Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Apple Chips

Remember how I said I have ten thousand pounds of apples?
(*I exaggerate a lot so please don't take my amounts literally. Thanks.)

Well, I am indeed still figuring out ways to use those apples.

I guess with this many apples it was inevitable that I would eventually be spending my afternoons coring and slicing to make apple rings for the dehydrator.

Side Note: Dehydrators are wonderful inventions. You put what ever you want in, leave them to be for several hours and your perishables are transformed into non-perishables. In this case apples slices are converted into lovely little dried apple chips. Perfect for the ever curious 7 month old to snack on.

Apple chips are for eating, not wholly mammoths!

And now back to the show:
 It took a lot of work to get the apples prepped for the chips but it was worth it!
They're a great healthy snack to eat on the run, they don't have to go in the fridge and they were super cheap to make.

All qualities I admire in my food.

Healthy, convenient and cheap. What's not to love?

Apples Chips

1. Wash apples well. If desired remove the peel. 
2. Core apples and slice horizontally to create an 'apple ring', about ¼'' to ½'' thick.
3. While you are prepping apples, place apple rings into a cold bowl or sink of water with approximately 2 tbsps of salt sprinkled in to prevent apples from turning brown. When you have the desired amount of apple slices, dehydrate according to manufacturers instructions. If you do not have a dehydrator put your oven on low heat (between 130°F and 150°F) and bake for about 3 hours checking often for desired dryness.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Maple Bacon Kettle Corn

 Yes, you read the title right.
Yes, I really did make this.

That, for the record, is maple syrup being poured over the bacon, not grease.

How was it, you ask?

It was yummy, yummy in my tummy.

It's probably not something I'm going to start making and eating everyday... not unless I want to die before 30. 
But I plan to make it my 'special occasion' popcorn. 

Special occasions such as when my vegetarian sister visits and wants to share a bowl of popcorn.
Happy Birthday, sister.

Maple Bacon Kettle Corn
Makes about 3 cups

4 slices bacon, cooked, fat reserved
1 tbsp maple syrup
½ cup popcorn kernels
¼ cup cooking fat (use reserved bacon fat and olive oil or vegetable oil to equal ¼ cup)
3 tbsps sugar
1 ½ to 2 tsp salt (depending on your taste

1.Cook bacon until brown and crisp. Set aside to cool. Once cool, chop into small bit and toss with maple syrup
2. Measure out the bacon grease. Add vegetable or olive oil to make ¼ cup cooking oil.
3. In a large pan over medium high heat, heat the oil mixture. Add the corn kernels. Sprinkle over the sugar and 1 tsp of salt. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and wait for the popping to begin.
4. Once the popping begins, hold together the pan and lid and shake the pot. Shake often through the popping process. This will help ensure the sugar doesn't burn the pan and popcorn.
5. Once finished popping, remove the lid and add the remaining salt. Use a large spoon to stir the popcorn. You don't want the hot sugar to burn you. Pour in the bacon and maple mixture. Toss together and serve.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Apple Juice

I love the fall. Love it. Love it. Love it.
It makes me want to watch You've Got Mail, my favorite movie ever, while cooking with cinnamon and cloves. 

It also makes me want to preserve. 
And what's the best and cheapest thing to preserve in the fall?

(Especially if they're free apples from the neighbour's tree.)

Since I have about ten thousand apples (I'm exaggerating), and I didn't feel like peeling them I decided to make some juice.

Enter my mom's trusty Mehu-Maija.

This juice extractor is basically a big steamer that catches the juice from fruits or vegetables.
It's a great way to practice 'kitchen recycling'.
You can use any sort of food scrap in it. (In this case apples.)
I threw in apple cores, apple peels, soft apples and bruised apples and it steamed their little hearts.
Think of it as a last stop before the compost.

I know you're probably thinking. "Eww, yuck, I would never do that !"
But seriously, what do you think they make apple juice out of?
It's not the perfectly rounded, beautiful red apples you buy at the grocery store. It's the apples that didn't make the cut. The ones that fell off the tree and were left sad and all alone until someone found them and took the bruised and soft little guys and turned them into something delicious.

True story.

The steaming process is great because it pasteurizes the juice, killing any pesky bacteria that might want to attack you in your sleep. Or when you're awake.
('Cause no one wants to get hit with bouts of diarrhea day or night.)

It's also great because the hot juice is easily preserved by pouring it into scorching hot jars and puttin' on red-hot lids. No processing required and they seal wonderfully.

Tasteless, dry apple mush.

I think the juice is great on it's own or added to some soda for a punch.

Mmmm.... fresh apple juice. The taste of fall!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Great Pickle Disaster

As you can see, we made some pickles.
The cloudy brine doesn't make them look very good, does it? 

So let me tell you about 'The Great Pickle Disaster':

It all started when I decided to buy a huge box of pickling cucs. I thought to myself, "Self, let's make some pickles so we can have them to give away for Christmas or whenever the mood strikes." Self replied, "That's a great idea, Jess''.

So away we went to my mama's house to make some pickles with her.

We packed the cucs in ice to make them extra crunchy. 
We peeled cloves of garlic and bought coarse salt and big heads of fresh dill.
We made a vinegar brine.
We sterilized jars and lids, lids and jars.
We packed the pickles into these jars with dill, garlic, salt and brine and set them aside.

The next day they looked pretty good. A few jars hadn't sealed but that was no problem we'd just redo them.

So away we went. 
We repacked the briny cucumbers in ice. 
We remade the brine and we resterilized the lids and jars, jars and lids.
Then we restuffed all these jars with new garlic, salt, wilty dill, new brine and icy cold cucumbers. 
Then we set these pickles aside.

Then you know what happened?
The original pickles that we thought had sealed started to get all cloudy and ominous and the lids began to pop up. No problem, I suppose....

So away we went (again).
We repacked, remade, resterilized, restuffed and set aside.

And do you know what happened???
(Remember this is the great pickle disaster not just the pickle disaster.)

Those pickles, they turned cloudy. All of them. Every single one.
So our great idea to make pickles? Not going so well. 
Big box of pickling cucumbers = zero, zip, zilch pickles.

 Then we did something smart. 
We enlisted the wisdom of a senior lady from our church (Hi Mrs. Breck!) to aid us in the perils of pickle making.
So away we went.
We repacked shriveled cucumbers in ice.
We made new brine (with 7% acetic acid vinegar).
We resterilized jars and lids, lids and jars.
We restuffed the jars with shriveled cucumbers, salt, brine, garlic and dill and then we processed the jars for 5 minutes and set them aside.

And do you know what happened?!?

Every single jar sealed!
And then over the next few days and even weeks?

None of them turned cloudy.

And the great pickle disaster was transformed to pickle success.

That, my friends, is what happens when you don't process pickles.
Learn from our mistake... PROCESS YOUR PICKLES!

How to Make Pickles (the right way)
*I'm not exactly sure of the amounts here - we used 30lbs of pickles which made about 20 quarts and 6 pints.  I think we used 2 heads of garlic for all those jars and about 6 cups of vinegar*

coarse salt
garlic cloves
pickling cucumbers
quarts and pint jars with rings and lids


1. Pack cucumbers in ice (preferably overnight). Sterilize jars and lids. We put our jars in a 200°F oven and our lids in boiling water for at least 5 mins.
2. Make brine in a large pot on the stove using a 7:1 ratio of water to vinegar (ex: 7 cups water and 1 cup vinegar). Heat on medium high until it comes to a bowl.
3. Use a pot holder to grab a hot jar from the oven. Add to the jar: salt (for quarts add 1 tsp of salt and for pints add ½ tsp of sal), 1 clove of garlic and 1 head of dill. Stuff jar as full as possible with cucumbers leaving about 1 inch of head space. Add hot brine to the jar until cucumbers are covered. Wipe mouth of jar with a clean cloth and put on lid and ring. Set aside.
4. Continue doing this until you have enough pickle jars to fill a canner. 
5. Fill canner half full of water. Place on stove and fill with jars. Turn heat on medium high and cover. When the canner begins to boil start a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer beeps, carefully remove jars and set to the side undisturbed for at least 12 hours.
6. Pickles are best left to 'pickle' for 6 weeks before enjoying.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chocolate (Sour Cream) Pound Cake

I spent $2 at Value Village and bought myself one of these:

So naturally I had to make myself one of these:

Bundt cake bum

I think it was $2 well spent. (So does John.)

Bundt cake top

Whenever I see a bundt pan I feel inspired to make one of 2 things: angel food cake or pound cake.

Since I'm not the kind of woman that enjoys spending her days separating eggs, pound cake always wins me over. You too? Yea... I thought so.

When I think of pound cake, I think of Paula Deen. Anyone who knows anything about dear Paula knows that she's not chincy with the good stuff in her recipes; making her the perfect candidate for a recipe with the word pound in it.

Traditionally, pound cakes were made with a pound of each butter, sugar, eggs and flour. (Say good-bye to your bikini and hello to a severely indented couch.) Since this size of cake isn't really practical for a family.... or rather, shouldn't be practical for a family.... this recipe just follows the ration of 1:1:1:1.

 You can still make this cake and eat it too.

Here's a tip: I subbed sour cream for the milk in the recipe and it was divine! I think it made the cake tangier....but what do I know? I haven't tried it with milk.

Chocolate (Sour Cream) Pound Cake
Serves: 16 to 20
Barely Adapted from: "The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook" by Paula Deen

3 cups white sugar
1 cup butter
½ cup margarine
5 eggs
3 cups cake flour
6 tbsp cocoa
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup milk (or sour cream)
1 tbsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter, sugar and margarine until light and fluffy (about 2 mins). Add eggs one at a time beating well after each. Mix together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk (or sour cream) to butter mixture., beginning with flour and ending with flour. Add vanilla. Bake in a greased and floured bundt pan for about 1 hour.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Homemade Kahlua Sauce

This is probably the only time I will ever condone the use of a large amount of instant coffee.

For this recipe it's needed, but usually
♪There's nothing like the real thing, baby.....♪

I love recipes like this. 
Boozy coffee recipes!?!

No, no.... I mean recipes that can double as gifts.
Seeing as how the gift giving season is quickly approaching (*glee*) it's nice to have ideas early on. 

This particular recipe requires at least a month to steep before reaching it's full delicious potential so I'll probably make up a few batches now so I have them on hand for Christmas.

Doing that now will reduce some of the stuff to do once the season has hit full force.
I love that... Christmas hitting full force.

It's sweet, it's thick, it has a heady coffee aroma...mmmm. 
Why am I giving it away again?

Or right.... 'cause I'm not much of a drinker and I can only make so many batches of chocolate kahlua cupcakes.

Homemade kahlua sauce is simple to throw together and the ingredients are easy peasy to come by.

Make this for a gift or just for yourself.... because.... because.... because why not?

Homemade Kahlua Sauce
Makes about 3 ½ cups
Slightly Adapted from "Too Many Cooks'' by Emily Franklin

4 cups sugar
1 cup instant coffee granules
2 cups boiling water
3 tbsp vanilla extract
⅔ cup vodka

In a heat proof bowl stir together sugar and coffee. Add water and stir until completely dissolved. Let cool. Add vanilla and vodka. Pour into bottles (I used my old Kahlua bottle). Keep for a least a month before enjoying.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chocolate Kahlua Cupcakes

Cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes!
Have you notice that they are everywhere lately?

In coffee shops, at weddings, at the mall, in cupcake speciality shops.....
and they're not your kid's birthday party cupcake, either.

They're gourmet.
They're a speciality.
They're filled with ganache and topped with piles of pillowy soft buttercream.
They're expensive!

I'm much to cheap to hop aboard the gourmet cupcake train so I'm all up for trying to recreate some delicious gourmet(ish) cupcakes at home.

These chocolate kahlua cupcakes were my first attempt.

The icing was good and the cupcake was good. They didn't wow me but I would make them again. I think to add that wow factor I'd have to pipe in some ganache or boozy filling.

Oh well, next time (*shrugging my shoulders*)

I think the icing was a little bit soft. It was the perfect consistency in the fridge but when I left an iced cupcake on the counter for a bit the icing started to drip off.
Don't worry though. None was wasted.
I'm not too proud to lick icing off my counter :)

Can't make these cupcakes 'cause you're out of Kahlua? I can fix that for you on Wednesday..... 

Chocolate Kahlua Cupcakes
Makes 18 - 20 cupcakes
Adapted from Annie's Eats

For the cupcakes:
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. instant espresso powder
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
1½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup warm water
¾ cup buttermilk (or use ¾cup milk plus ¾tsp vinegar and allow to sit for 5 mins)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
For brushing the cupcakes:
Kahlua liqueur
For the frosting:
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 tbsp. Kahlua liqueur

1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
3 - 4 tbsp. heavy cream

1.To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.   Line standard cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a large mixing bowl combine the cocoa powder, espresso powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt; whisk well to blend.  Add the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high speed until smooth, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
2. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling about 2/3 full.  Bake until the tops spring back when pressed lightly, about 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.  Poke a few holes in the top of each cupcake with the tines of a fork and brush with Kahlua while still warm.  Allow to cool completely.
3. To make the frosting, beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated.  Add in the Kahlua and coffee and beat on medium speed until well blended.  Add in the heavy cream and beat on medium-high speed for about 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Almond Honey Chews

I love making candy.
Seriously, it's one of my favourite things.

Other then the obvious reasons to love candy, I love that it stays fresh for weeks. (I would even argue that it keeps for months. )
Being that I'm usually the only one around my house, that's a very desirable quality.

Another thing I love about making candy is that the process is fairly simple but people are crazy impressed by the fact that you made candy.
That's what I'm all about.
Little effort, big impact.

Beige sugar mixture

Oh, and! 
I can't forget that I love to make candy because I usually have the ingredients on hand. It generally only requires sugar, corn syrup, butter, whip cream and sometimes chocolate.

Light brown sugar mixture

And wait, another reason for my love of making candy is that it's wonderful to give as a gift.

Seeing as how it's only 105! days until Christmas, I suggest you keep this in mind.

Rich and delicious caramel

So if I was counting the ways of my love for candy making, that's at least 4 ways.

Just thought of another. 
I love to pick at candy during all of the candy making stages. 
So... make that 5 ways.

Try it today but don't burn your almonds like I did. Oopsies :)

Almond Honey Chews
Makes about 50 small squares

4 cups sliced, blanched almonds
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup butter
¾ cup honey
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tbsp light corn syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the almonds on a cookie sheet and bake until lightly toasted. Don't burn them like I did :( . Transfer the almonds to a bowl but leave the oven on. Grease a 12'' x 8'' rimmed cookie sheet and line with parchment.
2. Place all remaining ingredients except the almonds in a heavy bottomed saucepan and attach a candy thermometer to the side. Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat. When the mixture changes from beige to light brown turn heat down to med-low and continue to cook stirring every 2 minutes. Cook until the mixture reaches 260°F (now it's caramel) and remove from heat.
3. Fold in the almonds with a heat proof spatula. Scrape mixture onto prepared pan and bake for 12 minutes or until the candy flattens out and air bubbles appear throughout.
4. Allow to cool at least 4 hours before cutting into tiny squares. Store in an airtight container.
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