Friday, December 6, 2013

4-Ingredient Apple Pie Galette

My mother-in-law is famous for her pie crusts.  Actually, the recipe she uses has been passed down from generation to generation.  She's been offering to teach me for months, and SOON I will get a chance to take her up on it!  In the mean time, I don't do a lot in the way of pie baking, which is kind of ironic because I would pass up cake any day of the week in lieu of pie.  Blueberry, cherry, peach, mmm.

Never been a huge fan of apple pie.  When I told my husband that, he nearly fell off his stool.  The thing is, I've never had good homemade apple pie before!

Well, ladies and gents, I'm NOT going to teach you how to make apple pie today.  Instead we're making a galette, which takes all of about 5 minutes to prep.  The good news is that apple galette is a pretty sufficient swap out for apple pie, and there's very few ingredients, very little fat.  In fact, the only really unhealthy thing in this recipe is the pie crust!  So if you find a way to make healthy pie crust, hit a lady up.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

...But PLEASE don't lose that (turkey) butt!

Turkey got back!  Haha, I amuse myself.

Probably two days late and several dollars short on this post, but on the off chance that you haven't cooked your turkey yet, or if the whole shebang is sitting in the fridge, don't toss the carcass!  Making turkey broth is stupidly easy, and can still be navigated even if you're not into canning.  I'm not going to go into a fully detailed tutorial as I don't have pictures to aid, but I will provide several links to blogs that do.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Easy Cheesy Leftover Bake

Got a mess of leftover stew or chili?  Make a cheesy bake!  It's simple and satisfying.  Especially on a cold day like the ones we've been having.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hellish Habanero Blue Cheese

The other day I did something equal parts dangerous, delicious, and daring.  We had one puny, slightly wilted habanero pepper left over from the end of our summer harvest.  I was making blue cheese dressing when a lightbulb popped up over my head, cartoon style.  Only this lightbulb was on fire.

I've seen spicy ranch time and time again.  (And it has delighted me every single one of those times.)  But I have yet to see a spicy blue cheese dressing.  Which in my mind is a little odd, seeing as we all know how well blue cheese and spicy things go together.

So I concocted one.  And it is noooooo joke.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spinach and Goat Cheese Scrambled Egg Bake

This is a delectable (and pretty healthy) breakfast.  I made two of these this morning, a quick version for Hubs to eat on the way to work, and a more time consuming version that I got to enjoy.  I'll go through the detailed one, and sum up the quick one at the end.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marlboro's Red Pepper Paste

If you didn't know it, Marlboro makes cookbooks.  And if you were wondering, the recipes in the cookbooks are incredible.  The food is of a rustic nature:  sourdough biscuits, planked sirloins, beef jerky, chili, etc.  We've got three different books (Fifty From the Trail, Morning Fires and Evening Lights, and Cook Like a Man) and I have yet to find a recipe anything less than scrumptious.  I mean really.

Now as to how you would procure one, I have no idea.  Once upon a time one or both of the adults in our house may or may not have been mild to moderate occasional sometimes smokers.  Anyway, we used to be on Marlboro's mailing list and they would send us stuff occasionally.  That's how we ended up with these.

P.S.  I don't advocate smoking!  Quitting is a real bitch, but it's totally worth it.

Anyway I want to share a recipe with you.  I'm thinking that most of Marlboro's profits don't come from their recipes, so I doubt they'll mind too much if I share.  Here's hoping, anyway.

Unfortunately I have no photos of this!  I'll update this post the next time I make some.  This recipe is ideal for summertime, when bell peppers and jalapenos are plentiful.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

In order to make my life easier, lately I've been focusing on buying basic ingredients and making from them whatever I can.  Salad dressings aren't really a huge imposition to buy, as they're not very expensive, but there are several advantages to making your own.  For one thing, unless you're buying the gourmet or organic brands, there's probably a laundry list of things you can't pronounce.  I'm pretty good with pronunciation, but that doesn't mean I have any clue what they are.  Also the flavor of bottled dressings is NOTHING compared to homemade!  Combined with the ability to make as much or as little as you need and the fact that it's all relatively quick and easy, you kind of have a no brainer.

Steak and Veggie Stew

Got a new delicious cold weather recipe for you!  I came up with this one last week.  Hubs and I are challenging ourselves to pack the most veggies that we can into our diet.  I had a big cut of beef (I'm not positive, I think it was either a round or rib roast) hanging out in the freezer and thought maybe I could make some vegetable beef soup in the slow cooker.  I don't particularly care for VB soup, as it generally isn't very well seasoned and just seems kind of bland to me, but I was determined to do it better.

This is also a great clean-out-the-fridge recipe, as you can throw just about any bits and pieces of leftover vegetables you may have in the mix.  As it were, I had quite a few leftovers that got consumed this way.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


For a long time Boo has reminded me of someone else.  His hair would get mussed up, and he would look like everyone's favorite imaginative, scheming, eternally six year old boy, Calvin.  He's full of life and just a tinge of trouble (that I'm sure will blossom fully in the next few years) so in addition to The Look, he potentially has the demeanor as well.

I've been a Watterson fan for as long as I can remember.  So I decided to go all in for Boo's second Halloween.  See, my sister is an excellent knitter/schemer/accomplice.  I told her I was thinking about doing a Calvin and Hobbes theme, and she was my hero!

Boo was hard pressed to make a decision as to which kitty was his favorite.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

'A' is for Autumn and Apples!

Hubs and I took our yearly vacay to the mountains this past weekend.  We have friends there, and since both of us grew up near the beach, we like to change up the scenery every once in a while.  It was a beautiful weekend to go.  The evenings dipped into the 30's, but the days were bright and merely brisk.

On our way out of town we stopped into the farmer's mart and got some goodies.  Sold by the bushel, 'deer apples' are apples that hit the ground naturally before they can be picked off the tree.  They are somewhat bruised, but otherwise completely edible.  Hubs has been lusting over the thought of making apple cider, so he picked up a box with that purpose in mind.  We had also already grabbed a peck of hand picked Arkansas Black apples.  (We planted an AB the same day we planted all of our other trees, but this year it decided to go to tree heaven.  So we figured we'd have to buy them if we ever wanted to try any!)

We also got a quart of local honey with honey comb in tact (nom!), some very fresh heads of cabbage, and a cream soda.  For me.  Delish.  Oh, and when we were leaving home we came across a guy selling half bushels of sweet potatoes, so we bought two!  Think I'll have my work cut out for me soon enough...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Catching Up

It's been a while.  I've been lazy with the posting.  Things have been busy, Fall has definitely surpassed Spring and Summer as the official Wedding Season.  In addition to a stacked social calendar, lots of prep for Christmas and Thanksgiving, also Halloween and working, baking, canning...

Well I'm sure you're not so concerned with that, but basically I just wanted to reassure my readers (Hubs and Mom) that I haven't forgotten about you guys.  New posts coming up, and soon!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Finally Fall! ZOMG!

It's September, which in my mind automatically equals Autumn.  Some naysayers will try to tell you that it's not until the 24th or somesuch, but they are deceived.  Fall officially starts whenever your coffee shop has Pumpkin Spice lattes.  My coffee shop never got rid of them, so maybe that's why I was all making turkeys in July and ish.

However there was a giant sign outside opting that the afore mentioned lattes are 10% off (and honestly, who can resist that?) so I'm counting it.  Officially Fall.  Boom.  Joni approved.

Last year, me, Hubs, and our little Boo-tterball (see what I did there?) discovered that there are 3 massive pecan trees on the town owned property that backs up to our house.  They don't collect the nuts, instead leaving the town people to bicker over them.  This was the day we went out to pick some.  Boo was so excited, but with weather in the 60's and free pecans, who can blame him?

Side note, did you KNOW how expensive pecans are?  Or any nuts?  Geez!  I've seen them as much as nine dollars a pound.  We cracked enough last Fall to make it through the Winter, Spring, and most of Summer.

Fun facts.
  • According to wikipedia, 'pecan' is an Algonquin word, referencing how one needs a stone to crack the shell.  
  • Wikipedia also says that the tree is native to Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee, and other middle states (as I call them).  Here I was thinking this was a true blue Suuh-thern thang.  
  • Well it may not be native to NC, but we do produce 5-6 million pounds of pecans a year.  
If you're in a state that doesn't produce them, I do apologize.  I'm sure that you have growing capabilities for some other luscious fruit or veggie that you can hang over my head.  Like limes (I do love a good marg) or...  I dunno, we can grow a lot of stuff in NC.  I don't mean to brag.  But maybe you should come for a visit?  We've got the Outer Banks, and some pretty sweet mountains.  Grab you some pecans while you're here...  

Official Fall is also Jumbo approved.

So here's some stuff to do in Fall.
  • Check out a vineyard.  Winery tours can be found all over the place.  I mean, I'm in BFE North Carolina and there's still one within an hours travel.  There'll usually be an inexpensive tasting charge (I went to one in Northern VA this weekend and it was $5 to taste their four wines) which they might even waive if you buy a bottle to take home.  Most places have a pretty awesome view too.  
  • Take the tots to a pumpkin patch.  First of all, you can score some pumpkins for seed toasting and pumpkin butter making.  I haven't had pumpkin butter before, but I am really eager to try it this year.  Also you can probably get some really cute/scenic pictures of the kids, or you and the hubs, or you and your dog.  Or whatevs.  Also, have you even SEEN the adorable pumpkin crafting ideas on Pinterest?  So cute, so easy.
  • Make a leaf maze.  This is a great way to get the kids to help with raking.  My parents did this to me and I was totally unawares.  We would help make a "track" made of leaf piles, and we'd ride the go cart or our bikes through our maze.  Sound boring?  It kept us amused for HOURS.  And then our mom would sneakily go behind us and load up the leaf borders in the wheelbarrow.  Buzzkill.
  • Pick some apples!  Apparently U-Pick apple orchards are a prominent thing now.  Go look.  Then make some apple pie or caramel apples.  Or just eat them.  With peanut butter.  C'mon, it can't be too healthy...
  • Go pecan picking.  See above
  • Tour a brewery.  Okay so this is a cop out, in that it clearly does not have to be Fall for you to go to a brewery.  But chances are that there will have a nice patio/balcony type area to hang out at.  And why not do it on a beautiful Fall day?
  • Go to the beach.  Huh what?  Yeah, you heard me.  After baking in the hot sun all summer, the water will typically still be warm enough to take a dunk in (and I dunno if all weather is as ridiculous as ours, but there's still likely to be a 90 degree day or two in October around here).  Except there will be about 75% less people there.  And even if it's too chilly for a swim, a comfortable walk down the beach can relax you more than you might realize.
  • Go to the mountains.  We take a trip every year in the fall to Asheville.  The leaves changing colors is breath taking.  Also it's ideal weather to do some zip lines and hiking.
  • Prep for Thanksgiving.  I start making my ingredient list and slowly stock up on the things that are non perishable now.  Also if you're still a noob at Thanksgiving, make a list of possible side dishes to make and try one a week to see what you (and everyone else) likes.
  • Bake some crap.  The kitchen is finally cool enough to turn the oven on again.  Make spice cake.  And spice cupcakes.  And pecan pie.  And pumpkin cookies.  (My aunt used to make baller pumpkin cookies.  I'll have to see if it would be considered sacrilege to post the recipe.)  Or make the kids bake you some crap.  Or the hubs.  Or your dog.
  • Or go to the bakery for some crap.  Like spice cake.  And spice cupcakes.  And pecan pie.  Why does this seem familiar?
  • Plan a Halloween party.  A few years ago our friend planned a Relay for Life party.  It was BYOB, but they had people donate things to raffle off, and charged a fee at the door of $5 or whatever you wanted to donate.  Since all of the proceeds went to Relay for Life, many people offered their services and volunteered, so the party didn't cost much out of pocket.  And it gave the rest of us a great excuse to dress up and get down!  (I was cookie monster and Hubs was my cookie.  We had not been dating for long, so I could still convince him to do things like that)  :)
  • Check out local activities.  There's lots of fun outdoorsy things to do this time of year for kids and adults.  County fairs, Festivals (i.e. we have multiple Peanut Festivals nearby), and promotions love to schedule their events during the beautiful weather.  If you're in the NE NC or Hampton Roads area, Festevents is a great website for tracking fun things.  But otherwise just Google "local events" and your area, and you should be able to find something.
  • Go on a hayride.  Or if you're feeling really ballsy...
  • Go on a haunted hayride.  I am such a wuss.  There's a gigantic corn maze & haunted hayride next to Hubs' parents' house and we took friends last year.  I ended up on the floor of the cart.  Not my proudest moment.  But it's an adrenaline rush, and a good reminder of the things I love about my life.  You know, as they involuntarily flashed before my eyes...
  • Months with an 'R'...  Oyster season baby!  Go nom you some shellfish, with a little melted butter, some cocktail sauce, and a saltine cracker.  Got a lot of friends who dig 'em?  Have an oyster roast.  I used to work at an oyster bar and we would have people come buy them by the bag for parties.  Make some grilled chicken and lots of finger foods for people who don't eat shellfish.
Well that's all I've got.  
         But tell me, what do YOU love doing this time of year?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sushi Fake Out

So I'm horribly obsessed with sushi.  My sister introduced me to it when I was a junior or senior in high school.  She introduced me to it, I should include, by shoving a piece of octopus (suckers and all) into my mouth when I wasn't paying attention.  Such love.

Anyway I live in BFE North Carolina and the closest sushi restaurant is a little over an hour away.  I deeply deeply yearn for sushi in my life constantly, so I have been looking for ways to get my fix.  After I accidentally bought 3 pounds of smoked salmon the other week, I was desperately looking for ways to use it up.

Did you know it's possible to accidentally buy this much salmon?  It is.

Btw, I had never had smoked salmon before.  I ate a good third of the package.

Hubs liked the taste, but the texture was a little off for him.  I took to the internet to see if you can cook smoked salmon, but the results were dubious.  I made teriyaki salmon rolls with spicy mayo and it was the easiest thing everrrrrrrrrrr

I marinated the salmon pieces in teriyaki sauce for about 12 hours.  I rolled up the pieces and stuck a toothpick through to hold, and tossed them on the George Foreman.  They cooked super quickly!

Mix 1/4 C mayo and about 1 tbsp of Sriracha together and drizzle over the salmon rolls.  It's not sushi, but served with a side of white rice, it will at least give you a fix.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pro Tip: Butter Skins

In the wake of a week filled with images of Miley Cyrus wearing some really unattractive outfits (I feel like if she had been wearing clothes that weren't made from pleather or teddy bear pelts, maybe this wouldn't be quite as big of a deal) I thought I'd share something pleasant, innocent, and much less scandalous.  

Although with even less clothes.  Did you think that was possible?

After the bridal shower on Saturday (which was at a friends house who lives by the river), I had a glass of wine or three, and left my truck down there for safe keeping.  We went back the next day just to retrieve it and ended up spending the majority of the day!  Boo was fascinated by the water, and since we hadn't been planning on a swim, and the river is pretty secluded, we let him go all natural.  It was pleasantly cool, in the low 80's, but the water was perfection.

Anyway this has no correlation to my ProTip.

Butter skins.  Use 'em.  Fold your butter wrappers in half and store them in a little container in the fridge.

Use them to grease muffin tins, cake pans, frying pans, whatever.  The muffin tins are my fav because it's much less messy than trying to get the nonstick spray in every angle.  Also you'll save a good bit of cooking spray just by using something you would have tossed out!  Woo hoo!

Enjoy the long weekend, I am headed up yonder North to visit my best friend.  I'll see if I can't find something interesting to report back on.  Like a winery or equal purveyor of trouble.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Beach Themed Cake

This is my latest cake creation.  I started pinning like crazy a few months ago and decided I would be the next big thing in cake decorating.  After spending a buncha money at Wally World, I realized that everyone and their mother decorates cakes, and they're all better at it than I am!  After a severe pep talk where I reminded myself that not only do I not have to be the best, but I can also do this gig as a hobby and less as a career, I got back into it.  Sometimes I get over zealous and then disheartened.  But I (with the help of Hubs) usually kick my rear into gear.

So instead of trying super crazy ornate difficult things that I saw done on Pinterest by professionals, I opted to volunteer my very unprofessional services to friends and family.  Every new cake is more practice!  And if nothing else, my son will have some seriously kickass birthday cakes.

Anyway the above cake was for a bridal shower, and although it looks kinda fancy, it's really pretty simple.  And if you're better at icing than I am, you should have no problems!  The candies make it look like I did something incredibly difficult or time consuming, but really it's just a bunch of microwaving and refridgeratoring.

I got my candy forms from a friend who was clearing things out (thanks Cherie!) but you can find them at any cake decorating or craft store.  Don't forget to go local!  That reminder brought to you by the hypocrisy of the Wilton candy melts I bought from Wal Mart.  Life isn't fun without a little double sidedness, guys!
 Toss a few candy melts in a ziploc bag, and microwave 15 seconds at a time, squishing in between turns.  If you get them too hot they will not melt.  They'll actually get more solid.  Snip the corner of your bag off and fill the molds, about halfway or so.  Put them in the fridge for 5-10 minutes, turn the form upside down to pop 'em out and stash them in a ziploc bag until you're ready to use.  My advice would be to start the candy making process a week or so in advance, just doing a batch every time you're hanging out in the kitchen.

The cake itself was pretty easy.  Level off the bottom tier with a cake leveling thingamabob once it cools, and apply a thin coat (crumb coat) of plain white icing on the cake.  I then mixed my Malibu Barbie-esque icing and did a nice happy layer.  After placing and replacing the candies just so, I finally found a way I was happy with, piped well wishes on top and teeny dots around the bottom.  Preeeeeetty simple.

I was also doing cupcakes.  I would highly recommend that you get a pack of icing bags to make all of your cupcake icing forevermore easy, a 2A tip for icing a swirl (as seen above) and a 4 tip for writing.  Buy them individually if you just want the bare minimum of icing necessities, but get a larger pack of tips if you're thinking about doing more experimentation with cake decor.

I put candies on some of my cupcakes but after running out and being too lazy to make more, I drizzled some of the leftover icing across the tops of the others.  I gotta say, I liked the variety.  You could do the drizzle with the melted candies, though, which I didn't consider until later.

Voila!  If you're anything like me, you're going to scrutinize every last inch of the cake.  Just remember that while people may notice it, they're much more interested in eating it.  The bride to be at my shower said it was too pretty to cut, so the groom snuck over and all but smashed it in half with the knife!  Problem solved, haha.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What ARE these?

This is a cry for help.  I'm trying to figure out what the below plants are.  Well, actually, not so much the one on the right.  I learned that it is a Poke Berry, and that you can't eat them.  Which is a dern shame because we have roughly 347 of them growing nearby.  The one on the left, however, is a mystery plant.  It might just be a weed, and I'm definitely not going to eat it or anything, but now I just have to know.

Mystery leaf & fruit (left), Poke berries starting to ripen (right)

I know the fruit looks kind of like a blueberry, but it's larger (almost the size of a nickel) and I kid you not, resembles a tiny blue squash.

This is the inside.  It smells kind of like cucumber?  I have been researching for hours and got nothing!  If you have any ideas, clues, or resources, please send them my way!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Artichoke & Smoked Salmon Pizza

Yesterday was Monday in full force.  It was dreary, dull, and I was unmotivated and blue.  But at the end of the day I decided to treat myself to something delectable to make up for it.  I combined two recipes to make an artichoke, sun dried tomato, and smoked salmon pizza.

First of all, did you know how pretty artichokes are?  Now fyi, I totally winged what to do with said artichoke.  I mean I had a recipe on how to steam them, but as far as what to trim, and what to cut, I am a doofus.  I sliced mine in half and cut off the top inch or so.

Place them face down in a bowl with some lemon slices, thyme, and equal parts olive oil to white wine.  (The recipe called for 1/3 of a cup each for 2 artichokes, so I adjusted accordingly.)  Cover and microwave for 10 minutes per artichoke.  We nibbled at the leaves and I spooned out the center for my pizza.

Drizzle the liquid over the pizza crust, and place the smoked salmon, sun dried tomatoes, and artichokes around.  Sprinkle mozzarella sparingly and toast for 10-15 minutes at 350.  Then drink the rest of your bottle of white wine, watch some Mad Men, and go to bed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Candied Jalapenos...Ole!

In my seemingly eternal search to find practical uses for jalapenos, I have stumbled across the heavenly candied versions.  I am really quite crazy about them.  If you don't believe me, there will later be a post outlining all of the scrumptious uses for these toasty tasty treats!  

Candied Jalapenos:
-A bunch of jalapenos (I think I had 3 or 4 pounds?)
-2 cups cider vinegar
-6 cups sugar
-spices*, about 1-2 tsp of each
*(play around!  This time I did red pepper flake, onion flake, and garlic powder, last time I did the more traditional turmeric, celery seed, mustard seed, and garlic cloves.  The jalapenos are so hot that it would be very difficult to overpower their flavor.)

1.  Slice the jalapenos (and don't breathe, blink, or touch anything).  You can leave all the seeds in and try not to die, or remove all of them, or do like I did, and dunk the slices in water, and some of the seeds will slice and fall to the bottom.
2.  Bring vinegar, sugar, and spices to a boil, add the jalapenos and bring the pot back up to a boil.
3.  Remove jalapenos with a slotted spoon, placing in a bowl and set to the side.  Bring vinegar mixture to a rolling boil and leave for about 10 minutes.  
4.  At this point you can re-combine the peppers and syrup and stick in the jars, or put the peppers directly into the jars and pour the syrup over them, depending on your preference.  Leave 1/4" headspace and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

On a side note.

The person who invented the phrase "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" was not talking about jalapenos.  If they had been, the saying would go "What doesn't kill you makes you want to die."

Keep that in mind.  I kept getting choked up and sneezing as if I were allergic to the things.  Think it was just my body trying to exorcise the demons.

Bring the vinegar to a boil & dice/seed jalapenos.

Bring the jalapenos to a boil and then remove.

The long boiling time allows the vinegar mixture to become syrupy.  If you want the sauce to be less thin, try boiling for about 5-6 minutes instead.

Ta dah!  These suckers are so hot, but sooooo tasty.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Diced 'Maters

Boo chowing on a 'mater and bravely considering a jalapeno.

A few weeks ago I was complaining commenting on how many cucumbers our garden had yielded this year.  If I had only known what was headed my way...

Tomatoes.  Hundreds of 'em.  Every other day it seems like, I get a fresh grocery bag of tomatoes from the garden.  I am up to my eyeballs in tomatoes!  This change of pace is bittersweet.  In my mind, tomatoes are a much more versatile option for canning.  I could make at least a dozen different dinners based off of canned tomatoes alone, and then there's spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, sloppy joe mix, chili base, etc.  The bitter in this sweetness is the fact that tomatoes are a real bitch to deal with.  The extra steps of boiling them for a few minutes and dunking them in ice water so that you may then strip their skins off (not to mention the additional dirty dishes) is a pain in my rump.  

Not only that, but on top of all of the intended ones, we've had several surprise tomato plants spring up on us!  There's one around several of the fruit trees in our backyard from when we spread compost at the beginning of the season, not to mention one that is literally as tall as me growing out of our compost pile.  Another great reason to compost!!

*Sigh*  I don't mean to sound ungrateful.  I am quite happy (and go Hubs!) with the bountiful harvest we have received.  The vast majority of our tomatoes have ended up being Romas, even though we planted them equally alongside beefsteak, cherries, and vine tomatoes.  Go fig.  So far I've tackled two batches of 'maters and will be starting a third tomorrow.  There is going to be so much chili in my future.  My love of everything Autumn keeps me motivated.

I love this site.  It's simple, to the point, and just doesn't church anything up, which I'm all about.  I used their process to do some diced tomatoes.  I had, oh, I dunno, about a zillion of 'em, and ended up making 8 or 9 pints.
My tomatoes, sans skins.

Right, so I uh, didn't have any bottled lemon juice.  A few months ago there were a bajillion limes on sale, and I juiced and froze some.  So I put a cube in each jar, and a teaspoon of canning salt. 

 I ended up not dicing my tomatoes and instead throwing the smaller ones in whole, and pulling the larger ones apart with my fingers.  I threw them in a stock pot, added enough water to cover, and boiled them for five minutes.  This is what it looked afterwards.

Packed into hot, sterilized jars.

I chose the option of pressure canning my tomatoes.  Because of their acidity, they're safe to water bathe as well.  They have to stay in the water bath for 40 minutes, while in the canner they only take 15.  Really, though, it's all in whatever you're comfortable with.

The beauties!

[8/2/14 Edit]- When I made these tomatoes, I thought the three or four batches I did would last me all year!  In reality, they were gone by October.  You would be utterly amazed how quickly you'll go through a stockpile of home canned tomatoes.  They make everything taste so much better that you'll want to make chili or sloppy joes twice a week!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Backyard Discoveries

Check this out.  These bad boys are all blackberries.  I noticed them while picking blueberries in the neighbors' yard.  When I mentioned to them that they had a wall of berries, they were shocked, having no clue that they existed!  So I went to pick.  Although there were many berries, there were also many spiders and thorns.  

And I'm a wuss.  

So I only managed to pick a small bowl-full, but there was enough to make jam.  Since I decided to make do only with what I gathered, I checked Ball's pectin calculator to find a recipe.  In the end, I decided that I didn't really want to go the pectin route, but luckily I ran into this generalized chart for jam making.  

I do a lot of recipe adjusting in order to fit the amount of ingredients I already have.  I know you're not really supposed to, but hey what can I say?  I'm just a rebel, baby.  Anyway the chart calls for equal parts berries and sugar, so it was a pretty simple modification.  As I remember, I had about 3/4 of a cup of crushed blackberries, but I made a full cup by adding some blueberries.  

I had a pretty small yield, two not quite full jars.  And of course I took one of the jars to the neighbors, as that seemed only fair.  I finally got around to trying this today, and it was actually very good.  I definitely overcooked it, which is easy to do in such a small batch, but it wasn't ruined.  The seeds are in there which is only moderately annoying.  I think I'd probably strain those out next time.

Oh, and there will be a next time.  I'm sicking Hubs on those spiders next year man.  No eight-legged spawn of Satan is going to keep me from delicious jams and preserves!  Well, at least not as long as I've got my knight in shining armor (or dork in tin foil) around to ward them off...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Homemade Tomato Soup

I've never been a huge fan of tomato soup.  I mean, sure, throw some grilled cheese triangles next to it and I'll probably eat some.  But the canned stuff?  It's just not THAT great.  This, however, is an incredible alternative!  
Finely dice a couple carrots, an onion, some garlic, and saute for a while (10-20 min.) until mostly tender.  (Isn't it pretty?  Smelled great too!)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Canning Jars on Sale!!!

This is less a blog post and more a PSA.  I just went in to my *ahem* Neighborhood Ace Hardware, and found that a crap ton of their canning supplies are on sale.

Every Ace is different, but this was the deal at ours.  At least one of each size of jars were on sale, but the best deal I saw was 12 packs of pint jars on sale for $7.  Needless to say, those jars are long gone, but my store ordered two cases specifically for me that I can pick up on Monday at the sale price.  The tags said the sales would continue until August 31st, so I may be getting a lot more than two cases in the long run.  What a great size too!

Anyway, if I come across any other great deals on goodies, I will keep you all posted!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Texas Rockets 7 Ways

 Jalapenos.  Always a bountiful harvest.  But what to do with all of them?  Certainly you can use them as a garnishment, a condiment, a torture device, etc.  Personally we enjoy the time honored tradition of Texas Rockets.  Tonight I was feeling adventurous, so I decided to jam the suckers full of all kinds of things.  Here's what I did.  (Above) Slice them open and remove seeds/membranes.  Leave a few if you're feeling particularly brave.

Stuff them full of stuff.  Here I have some diced candied jalapenos...

...and cream cheese.  Cream cheese + jalapenos is pretty much always a winner.

I took some breakfast sausage and microwaved it for 20-30 seconds.  It doesn't have to be completely done, as it will continue cooking in the jalapeno.  You just want to get the pink off of it.  I mixed in some cheddar cheese and stirred it up.

Before and after.  We usually do them on the grill, but I was being lazy tonight.  These were in the toaster oven at 450 for about 15 minutes.  Flip 'em once.

Here's some of the ideas we tried.

NC Rocket- Stuffed with NC bbq and wrapped in bacon
Carnivore Rocket- Stuffed with sausage and cheese, wrapped in bacon
Rocket & Lox- Stuffed with cream cheese and smoked salmon or stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in salmon (we tried two ways and enjoyed both, though I think I liked the wrapped one better)
Death Rocket- Stuffed with cream cheese and candied jalapenos, wrapped in bacon
Queso Rocket- Stuffed with cream cheese and cheddar, wrapped in bacon
Traditional- Stuffed with cream cheese, chicken, salt, pepper, and wrapped in bacon
Lazy Rocket-  Just the cream cheese and bacon.  I didn't have any chicken.  Lazy.

Well, we really enjoyed all of them.  Hubs loved the lox, death rocket, and NC rocket especially.  Make a bunch though, we went through them with a quickness.

Also, please share if you have a different recipe you go by!  I'd love to hear them.