, it is impressive. It seems like a top of work (our secret) and looks and tastes like an upscale restaurant. Serve it any day of the week, or at a dinner party to impress, with a nice garden fresh salad. Delightful, divine, and delicious!

All you need is a few squash, a colander, a veggie-peeler, and whatever you would normally put on pasta (although so far I tried it with a tomato sauce, and the flavors complemented each-other to a tee!) I would also like to add that of those in my family that had it for dinner, it got raving reviews. Even the skeptics came for seconds.


I got the basic technique from Allrecipes, but improved on it. (I just added the like to put credit where credit is due)

Although this can be made like any noodle-pasta preparation, My recipe below will call for what I added. Use whatever is in your fridge. All of the pickled ingredients come from my Refrigerator Pickles (check out the post, they really made this version pop! and are so easy, I promise it doesn't taste weird!)

Here we go!
Recipe:  Serves 3-4
40 min total (10 minutes active time)
  • 4-5 garden fresh Zucchini (If serving with salad 1 to 1 1/4 squash per person)
  • salt
  • A few pickled haricot-vert (or other additional veggies slice. ex: mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, ... whatever you think would be good with your sauce) 
  • 3-4 cloves Pickled garlic (or fresh garlic)
  • a splash of Pickling liquid (or water, or stock)
Pasta before adding tomato sauce.
  1. Making the noodles:  Wash and dry zucchini. Slice of ends. Use a vegetable peeler to make long ribbons (end to end) they don't need to be perfect. If the squash gets too seedy and there is no "squash" bordering the seeds on your ribbons towards the center, just add those slices to your salad! 
  2. Drain Noodles: Sprinkle with salt, add to colander, rotate/lightly toss, add a little more salt and rotate again. We are salting to get the squash to sweat. Most should wash off when boiling the noodles, so don't worry (not to say go salt crazy though! Just don't get over-salting preoccupied). Set in sink for 30 min to drain (or slightly longer if you need to/forget, just at least 30 minutes).
  3. Boiling noodles: Boil a large pot of water (same as if making regular pasta). Add noodles gently by handful (don't plot them in and plash water everywhere please!). Gently stir and cook for 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
  4. Flavoring your creation: Slice and add the garlic and pickles (or desired vegetables) to a saute pan over med-high heat. Stir until heated, keeping the garlic from sticking. Add in drained noodles. Wet with a splash (2-4 tablespoons-ish) of pickling liquid or other liquid. Stir to separate pasta and incorporate the garlic and beans. Cook until most of liquid has been evaporated (3-4 minutes). Add a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce and stir to heat. Pull the pan off the heat, and serve it up with a side salad and a pinch of Parmesan Cheese. 
Enjoy!!!!

Remember:

While I implore you to try this version if you have the ingredients on hand. If you don't adapt it! :

Use other veggies, leave them out entirely, make your own rough tomato sauce, toss in a touch of olive oil and Parmesan and capers, add a cheese/cream sauce, a puree of another garden veggie as a sauce, ...  the possibilities are endless
Treat it exactly like you would regular pasta and have healthy, delicious fun!!!!

Also if you use tomato sauce, it IS worth it to branch out and get a fancy, good tomato sauce. Save the Prego for another day and try something like: Mezzetta Artichoke Parmesan Marinara. Not only is it delicious, it is healthy and low in fat and calories. It's my family's new favorite!

Garden Fresh Omelets

A Beautiful Start to a Beautiful Morning

This morning I woke up and was motivated to get stuff done....
Ok, while that is not entirely true, after I ignored my 7:15 alarm and slept until 8:07, then I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed; I felt fully ready to take on the day. Well, almost fully. I still needed breakfast (It's the most important meal of the day you know.) Feeling like more than my Kashi cereal, I asked my mom what I should have. Reply: "Go make an omelet." So an omelet I made. With garden fresh ingredients of course.

I went out into my garden and picked two baby zucchini, only 3 inches long with their beautiful golden blossom still attached. While out there I grabbed a few leaves of arugula to add as-well. Inside I did a small kitchen raid of the contents of my local CSA box and was rewarded with a few mushrooms and some flat leafed parsley. Mmmmm...

A wonderful way to use up the never ending supply of zucchini and zucchini blossoms.


Enjoy your own garden fresh creation!


Try this with any combination of fresh garden or local produce, or if needed.... grocery store veggies.
And eat a healthy satisfying breakfast that will impress others as-well as yourself.

And so my omelet went:

On high heat a small pan (omelet sized), reduce to med-high.
Spray with some olive-oil non-stick spray.
Add two small dice button mushrooms and move around.
Thinly slice your fresh picked baby zucchini, chopping the blossom when you reach it, and throw it in with the mushrooms. Stir again.
Chop a small sprig of parsley and add to pan.
Chop 3 or 4 pieces of arugula and add to pan.
With a fork whisk 2 eggs and a splash of milk.
Evenly distribute veggies BEFORE pouring eggs over evenly.
Now cook undisturbed on med to med-high heat until the very edges look slightly puckered and cooked-egg yellow.
Here the edge has been lifted, runnies tucked under,
and is right "wetness."


Take a rubber spatula and gently circle the pan, lifting the edge of the omelet. (lead with the curved edge if your spatula has a curved and a angled edge.) Then tilt pan with a small bit lifted to get the runny uncooked egg under to the heat. Cook until the top is slightly wet but not raw-egg runny. Add a touch of salt, cracked pepper, and a pinch of mozzarella cheese.

Then, the hard-ish part:  The moment that decides whether you made a fancy scramble or an omelet. (either was on purpose of course :P   )

Go ahead and circle the pan again. Going under a bit further under each time. 
Then using my good friend gravity, tilt the pan and gently fold one edge to the middle. Repeat with opposite side (half folded omelets are too tough for me, I think the 1/3 style is more elegant anyway.)
Gently slide/scoop onto waiting plate.

Top with another pinch of cheese, some more pepper, and a spoonful of Pace-Med-Salsa.

If you have never put salsa on eggs, well one you never lived in Texas for any portion of your life, but you are missing out. The freshness of the tomatoes complements the eggs as well as the other vegetable perfectly. (Also Pace is my favorite for eggs if your are deciding). Otherwise the eggs feel naked, we can't have that!


Clothe Me!!!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hot chocolate on a stick

 Hot Chocolate On a Stick

I came across this gift idea before Christmas, and thought it was one of the coolest make-your-own gifts out there. (I stalled so long before posting, because I needed to give out all of my gifts first). The original idea and recipe is courtesy of Amber Lee @ Giverslog. Check out her postings, they are adorable! Not only that, but she has an online store that specializes in making these delicious concoctions. [But why buy what you can make yourself in any flavor you want?] It may seem a tad intimidating, but they are is very easy to make. Also, if your chocolate loses temper and doesn't look as pretty, its ok because you will probably be dipping them in extra chocolate and fun add ins! Also losing temper doesn't affect taste :)

The original instructions, as well as some very insightful chocolate selecting tips can be found at the Giverslog post. I highly recommend going over her notes on choosing chocolate and melting tips!

Recipe
 Makes 10-15 hot chocolates (more or less depending on your mold)
  One Hot chocolate makes 1 cup prepared (depending on preference)

Ingredients:
  • 8oz good chocolate like Ghiradelli bakers chocolate  (the better the chocolate the better the product. Don't use baking chips, they are made to resist melting. Can use any type: Dark, Milk, White, or Bittersweet. 
  • Extra chocolate for dipping (Use a different type for color contrast)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • Any add-ins
    • 1 candy cane
    • 2-3 tsp cinnamon
    • ANYTHING you can imagine!

Materials:
  • Ziplock or Piping Bags
  • A chocolate mold (candy molds, ice-cube trays, mini-brownie pans,...)
  • A double boiler, or a large glass bowl that can sit over a pot of boiling water
  • Sticks (Popsicle sticks are great!)
Method

BEFORE STARTING! CHOCOLATE and LIQUID DO NOT MIX, IT CAUSES SEIZING! Keep your work-place dry! (see her post for advice on fixing seizing)  
  1.   Chop up/ break up chocolate into small pieces and begin to melt in a glass bowl set over (not sitting in) boiling water [or use double boiler]. When 3/4 the way melted, take off heat, dry bowl with a towel, and stir until all lumps gone (over heating chocolate causes it to lose its "temper." Resulting in a product that although will work, won't melt as easily or be as shiny) 
  2.  Mix in sifted sugar and cocoa powder (as well as any mix ins. See note below)
  3. Stir until frosting like in consistency
  4. Scoop into Ziplock bag with one corner snipped
  5. Place molds on a baking sheet (makes moving easier)
  6. Pipe into molds, jiggle molds to get chocolate to settle
  7. Let sit for a 1-2 minutes, then insert sticks (Can lie horizontal sticks lengthwise along both sides of the horizontal sticks to keep them standing straight if you are having trouble)
  8.  Stick into freezer to set for 5-15 minutes [don't store there, will absorb weird flavors]
  9. Pull out when very firm and pop/tap/wiggle/pull your hot chocolates out. 
  10. If dipping:
    1. melt dipping chocolate in the same way as above
    2. dip hot chocolates in 1/2 way and shake off excess
    3. Can set back on baking sheet (with parchment paper) or dip in extras (chopped candy canes, cinnamon and sugar, cocoa powder) to keep bottoms from sticking while drying  ->
Add ins (these are just what I tried):
For candy cane hot chocolates: finely chop one large candy cane (2 regular sized) Add 1/2-3/4 into melted chocolate before adding cocoa powder and sugar. At end when dipping, use reserved candy cane to dip in and finish

For Cinnamon spice: Add in 2-3 tsp of cinnamon (to taste) at same stage as above. Use a cinnamon sugar mixture for dipping.

 


Storage:
Keep in sealed airtight containers. Dark chocolate will keep up to a year. Milk/white several months. Don't keep in fridge because it will absorb odors. (remember candy-canes/candy used for dipping can get sticky in our Hawaii weather, so I mean Air-tight! :)

To serve: Heat one cup (measure varies on strength preference) of milk, half-and-half, cream, water, or a mixture. Stir in Hot Chocolate

HAVE FUN!!!!


(Fun idea: maybe use candy-canes as sticks. HMMMMM....)

Please post any ideas, variations, photos, or experiences you have! :)