Lots of yummy fall recipes call for boiled cider. It’s a syrup made from boiling down cider and it imparts an intense taste of apple to recipes. It’s kind of expensive at $11 a bottle, but you can make it for a lot less. I made this pint by bringing a gallon of fresh cider to boil in my dutch oven. Then I lowered the temp to a medium low and cooked it uncovered for several hours, until it reduced down to a molasses type syrup. This will last all year in the fridge. I can’t wait to try it next week in some yummy cider caramels!
Poor cauliflower! It’s like the Rodney Dangerfield of the vegetable world, getting no respect for the yummy flavor that it has all on its own. Instead, moms everywhere are using cauliflower in the most stealthy ways by mashing it up in potatoes and squishing it up in mac and cheese. It’s a good idea. Cauliflower has a mild flavor that can be easily hidden and contains a large amount of vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. It has fiber, choline, vitamin B, and is low in calories and fat. Squishing cauliflower up in your kid’s food is like slipping them a vitamin on the down low. But did you know that cauliflower tastes really good all by itself too? I love it!
Last night, I looked into my freezer to see what vegetables I could add to my completely unplanned meal of chicken breasts and something. I found a bag of frozen cauliflower that I had bought for a soup recipe that never actually happened. Hmm. What to do? This last minute meal was coming together after taking the boys to the indoor pool, and I was tired. I just didn’t want do much, so I decided to roast the cauliflower. A quick google scan gave me many responses of DON’T DO IT! Don’t roast the frozen cauliflower! It has too much water in it and it won’t turn out right. Whatever. I bet I could make it work. And you know what? I did!
I preheated the oven to 450 and spread the cauliflower on a cookie sheet with sides. Then, I drizzled on some olive oil and sprinkled on garlic salt, pepper and chili powder. That’s it! Threw that sucker in the oven for about 25 minutes and watched the magic happen. The high heat made the excess water evaporate and the fact that it was still frozen kept the internal temp down enough for it to cook to just the right state of tender, but not mushy. The light sprinkling of seasoning highlighted the flavor of the cauliflower perfectly. Give it a shot sometime when you want a cheap, easy, flavor packed vegetable to eat with dinner. Is that tonight?
Roasted Frozen Cauliflower
Bag of frozen cauliflower florets
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread cauliflower on a cookie sheet with sides. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with spices. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and tender.
Want to show off at your next potluck? You know you do. Everybody wants to bring the dish that no one can stop talking about. Well, the way to make that happen is to bring the dish that everybody can’t stop eating. I like to mix a jar of jalapeño pepper jelly with a softened block of cream cheese and serve it with some fancy schmancy crackers. This dish is affectionately referred to by friends and family as crack rock, because you just can’t stop eating it until it’s gone.
Want to be even more impressive? Don’t spend six bucks on some processed jelly you pick up at the store. Make your own jalapeño pepper jelly for less than two bucks a jar! I like to take it one step further and grow my own peppers. That’s how I roll. It’s also how you get those beautiful red flecks in the jelly. I have yet to find red jalapeños in the store, so growing my own means I can vine ripen some of them and end up with a pretty red and green flecked jelly. But, you can absolutely make it with all store bought, green peppers and have no difference in taste.
First thing you need to do is to remove the stems, seeds and ribs from the peppers. The ribs are kind of tough and the seeds are where the capsaicin is found. Capsaicin is the chemical in peppers that give them their heat. So, if you put the seeds in, not only do you have to deal with tough little seeds in your jelly, it will be too hot for most people to want to eat.
And speaking of capsaicin, you are going to want to wear gloves while you seed your peppers because that waxy, oily stuff will stick to your hands like glue. For hours. And later, when you are relaxing in front of the tv and mindlessly touch the corner of your eye, you will wonder who placed the fire of Hades directly into your little peepers. Not that I would know from experience.
Next, it’s time to chop up your peppers. The best way to do this is with a food processor. I suppose you could accomplish that with a blender set to chop, but I have never done that, so I don’t really know. I recently and regrettably broke my food processor, so I am currently using one of those tiny 10 dollar jobbies. It does the trick, but I had to cut my peppers first to make them fit well. Using the processor, cut the peppers up pretty small so that they will spread throughout the jelly.
Pretty with the green and red mixed through, isn’t it? If you haven’t prepared your jars and lids yet, stop here and do it. You will need six lids sitting in a sauce pan of hot water on low, leave the rings on the counter. Put the six half-pint jars in your hot water canner (or a big pot with a lid) and cover with water. Turn that on medium and let it all set while you make your jelly.
Now it is time to add the liquid. Peppers have very little of their own to claim, and you have got to have liquid to make jelly. Put the peppers in a large pot (I prefer stainless steel so that you get no flavor or chemicals from the pot) and add two cups of apple cider vinegar. Jelly, of course, has a ton of sugar in it. You need to add 6 cups to this recipe. At this point, you can start cooking or you can play with the color. You can add red and yellow food coloring if you are using red peppers and want that bright red you see in the store. Add green if you want the green version. Leave it as it is, and how the color turns out really depends on the color of the peppers you added. I had a little red with mostly green. With the golden of the cider figured in, mine would have turn out brownish. Not my favorite color for jelly. I wanted a golden reddish color, but I didn’t want to add red dye #40. So, I added a tablespoon of beet juice. Its vibrant red color and lack of distinguishable flavor makes it a perfect natural food dye.
Once you’ve got your color preference figure out, add a teaspoon of butter and cook it over medium high heat, stirring continuously, until it comes to a full boil. Add two packs of liquid pectin (they come two to a package), return to a boil, and cook for one minute.
Take the jelly off of the heat and let it rest for a second until it stops boiling. There will be a thin layer of foam left on top that you need to scrape off. You don’t want to jar foam. It doesn’t taste awesome and it can shorten the lifespan of your jelly. That butter you added? It wasn’t for flavor. The butter cuts down on the amount of foam that builds up so you don’t loose as much of your jelly to foam.
Jarring time! Take your jars out of the water one at a time. Dump the water out of the jars and into the pot, then fill them with jelly, leaving a 1/4″ head space at the stop. If you are not good at eyeballing measurements, use a plastic ruler. Wipe the rim of the jar clean and add a lid. Grab a rim, screw it on all the way, and then back it up a quarter turn. Put the jar back in the water.
Once you have all your jars filled, make sure the water in the pot covers the jars by about an inch. Add water if you have to, and then bring the pot to boil. Cover the pot, back the temp down a bit so it still boils but doesn’t boil over, and process for 10 minutes. Pull the pot off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for another ten. After that, you’re done! Take the jars out of the pot and leave them alone until they have cooled completely. If one of the jars doesn’t seal, just put the jar in the fridge and use it first.
Ok, one more important tip. Do NOT put all those seeds and stems down the garbage disposal. Funny thing about capsaicin; if you put it in the disposal, it produces a noxious cloud of waxy gas that jumps up out of the sink like a little kraken smacking you in the face and leaving you smothered under a cold wet towel for the next half hour while you cry out to the sweet Lord Jesus to remove the fire from your flesh! Not that I would know from experience.
Anywho… here’s the recipe in short form. Enjoy being the star of the show!
Jalapeño Pepper Jelly
1 cup chopped jalapeños (3/4lb if purchasing)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
6 cups sugar
1 tsp butter
1 tbsp beet juice (optional, from a can of sliced beets)
2 packs liquid pectin
Combine jalapeños, vinegar, butter and beet juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add pectin. Return to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim foam from the top. Fill jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Process 10 minutes in a hot water canner. Remove pot from heat and let jars sit for 10 minutes before removing from canner.
If you are poking around the internet, trying to find the perfect cupcake recipe for your Independence Day cookout tomorrow, well then, this post is right on time. If you’ve already got that covered, don’t think of this post as too late for this Fourth of July, but early for your Labor Day picnic. I have last minute-itis, please just go with it!
Anyway, a little background on this yummy creation. My husband’s favorite birthday treat is a Publix white cake with fresh strawberry filling and whipped creme frosting. Well, last year, this Army family was stationed in San Antonio and guess what they don’t have in Texas? You guessed it! Publix grocery stores. Being the awesome wife I am, I attempted to recreate his favorite cake and hit a home run. So, while I was poking around the internet and trying to find the perfect cupcake recipe to take to that Independence Day cookout, I decided to make my husband’s favorite cake into its diminutive little sister.
But wait! That filling is blue. That’s not fresh strawberry! You are very observant and very right. It’s July 4th, so I made half of the cupcakes blueberry, and half strawberry. I also changed the fresh strawberry filling to a more cupcake friendly version by using the strawberry filling created by a blogger named Sally. She’s got a great recipe there. It looks a little runny in the picture, but it’s not at all. Apparently, I just need to learn how to use a knife. To make the blueberry version, I only had to replace the berry and adjust the cooking times slightly to accommodate the blueberry’s quicker juicing time.
The white cake is a classic Better Homes and Gardens recipe. A tried and true that I deeply love. For the whipped cream frosting, I actually found a shelf stable whipped cream recipe on All Recipes that is out of this world! It is not too sweet and a perfect balance to the fruit filling. I don’t know who you are, creator of the frosting Jo-Lynn, but well done indeed.
Speaking of the fruit filling, this recipe actually makes double the amount you need. You can choose just to halve the filling recipe, just make one fruit, or make the whole recipe and have extra. What can you do with the extra? Why, use it top pancakes the next morning, of course! Or waffles. Or french toast. It would also make a sassy little topping for some buttermilk biscuits, seeing that you might have some buttermilk left over from making the cake.
If you’ve never filled a cupcake before, don’t fear the filling. All you have to do is cut out a small hole in the top of the cupcake. Some people use a large frosting tip to do that, but I picked up my favorite little cupcake gadget (pictured below) for about $3 at Bed, Bath and Beyond. It cuts a hole of the perfect depth and size, and then easily plunges out the cut cake. You can cut the top of the “hole” off and cap off your filling, or you can just ice right over the filling. Works either way. The leftover bits make a yummy ice cream topping. Waste not, want not!
2 cups diced strawberries or blueberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or shortening, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups buttermilk or sour milk
1 (8 ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1. Make the strawberry filling first. Place the strawberries in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly for about 4 full minutes until the strawberry juices have been released. Add the sugar and cornstarch and continue to stir for another 2 minutes. The mixture will be much thicker. Remove from heat and allow to cool as you prepare the cupcakes.
When making the blueberry filling, It will takes about 2 minutes for the juices to release, and then 4 minutes to thicken after you add the sugar and cornstarch.
2. Make the cake next. Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place 24 cupcake liners in cupcake pan. I like to spray the liners with Baker’s Joy so that they release from the paper more easily, but it’s not a necessity.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well combined. Add egg whites 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Spread batter into the prepared liners.
4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cupcake. Remove from oven to cooling racks. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before filling and frosting.
5. Make the frosting last. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth. While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.
6. Now, fill, frost and enjoy!
Makes 24 cupcakes.
I love tomatoes! Funny thing is that I just started eating them a couple of years ago. As a kid, I was as opposed to eating them as a medieval Englishman. Now that I have begun my love affair, I cook with them a lot. When I was at the grocery store the other day, I saw a tomato tart on the front of a magazine and decided to give it a try. I didn’t measure a thing, so this is more of a tomato tart guide than a full on recipe, but this is one of those things you should experiment with because it’s just a matter of taste. What sounds good to you? Go with that!
For the Italian seasoning I used a Tuscan chicken blend that I picked up at Sam’s Club. I was there for toilet paper, but the sample lady gave me a piece of bread dipped in olive oil and the seasoning, and I was hooked. I ended up with a giant sized bottle of it that I find new ways to cook with all the time. Any Italian seasoning blend or bread dip seasoning blend will work. Without further ado, here’s the recipe!
Tasty Tomato Tart
1 sheet of puff pastry
2 Roma tomatoes, cut into 8 thin slices (or tomatoes of your choice)
1 oz mozzarella (approximate)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese (approximate)
Preheat oven to 400F. Roll out pastry sheet and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Then roll the edges of the dough in about 1/4 inch. Brush pastry with olive oil, sprinkle with Italian seasoning and top with mozzarella. (I did mine in thin slices, you can easily use shreds. Don’t go too heavy, this isn’t pizza!) Add tomato slices in four rows of four. Drizzle olive oil lightly on top of tomatoes, sprinkle with more seasoning and top with parmesan. Cook for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. May be eaten hot or room temperature.
“Honey, can you make enchiladas for dinner?” asked the newlywed of his bride. “Sure! I can do that!” came my standard reply. “Um, excuse me, but you have no idea how to do that,” came my brain’s standard reply. Once again, I jumped in without looking. A slight panic had set in. Knowing that I had spent our courtship impressing my food-loving man with every sumptuous recipe I know and we weren’t to the body-noises-in-front-of-each-other comfortable phase yet (Though that did come rather quickly!). I had to come up with something and fast. I searched through a lot of recipes that varied quite a bit and decided that the thing they all had in common was enchilada sauce. After that, anything goes. So, I do what I do best – I punted and I made something up.
I have no idea if these qualify for actual enchiladas, and they are anything but authentic, but my family sure loves them. They are also cheap and super easy. Win! I started off cooking the chicken on the stove, but over the years my love affair with the crockpot took over and I converted the recipe. (Which really means I threw the chicken ingredients in the crockpot and called it a day.) With the crockpot addition, you can cook the chicken while you’re gone during the day and then have dinner on the table in about 40 minutes, most of which is oven time. More win!
April’s Sorta Enchiladas
3 chicken breasts
1 pkg dry fajita seasoning
2 tbs olive oil
10 flour tortillas (taco size)
1 10 oz can of enchilada sauce
1 8 oz bag of shredded Mexican blend cheese
Put the chicken, fajita seasoning, and olive oil in the crockpot. Cover the chicken with water. Cook on low 5-6 hours (high 3-4 hours). Shred the chicken and drain the liquid. (If you shred the chicken outside of the liquid, put it back in, stir it up and then drain). Pour a thin layer of the enchilada sauce in a 9X13 pan. Divide the chicken between the tortillas, roll them up burrito style and line them up in the pan. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Take them out of the oven and cover with the cheese. Bake until the cheese melts.
Nutritional info per enchilada: 224 cal, 26g carb, 10g fat, 8g protein
Vegan Breakfast Cookie Recipe
3 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
2 cups uncooked oatmeal
Mix first 6 ingredients together, then add oatmeal. Drop on lightly greased baking sheet and press down. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Makes approximately 15 cookies.
I’m not vegan, I’ve never even played on one on TV, but I’m also never opposed to tasty food. Like many of you, I’ve seen this recipe floating around on social media and decided to give it a whirl. It’s good, really good. I did change it up a little bit though, to suit my tastes. Unless a raisin is coated in chocolate and arrives in a pretty yellow package with the word “Nestle” jauntily placed at the top, you can keep the raisins. The first time I made the recipe, I used blueberry-infused craisins instead. Banana is the primary flavor of these cookies and banana-blueberry is one awesome combo in my book! The texture isn’t quite your traditional cookie; they remind me a lot of those little pre-packaged gems by Quaker oatmeal. They taste best warm and do not save well at all. You’ll have to eat them all the same day you make them. Oh darn!
Today, I changed them up a bit more and used chocolate chips instead of the craisins. Oh, sweet mother of breakfast yumminess! Sometimes I come up with very good ideas and this is one of those rare and special times. That did take away the whole vegan aspect of the cookies, but you could use carob chips to achieve that. As written, the recipe is gluten-free (as long as you use the right oatmeal), dairy-free, and has no added sugar, so it fits well within special diets of all kinds. If you want to make it for children under two, I’d leave out the raisins/craisins. But, there really is no end to what you can mix in instead, like perhaps some dried apples. Just think of it like a bowl of oatmeal and have some fun!