Thursday, September 30, 2010

Applesauce and Comfort Foods

The weather has made a turn for the cooler this week.  School is in full swing, both for my kids at home and for the students who help me keep the lab running.  All three of my "work kids"  are stressed with lots of tests in their courses this week, so I decided to do something special for them.  In the form of:

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter flavored crisco
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, beat the wet ingredients together one at a time starting with the shortening and sugar.   Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Drop by spoonsful onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake 15 min at 350F.  Cool on cookie sheet, glaze as follows:  1 c powdered sugar, 1 T butter, 2T milk.  Beat together and drizzle over cooled cookies.

In an adrenaline fueld frenzy last night a made a double batch of these and brought a dozen each in for the students, with 3 dozen left for the family.

This week I also started my fall/winter practice of making the meals ahead of time for the kids to shove in the oven before I get home from work.  I also find that cooking ahead reduces my stress from that most hated question "What's for dinner?"

The Rest of My Week in Cooking

On Monday I went to the store and stocked up on pasta and grated cheese.  I made Rigatoni (pasta, browned ground beef, bottled spaghetti sauce, cottage and mozzerella cheeses) for Monday's dinner and while the water was still hot boiled some medium shells and fixed a quick cheese sauce from grated cheese, milk, flour and salt cooked on the stove until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened.  Combine the shells with the sauce, pour into a greased pie pan, and Wednesday's Homemade Macaroni and Cheese dinner is in the fridge. 

Also during the cooking I made some Beef Stew for Tuesday's dinner:  I browned some stew meat then deglazed the pan with some red wine.  Put the meat and deglaze in a fridge container with some peeled carrots, potatoes, turnips, and onions.  Sprinkle the whole thing with seasoned salt.  Tuesday morning before work, dump the whole container into the crock pot and add some boullion and water.  By Tuesday evening you will have beef stew hot and ready to go.  I added a loaf of Pilsbury french bread and dinner was done. 

So that's 3 meals in the time it takes to cook one, and half the dirty dishes.  On Tuesday I used the time I would spend cooking to make 9 pints of applesauce. (recipe-such as it is-below).  On Wednesday, I stopped in the store again and grabbed some Tortillas and Enchilada Sauce. 

To make the Enchiladas I browned some ground beef, then mixed in some homemade salsa, refried beans, taco seasoning and grated colby jack.  Then just wrap the filling with a tortilla dipped in enchilada sauce and place in a baking dish lined with more sauce.  Sprinkle with more cheese, and Thursday's dinner is in the fridge. 

Both the Mac and Cheese and Enchiladas cook at 350 from their cooled state for about 40 min to 1/2 hour.  I made the enchiladas while the cookies were baking, saving time there. 


I haven't mentioned applesauce before, but believe me, it has been there.  Since early September we have been buying all the local apples we can get our hands on and I have been making sauce every chance I get.
George and the girls love fresh apples, but I love sauce more.  This is absolutely the easiest thing I put up.  I can make a small batch of sauce (3 pints) in about 30 minutes or a large batch (10 pints) in about 45.  This does not include processing time, but does include cooking time, during which I am usually folding laundry.

Applesauce is best made from a mixture of apples.  I core and slice the apples using that gadget thingy, but I don't peel them. Then I add a tiny bit of water, just enough, to keep them from sticking and cook until tender.  Then I run them through a food mill and add a little brown sugar to lightly sweeten.  Pour hot into hot jars and process 15 minutes for pints or 20 minutes for quarts. 

So far I have done maybe 30 pints or so.  And I am nowhere near done.  Melissa can live for days on applesauce alone.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Relishes, Jellies and Sauces

Ok, I confess.  I am still canning.  This morning I panicked that the season is getting to be over and I went out and bought 11 more cases of jars.  I have invested in a pressure canner to can soups, but I have not done any of that yet.  I am still in experimental mode for waterbathing and I am having a ball! 

Jalepeno Jelly

The star of this year's canning show has to be the peach jalepeno jelly.  I may have mentioned that I can't make a good jelly to save my life, and this is no exception.  But everyone loves it poured over some cream cheese and spread on a cracker in all it's runny glory.  The recipe is easy, I just follow the sure jell recipe for peach jam, but I add about 6 chopped jalepeno peppers to the peaches and process as normal.  I can't promise that yours will be as runny as mine, but there it is.

Golden Sweet Onion Relish

I love sweet pennsylvania onions, but they are only around for a short time.  This recipe is pretty to look at with its golden color and the little bits of red and green pepper  (this year I used one that had a little of both colors in it).  And the onion still retains a little crunch.  I am thinking you could mix this with sour cream and use it as a dip or a potato topper, or again with cream cheese on crackers.  Or it would be great on hot dogs or burgers.

5 pounds sweet onions, diced
1 red/green  bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup kosher salt or canning salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 cups vinegar
1 t pickling spices
1 T salt

Combine the onions, pepper and salt.  Sit 30 min to allow moisture to come out of veggies, then drain. 
Combine all ingredients in a dutch oven  and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until thick, about 1/2 hour.  Process 10 minutes.

Carmelized Red Onion Relish

This one is really over the top.  It will be great on salads, or over steak, or on a really good burger.  It kind of has a Worchestershire taste to it, but sweeter and with some cruch.  A couple of years ago George bought some Merlot wine which the vintner insisted was only good for cooking.  He had intended to drink it anyway, but now 4 years later it is still in the wine rack, so I commondeered it for this recipe.

5 large red onions, peeled
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 2/1 cup dry red wine
1/2 c balsamic vinegar
1 T salt
1/2 t pepper

I took a tip from Alton Brown and cooked this in my big electric skillet.  Slice onions into very thin slices. Combine onions and sugar in a heavy non-stick skillet. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 25 minutes or until onions turn golden and start to caramelize, stirring frequently.Stir in wine and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Process half an quarter pints ten minutes.

New Potatoes and Green Beans

Ok, this was a favorite at my house when I was growing up.  I made it for my family early this summer and they, or at least those who are not horribly picky eaters, loved it.  But really, most of the summer is too hot in my house to have this on a regular basis.  So my plan is to freeze the potatoes and green beans and then make the cream sauce this winter.  I have washed and cut the new potatoes to size, then par cooked and drained them.  Then I spread them out on wax paper lined cookie sheets.  I blanched the green beans for 3 minutes, drained them well, then spread them out on top of the potatoes.  I put the cookie sheets in the chest freezer until everything is frozen solid, then I will pack it into freezer bags.  I don't have the cream sauce exactly straight in my head, but it's really just butter, milk, flour and salt.