Getting Pickled

I have no room to complain about the abundance of veggies we are getting from our garden this year, especially since last year was a total wash.  The only thing that I might say is that when life has you going a hundred different directions, your garden doesn’t wait for you to catch up; it just keeps growing.

The vegetable drawers in my fridge are packed full of zucchini and cucumbers.  And now our jalapeno peppers are coming on strong.  Yes, it’s time to make homemade pepper jelly.

My mother was a domestic wonder woman, and truthfully I think she enjoyed it just as I do.  She made it all look so easy and I know that isn’t always the case.  My daughter just bummed homemade strawberry freezer jam from me (just as I did my mom), and she even asked if we could make my mom’s recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce (together) this year.  Could it be that she looks at me as a domestic wonder woman too?  She does tell me that I make blue ribbon deviled eggs and that makes me laugh every time she say’s it.  Of all the things to be admired for, it all boils down to eggs?  No pun intended.

Today, I want to share one of my mom’s recipes with you.  This is my favorite refrigerator pickle recipe.  You won’t believe how easy they are to make, and if you like sweet pickles, you won’t be able to stay out of them.  They are not overly sweet in my opinion, and they are super crunchy for a refrigerator pickle – yum!

Sheila’s Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

Makes about 2 quarts

8 medium sized cucumbers, sliced thin

1 large sweet onion, sliced thin

1/2 c. salt

In a large bowl, place cucumbers, onion, and salt.  cover with cold water and let stand 2 hours. 

Drain and lightly rinse cucumbers with cold water.  Add the following:

2 c. granulated sugar

2 tbsp. mustard seed

1 tbsp. celery seed (I used 1 tsp. of celery salt)

1 c. vinegar ( I used 1 1/2 cups of apple wine vinegar since the recipe didn’t specify)

Mix all ingredients well; cover and place in fridge. Stir a couple times a day for a day or so.  These pickles keep in the fridge for several weeks.

These pickles make a great snack, go great with a hearty sandwich, and are delicious with hamburgers or pulled pork sandwiches too. 

So, are you a sweet or dill pickle fan? 

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Skinny Mini’s

I have a proclamation to make.  I have fallen head over heels for mini desserts.  And let me tell you why – they are so stinkin cute, you can eat more than one and NOT feeling guilty, and they are darn tasty. 

I recently received some mini dessert dishes from Libbey Glass and I’m going to put them to the test.  I wanted to blossom my creativity a little and these little beauties have given me the incentive to do just that.

The first dessert I came up with is made with sugar-free raspberry gelatin.  HOLD ON!  DON’T LEAVE!  You are going to want to see this, even if it’s just out of curiosity.   

I wanted my first mini dessert to be simple, low calorie, and for a more mature audience.  Wait until you see how I adultified (new word) it.   

Please allow me to introduce … Skinny Mini’s.  A raspberry (sugar-free) gelatin topped with Mascato infused whipped cream and mini vanilla shortbread bites.

As for the taste, I ate three of them just while I was taking pictures.  When I made that announcement to my husband he laughed at me and tried to tell me that making mini’s means you ration yourself.   Nah… I don’t think so.  Not when you are talking about sugar-free gelatin, a tiny dollop of whipped cream, and a bite sized shortbread cookie I quickly retorted. 

To make Skinny Mini’s you will need (per my suggestion) one box of twelve Libby Flare Dessert Dishes and mini spoons (they are sold as a package). 

You will also need one small box of sugar-free raspberry gelatin.  Prepare the gelatin following the instructions on the box and divide it equally into the dessert glasses.  Refrigerate until firm.

Mini Vanilla Shortbread Bites

1 stick of chilled margarine

1/4 c. granulated sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. all-purpose flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Lightly spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray, and line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, add margarine, sugar, and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer until creamy. Add sifted flour, and mix until batter holds together. Spread batter onto prepared baking sheet making a square about 5”x 5”. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Remove from oven and cool slightly.  Use a mini cookie cutter to cut baked cookie dough; set aside.

Mascato Infused Whipped Cream

1/2 c. of heavy whipping cream

2 tsp. of white Mascato wine

1/2 tbsp. of granulated sugar

Place heavy cream and sugar in a chilled bowl and mix with electric mixer until cream thickens into whipped cream.  Slow drizzle the wine into the whipped cream while the beaters are going.. Using a pastry bag squeeze whipped cream on top of each gelatin dessert.  Place a mini shortbread bite on top of  each dessert topped with whipped cream; garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

Now, enjoy!

How could you possibly feel guilty indulging in these?  Really…

While Libbey did provide me with these mini dessert dishes, I was not compensated for this post, and the opinions contained herein are my very own.

Independence Day, Simply Vanilla Ice Cream, and More

Tomorrow is Independence Day, and at this point, I have no idea how we will celebrate it.  I’m not usually a big plan in advance kind of girl.  I’d much rather act on spontaneity.  Last minute barbeques, campfires, a trip to the lake, and road trips are so much for fun when they aren’t over-thought. 

Regardless of what we might decide to do on the 4th, I am sure of one thing, we will need to eat.    I’m thinking that this Bacon, Ranch, and Onion Dip will get the party started.  I’ve made this before, but it’s worth mentioning again, especially since I just made a bowl of it.

And then there are those fat slices of my Sinful Midnight Cake resting peacefully in the freezer; right next to a quart of this Simply Vanilla Ice Cream that I made.  So, I’ve got an appetizer and dessert covered.  Hey, it’s a start!

This ice cream requires no cooking or eggs.  And it’s delicious!  I found it in a booklet that came with my Crofton ice cream maker.

Simply Vanilla Ice Cream

2 c. heavy cream

1 c. whole milk (I use skim)

3/4 c. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, mix milk, cream, sugar and vanilla.  Stir until sugar has dissolved.  Follow the instructions that came with your ice cream maker.

Do you have plans made to celebrate Independence Day? Or are you like me, flying by the seat of your pants?

Happy Fourth of July!!!

FV

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Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream Topping

Ever make something that you can’t wait to finish so you can lick the spoon?  Me too!

Honestly, I don’t know how you couldn’t lick the spoon, your fingers, and the bowl when you’re finished making this homemade peanut butter fudge topping.  If you can resist, you’re willpower is like granite, and mine – is not.

Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream Topping

Makes about 1 cup

1/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tbsp. sugar

1/4 c. peanut butter

1/4 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. skim milk

a pinch of salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a saucepan, add chocolate chips, sugar, salt, and peanut butter.  Melt slowly on low heat.  Pour in cream and milk and continue to stir constantly on low heat until sauce is smooth, creamy, and thickens.  Stir in vanilla; pour into a jar.  Serve on your favorite ice cream, or refrigerate until ready to use and then rewarm in the microwave.

I’ve decided if I run out of ice cream I’ll just eat this topping by the spoonful!

What is your favorite ice cream topping?

Looking for more topping ideas and recipes?

Cherry

Apple Rum

Kahlua

Peach Glace’

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King Kahlua

Originally posted on THE JOY OF CAKING:

My most favorite liqueur is Kahlua.  Did you know they claim it takes seven years to make a bottle of this Mexican liqueur?  Aged to perfection I’d say. I love using Kahlua when I make some of my sweet confections. It’s rum base, coffee flavor, and slight hint of vanilla makes it the King in my book.  I have a recipe for an awesome Kahlua cake, a Kahlua mousse recipe that will knock your socks off, and over the weekend I had my first taste of Kahlua fudge – oh, my dear Lord!  But just when I thought it could get any better; I crafted one more Kahlua recipe to add to my trusty recipe box.

Here are two key ingredients you will need.

Any guesses?

Here’s another hint. It goes best on vanilla ice cream. 

Kahlua Hot Fudge Sauce

¼ c. heavy cream (preferably Upstate Farms)
1…

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Let’s Get (Apple) Sauced…

Last fall’s apple season in the Northeast was less than stellar.  Apples have been hard to come by, and those that are available are expensive. 

Typically, I make a lot of  batches of homemade applesauce throughout the apple season.  And sometimes I will actually can some applesauce to enjoy throughout the  winter months, but that didn’t happen this year, and I’ve missed it!

Applesauce is simple to make, and many of you probably have made it many times before.  But if you haven’t made your own sauce, you don’t know what you are missing. 

Depending on the type and sweetness of the apples you use, you can even skip adding sugar to homemade sauce which makes it all natural, and healthier than most jars you buy in the grocery store.

This recipe will make about 2 cups of applesauce.  I like to be a bit adventurous and use different types of apples for sauce from time to time.  This batch was made with Empire apples.  I really like the flavor of the sauce from this type of apple.

Remember, if you  mix more than one type of apple together when making applesauce, they will need to have very similar textures because some apples are harder and cook down at a slower rate than others.  This will overcook the softer apples if you cook them together.

This recipe makes about 2 cups of sauce.

Peel, core, and thinly slice 4 apples.  Place the apple slices in medium saucepan and add 3/4 cup of water.  Cover the saucepan and cook on low heat until apples become tender – stirring and mashing with a fork occasionally.  If you notice that you need more water, add about a 1/4 of a cup more until the apples are thoroughly cooked.   Remove the sauce from the heat and spice to your liking. 

I like to add a dash of cinnamon, or a few Red Hots Cinnamon Candies.  If the apples aren’t quite sweet enough, add a package of sugar substitute.  Serve it warm, or chilled.

Do you ever make applesauce from scratch?

 

 

 

A Book, Photo’s, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

I’m dreaming of spring.  I want sunshine, warm temperatures, budding flowers, and green grass.  I want campfires, picnics, and days on the water just rowing our canoe to nowhere in particular.  I want to be able to open the windows and let loads of fresh air in, without letting all of the heat out.  I want to work on the Pink Paradise, and once she’s road ready I want to camp, or should I say glamp.

I’m not asking for much considering I live in upstate New York and we’re not even through the month of February yet. 

To help the cold winter months pass more quickly I’ve been reading and walking more.

I just started to read a book that I won during a giveaway hosted by the blog Pixi Wishes & Forehead Kisses.  It’s too early to give a  review, but I have to say that I was so glad to have found out that the author, Sandy Ward Bell, grew up a little less than an hour away from where I did.  

And as for the walking, it’s being done in an effort to help burn off some of the calorie laden treats that I can’t seem to stop making.  To make my walks more interesting I’ve been taking photo’s.  I thought I’d share a few.  If you’re looking for anything that resembles spring you won’t find it in these pictures.

And as long as I’m sharing – here is one of those calorie laden treats I was talking about.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Pretzel Bars

1 c. chopped pretzel pieces

1/2 c. creamy peanut butter

2 tbsp. margarine

2 tbsp. sugar

1 c. mini- marshmallows

1/4 c. powdered sugar

1 12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided into two

1 tbsp. vegetable shortening

Lightly coat an 8”x8” pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large a saucepan on low heat, melt peanut butter, margarine, and brown sugar.  Add marshmallows, half of the chocolate chips,  powdered sugar,  and stir until completely melted and mixed. Remove from heat and press mixture flat into prepared pan.

In a double boiler, melt other half of chocolate chips and shortening.  Spread melted chocolate over top of peanut butter mixture.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

What are you most looking forward to this spring?

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Easy as Pie

The phrase “easy as pie” doesn’t normally refer to the act of making a pie, because we all know that it is not always an easy task.  What it refers to is the act of eating pie – which is normally considered quite simple.  At least it is for me anyway.

I’ve found a recipe for a pie that gives the phrase “easy as pie” a whole new meaning.

This recipe is from Kraft Foods, and I promise you it will be the easiest,  and probably the healthiest pie you’ve ever made.   The reviews that this recipe got are so good that I couldn’t wait to make it myself.  In all honesty, I’m not sure why I haven’t made this pie before now since it’s a fairly common recipe. I’m almost thinking it might even fit into the retro recipe category.

Aside from the pie crust, this recipe only requires three common ingredients.  Yes, you read that correctly – just three!  And as long as we are talking pie crust,  I made my own graham cracker crust instead of buying a packaged one because I wanted to serve my dessert in an 8”x8” pan which then turns this recipe into a square pie.  Is that a new word – square pie?

Cool & Easy Pie  (slightly adapted from Kraft Foods)

1 package of  sugar-free raspberry gelatin

2/3 c. boiling water

1 c. of cold water (I put mine in the freezer 15 minutes before I made the pie)

1 (8 oz.) tub of lite whipped topping

1 (9”) graham cracker pie crust

1 c. fresh or frozen raspberries

In a large bowl, add gelatin.  Pour in boiling water and stir for about 2 minutes until all of the gelatin is dissolved.  Stir in cold water.  Add whipped topping; mix with a wire whisk until smooth.  Add berries and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  Remove from refrigerator and pour into pie crust.  Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.  Serves 8

I love the lightness and fruity flavor of this dessert.  If you’re not a raspberry fan then be creative and try a different flavor.  I’m already thinking ahead to Easter!

For the original  Kraft recipe, to read reviews, or see the nutritional information, follow the Kraft Foods link above.   And remember, the nutritional value of the pie I made is going to have less sugar and calories because it’s made with sugar-free gelatin. 

Now, let’s talk about the phrase “easy come, easy go”.

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Homemade Raised Yeast Doughnuts

I’ve got to tell you that I’ve never met a doughnut that I didn’t like.  So, I decided to try my hand at making homemade doughnuts.

But my little doughnut making endeavor started out as a complete failure.

I followed a recipe that I found on Pinterest for baked yeast doughnuts.  While I was a bit reluctant to bake raised yeast doughnuts, the photos looked good so I thought the recipe would be too –  WRONG!

To put it (not so) nicely –  the recipe for the baked doughnuts – sucked…  I wasted my ingredients and time to get what turned out to be a cross between a rock and a burnt bagel.  Don’t believe me? 

I ended up breaking the failures into pieces and feeding them to our chickens. At least someone was happy with them.

Refusing to accept failure, I decided to make another batch.  This time I turned to McCall’s Home-Baked Breads (vintage) cookbook for a recipe.  I also decided  that raised yeast doughnuts were not meant to be baked and I dug out the shortening, thermometer, and big cooking pot.

Fortunately, I had success with the second recipe.  The doughnuts were light and airy and tasted delicious just like doughnuts should. 

This is the first time I’ve ever made raised doughnuts so I was considerably happy with the way they turned out.

What’s your favorite doughnut? Do tell…

*Note – I did not post the recipe for these doughnuts because of the length – email me if you’d like it.  For a great picture tutorial (and a similar recipe) on doughnut making check out  this post at The Pioneer Woman’s site.

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Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

I love casseroles.  And fortunately for me, my husband doesn’t mind it when I find a new recipe to try out.  As scared as he might be at the prospect of me playing the mad scientist in the kitchen, he never lets on.  He is truly a brave soul!

Over the years, I’ve found that some casseroles can look better than they actually taste, and vice-versa.  I’ve been pleased with some, and disappointed with others. 

A recipe I found at the Better Homes and Gardens website inspired me to make this dish. 

I also have several other casserole recipes to work through and I’ll be sharing them here too.  If you haven’t already, please subscribe to my blog via email so you never miss one of my posts.  

Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

Ingredients:

2 2/3 c. bow tie pasta (cook according to package)

1 tbsp. margarine

1 small onion, sliced thin

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 mini sweet red pepper, diced

1 mini sweet yellow pepper, diced

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 1/2 c. milk

1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 c. chicken broth

1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese, heaping

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. season salt

1/4 tsp. dried parsley

2 c. fresh spinach, rinsed, dried, and chopped

1 c. cooked ham, cubed or sliced

1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced

3/4 c. mozzarella cheese

Directions:

In a large skillet, add margarine, onion, red and yellow peppers, and garlic.  Cook until vegetables are soft  and tender.  Add flour, milk and chicken broth; cook until it thickens – stirring often. Stir in parmesan cheese, pepper, season salt, and parsley.  Remove from heat and add ham, spinach, and pasta; mix thoroughly.  Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray.  Top with tomato and mozzarella cheese. 

Bake uncovered for 22-25 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before serving. 

Serves 6Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

So what do (we) think about this dish?  It’s a winner.  It’s creamy, cheesy, and has a hint of smoky flavor.  I served this casserole with a tossed salad and garlic bread; it was a perfect meal for a cold winter night. 

The only problem with this casserole? Getting good pictures of it on a dark winter night.

Do you like casseroles?  If so, what’s your favorite? Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole