Monday, September 29, 2008

a day of canning

One of my favourite things about the fall is the ensuing harvest!

Yesterday was our second annual canning extravaganza. A group of my friends come together, everyone bringing bits and pieces for the day and then we mass produce our preserves and split everything at the end. Last year we canned Spicy Pickled Beans, Peaches, Hot Pepper and Garlic Jelly (courtesy of Fiber at 28 cooks) and a variety of jams. Now we loved everything but the jam. Collectively as a group we don't eat enough jam to warrant the volume we created...and truly you can only give away so much!

This year we repeated the pickled beans, and garlic jelly (too late for the peaches in our part of the world) and added garlic dill pickles to our repertoire. The most time consuming part of the day was pealing the garlic. Other than that, we were fairly efficient and were pleased with the results. Special thanks to Brent for playing photographer!

Below are all the recipes we used and the quantities that we used to make enough for 4 couples (no kids!).

Spicy Pickled Beans Ingredients

20 x 500 mL jars
9 lbs Young green beans
20 long, thin red chilies (cut into eighths)
80 large Garlic cloves (4 per jar)
1/4 tsp per jar Peppercorns (white, black, green or a mixture)
1/4 cup loosely-packed fresh dill sprigs per jar
12 + 1/2 cup water (12 ½ cup)
12 + 1/2 cup white vinegar (12 ½ cup)
1 1/4 cup table salt


  1. Trim and strings from the beans. Rinse well and set aside.
  2. Peal and prepare garlic, slice hot peppers (make sure to wear gloves, nasty burns can ensure if you aren't careful!)
  3. Sterilize jars and lids in not quite boiling water. When jars are cool enough to handle, fill each upright with beans until they are snug. Insert chilies and garlic cloves (preferably around outside so they can be seen). Divide peppercorns and dill among jars.
  4. Separately bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil in a non-reactive sauce pan. Ladle the hot brine over the beans leaving about 1/2-inch head space.
  5. Wipe jar edge clean and screw on sterilized lid and band according to manufacturers instructions.
  6. Process in a boiling water bath for 12 minutes (no more, or you get soggy beans!). Remove and allow to cool completely at room temperature away from drafts.
  7. Check lids to make sure proper seal has been attained.
  8. Store for at least six weeks before using to allow flavours to develop. - YUM - so good with Caesars or just on their own.

Hot Pepper and Garlic Jelly
30 x 250 mL jars

6 red bell peppers, minced
4 cups fresh mix hot peppers, chopped
2 cups minced garlic
6 cups white vinegar
24 cups sugar - I know that is so much!
8 tsp cracked black pepper
4-5 pkt liquid Certo (4 for a more liquidy jelly and 5 for a little more strength to it)


  1. Place all ingredients in large saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring often - watch though, because once this comes to a boil, it is a little temperamental.
  2. Boil for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and add Certo. Stir well.
  3. Pour into sterilized jars and cover with prepared lids to seal (specific canning instructions are below)

*The easiest way to can is this - wash and dry canning jars thoroughly. Place lids and rings in a pot of barely simmering water. Once jelly is ready, fill a jar, leaving about a 1/4" headspace. With tongs, remove lid and ring from water, place on jar, and tighten, although not all the way. Turn jar upside down on a dishtowel. Repeat with remaining jars. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Turn upright and allow to seal. Tighten rings on all jars. If any of the jars don't seal, simply store in the refrigerator once cool. The other jars can be stored in a pantry for 8 months to a year, if it lasts that long.

A special thank you to Fiber for this great recipe. It is amazing with crackers and cheeses, mixed in cream cheese as a dip, my mom even uses it with sausage rolls. I imagine spring rolls would be nice with it too!

Garlic Dill Pickles
28 x 1 L jars

30 lbs fresh pickling baby cukes
13 1/2 cups vinegar
45 cups (11 Litres + 1 cup) water
3 3/8 cups pickling salt
10 Bunches of dill
Bowl of peppercorns (1/4 tsp per jar)
140 peeled whole garlic cloves


  1. Sterilize canning jars in a hot oven.
  2. Scrub cucumbers in cold water until clean.
  3. Bring a large vat of water, enough to cover all the cucumbers, to a boil.(I think we used about 30 Liters to cover up the cukes in the sink).
  4. Pour boiled water over cucumbers in a well cleaned and rinsed sink and let sit for 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile peel garlic, set aside peppercorns, clean and separate out dill bunches.
  6. In another pot add vinegar, water, salt to a boil - DO NOT over boil or salty pickles will be had by all
  7. Pull hot jars from oven and to each jar add a handful of dill (or more if you like dilly-ious pickles),5 cloves garlic, and peppercorns.
  8. Tightly pack jars with hot pickles - this turned into a race for us and was lots of fun to see which way worked best!
  9. Fill each jar with hot/boiling brine (~2 cups per jar), leaving 1/2" headspace.
  10. Adjust lids/rings and seal tightly - no processing needed.

A big thank you to my good friend, Tlell for this recipe she has shared. She and her mom make these pickles and as a receiver of such a nice treat, I must be sure to pass along credit where credit is due!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

daring baker's challenge: lavash crackers + dips

This has to be a record fast post. First of all I am up against the clock deadline of the Daring Bakers Challenge to post today. Second of all, we had company surprise us and drop in (and they are still here!) I'm not very good with that. I like notice and to feel prepared. It's not even making sure the house is tidy, it's just my mindset...

Anyhow as I write this the crackers are baking. This month's challenge was Lavash Crackers, a first for the Daring Bakers, courteousy of bakers from the "alternative baking list", Natalie from Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl teamed up to bring us a two-part challenge. After months of rich cakes, and involved recipes, this was lovely. Quick easy and you have everything you need in your pantry. The second part of the challenge was to create a topping or dip that was vegan friendly. Because I am up against the clock, I had to make something quick and easy (sorry!) and insert hummus. Yum!

For a great look at lots of delicious savoury niblets check out the Daring Baker's Blog Roll. And for the recipe, visit Natalie (Gluten A Go Go) and Shel (Musings From the Fishbowl). One thing I have noticed about this recipe is that the thinner you can roll the dough, the better it is. I thought I had rolled it out enough, but I just peaked in the oven and it resembles pita more than crispy crackers. Over at A Whisk and Spoon, she suggested rolling the dough with a pasta machine on the setting for lasagna - BRILLIANT! Now if only I had a pasta machine... next time, more muscles!

(worst picture ever!)

Hummus Ingredients
1 can drained chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini paste
5 cloves of roasted garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp sour cream (not necessary, but a nice touch if you are ok with making this non-vegan)
salt to taste

Take all ingredients, blend until creamy and ready to eat in a food processor. And you are done!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

easy chicken satay

One of the student groups I advise had a potluck dinner on Monday night. I was assigned "any type of meat". I have been busy lately, really when I look around, who isn't? Anyhow, as a result I was trying to think of something really quick and easy that I could prep in the morning before work, and then cook when I got to the potluck. Insert: chicken satay.

The thing I liked about this recipe is that I made chicken satay a few weeks ago and thought it was gross. I had added peanut butter to the marinade, based on a recipe I found on the internet and it made the chicken taste muddy. I don't know what real satay is supposed to be marinaded in, and truly, I don't care. The night before I was going to make this, I was drifting off to sleep trying to decide what to put in it (based on what we had in the house) And below is the result. In honour of my friend Cate, I must say, "Tasty, Tasty".

2 lbs, boneless + skinless chicken thighs
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
4 crushed garlic cloves
1 Tbsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp chili sambal sauce

  1. Combine all the ingredients into a large ziploc bag, massage so that all the ingredients combine.
  2. Allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours, meanwhile soak skewers to prevent burning.
  3. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Thread chicken onto skewers, bake on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, turn and bake for another 5-7 minutes.
  4. Serve with your favourite Peanut Sauce. Mine is Asian Family's Speacilaty Foods Satay Peanut Sauce
Alternatively you could cook these over your grill. This is a lot of chicken, so adjust as needed, this was enough for 10 people + extras for leftovers. (Thai chicken pizza to come)


Monday, September 15, 2008

new zealand roast rack of lamb

To any vegetarian's or vegans I apologize. This post is for the carnivore...of which I am and with whom I live. One of our favourite meats is lamb. Truthfully it is something I had to develop a taste for and since really finding an appreciation for it, beef doesn't taste the same.

Pete's mom often made us a version of this. It is another one of those random pieces of paper on the bookshelf that I am cleaning out. Originally the recipe was for a leg of lamb. It requires a long marinating time (ahhhemmm...planning?) and is usually something we bbq over the grill. Tonight however we made it with a Frenched rack of lamb that I first seared and then roasted in the oven until it was a lovely medium-rare. I really liked the searing in melted butter in my cast iron pan. It adds a richness that the meat really benefited from.

I have no idea how to take any decent looking picture of meat, so here it is, in all it's glory on the cutting board.

1 rack of lamb, Frenched (8 popsicles)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
6 Tablespoons dry white wine

2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  1. The night before, in a Tupperware container or in a large freezer bag, combine Worcestershire and wine
  2. Rub spices into meat.
  3. Drop meat into container/bag, massage and refrigerate. Turn halfway through.
  4. 1 hour before wanting to eat, take meat out of fridge and allow to come to room temp.
  5. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  6. Place cast iron skillet in oven to heat up for 10 minutes.
  7. Add butter and olive oil to skillet, ensure it doesn't burn. Over a burner at medium (it will still have a lot of residual heat from the oven) sear each side of the rack (2 minutes a side). Baste the rack that isn't being seared with the melted butter/oil combo.
  8. One you have a nice sear on it that will keep the rack nice and rack, place skillet in the hot oven. For a total of 12 minutes (for medium rare), 6 minutes a side.
  9. Remove and allow to rest covered for 5-10 minutes.
  10. Slice and serve!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

pumpkin pie muffins with cream cheese filling

One of my favourite pies is a moist and flavourful pumpkin pie. I loved it as a kid and I love it as an adult. In the fall, closer to Thanksgiving (in Canada!) and Halloween you can easily find the 2 for $5 pies at Safeway or any local grocery store. As a child I loved those... as an adult, not so much. The crusts are moderately better than cardboard and the flavour of filling is, ok. A few years ago for Thanksgiving I found a recipe from somewhere on the internet that was a combination of pumpkin, maple syrup and cayenne pepper (yes, really). I'm not here for Thanksgiving this year, but that won't stop me from enjoying the bounty of pumpkin season...even if it has to come from a can (shhh... don't tell).

I wanted a pumpkin muffin that was rich and moist, and felt like a treat to eat. Stuffed with an gooey cream cheese filling, and topped with pumpkin seeds (which I didn't have so substituted walnuts instead) and a little brown sugar. As these baked the apartment smelled wonderful. Settle in with a cup of tea, wrapped in a blanket on the patio on a cool afternoon, and it is a lovely way to take a time out from the busyness of life.

Muffin Ingredients
4 eggs
1 cup oil
1 x 14 oz can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda

Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp butter
(you could easily half this and have less cream cheese filling in the muffin, that would be Pete's preference, I like the ooey gooey cream cheese filling)

Topping Ingredients
Small handful of chopped walnuts are pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp brown sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Lightly grease a muffin pan and line with muffin liners (I like to grease the pan even though I use the liners so the muffin tops don't get stuck to the pan)
  3. Combine filling ingredients until smooth, set aside.
  4. Combine eggs, oil, and pumpkin until smooth.
  5. Stir together dry ingredients and add to the wet.
  6. Fill muffin tin 3/4 of the way with batter.
  7. With two spoons, use one to create a well in each muffin and the other to drop in about a teaspoon of the cream cheese filling.
  8. Top with pumpkin seeds or walnuts and a little touch of brown sugar.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes. Test the doneness by inserting a toothpick or skewer into the muffin part of the muffin (not the cream cheese part).
  10. Allow to set for about 15-20 minutes, this allows the cream cheese filling to settle a little more so that the muffins don't tear apart.

Makes 18 good sized muffins.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

easiest, tastiest steak marinade

I am on a house cleaning purge - perhaps instead of spring cleaning, I am fall cleaning. One place that needs some love is my cookbook bookcase. I am always ripping out recipes or being given recipes that I think "I will make one day" - I am sure many people have this as well.

Years ago a former colleague gave me this recipe. Photocopied from a book. Unfortunately I have no idea what the source is, so apologies to the creator. But in an effort to clean the shelf, random papers must go, and this needs to be added to the blog for posterity.

When I think of this recipe I think of the word, umami. The kitchen even smells great when the steak is marinating! No picture, but just know that when this all comes together and you cook your steak perfectly it is a great addition to a meal from the grill!

1 cup dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves finally minced garlic cloves
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
(sometimes I used ground ginger from the spice rack and that works fine too)

freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar (or juice from 1/2 a lemon)
1 Tbsp cornstarch (or tapioca starch)

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a non-reactive dish.
  2. Add the meat, turn to coat and marinate for 10-30 minutes. Turn meat half way through to ensure equal marinating. Do not marinate overnight, as this is a fairly salty marinade.
  3. Cook steaks to the doneness you like. Be sure to allow them to rest for 4 minutes and the quickly return to grill to heat up for 30 seconds or so.
** Enough for 4 steaks

Thursday, September 11, 2008

chewy chocolate chip cookies

I love summer...but sometimes I love fall even more. There is something so lovely about the fresh air, the consistently warm weather, the crisp evening air. AND, I feel like the fall brings on the baking bug for me. The call of the oven is louder because the house isn't melting from July/August heat! And work slows down as everyone gets settled in once classes start.

All week long I have been brainstorming things I want to make: cookies, muffins (pumpkin and zucchini) and homemade bread (to accompany several soups I want to make!). I've been reading the food blogs and it seems like everyone is picking up again! One of my favourite bloggers, Annie, made some delicious looking Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. I thought I would take a stab at them given that I was craving baking, and here they are...

2 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

(If I was to make these again, I would use less chocolate chips and add some pecans or walnuts to the batter!)


  1. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions. Preheat oven 325°. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. With electric mixer, or by hand, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined.
  4. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined.
  5. Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Roll a scant half-cup of dough into a ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull apart into two equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving ample room between each ball.
  7. Bake, rotate cookie sheet by 180 degrees halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy (approximately 11-14 minutes). Do not overbake.
  8. Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from Baking Illustrated