Monday, March 27, 2017

Beware of canning tips on Pinterest and other internet blogs

I love to browse the internet and get ideas of some things to can.  Today I was looking for some berry jam recipes with alcohol. 

I found some great ideas on pinterest as well as other sites.  As I read some of the recipes, I found people stating that they do the 'French' canning method and 'easy' canning methods.  Being curious and always looking for an easier way to do things, I read their recommendations.  What they said was to put the lid on a hot jar and put the jar upside down.  Everyone said it's perfect because the jar always seals.

THIS IS NOT SAFE!!!  While the end result of canning is to have the jar seal, that does not deal with the main purpose of canning....to kill bacteria in the food that is being canned.  Without the jars being processed the appropriate way (water bath for high acid foods and pressure canning for low acid foods), pathogens may be in your nicely sealed jars. 

People love to say 'my grandma used to do it and we are still here'; however, food is grown differently now than it was when granny was young.  Processing methods have been updated to assure safety.

I always follow current safe canning practices and you should too.  A good canning book from Ball is a great place to start.  There are also wonderful places on the internet that are proven recipes and concepts.  Probably the best one in my opinion is National Center for Home Food Preservation (http://nchfp.uga.edu/).  They have tested information on lots of food and do's and don'ts for safe canning.

With canning season coming shortly, PLEASE do so safely.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The best asparagus soup recipe to serve hot or chilled




It is Spring and Spring fruit and veggies are showing up in the grocery store.  Lately, asparagus have been available.  Usually the stalks get trimmed and thrown away, but for some reason when I saw the amount of this delicious vegetable that was going to end up in the trash, I decided to use them.  The first thing that came to mind was a delicious asparagus soup. 

Asparagus soup is a great way to use stringy stalks since the stalks are cooked then pureed.  It is a delightful soup that is delicious both hot and chilled.
 
Sorry, I don't have photos of making this soup, but next time I make it, I will update this post with the details.  The recipe contains enough details for you to make it without problems.

Creamy Asparagus Soup
Makes about 8 cups 

  • 6 cups  Chicken broth
  • 1 ½ lbs Asparagus                  
  • 2 tbsp  Butter
  • 1 med  Onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp  All-purpose Flour
  • ½ cup  Half and half
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 

  1. Add chicken broth to a 4-6 qt stockpot and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat. 

  1. Meanwhile wash and trim asparagus.  You will use everything but the tips.  (If you only have the woody ends, that's fine, too.  The soup will still be wonderful.  You may want a few whole asparagus for decoration.)  Cut the stalks in about 2” pieces.   Place all the stalks in the chicken broth.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until the asparagus is soft.  

  1. While the asparagus are cooking, dice onion.  Place butter in small frying pan and sauté onions until translucent.  Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook for a minute or two.  The flour should be completely absorbed into the butter/onion mixture.  If it is not, add a little more butter and cook until well incorporated.  Using a whisk, incorporate some of the chicken/asparagus broth to thin out the onion/flour mixture. 

  1. You will want to puree the asparagus and onions.  There are several ways to do this:  1) Blender; 2) immersion blender or 3) Vitamix. 

  1. If using a blender or Vitamix, remove the asparagus solids from the pan and put in the blender or vitamix.  If there is room, include the onion/flour mixture to remove all lumps.  Whirl until completely smooth.  Be careful not to load the machine more than about ⅓ to ½ full or the hot mixture can explode.  Also hold the lid down using a towel for protection.  Do this in batches until everything is pureed.  Put it back in the pan.  

  1. If using an immersion blender, blend right in the pot until the mixture is completely pureed.   

  1. Whichever method you use, continue cooking until everything is well combined and begins to boil.  This will thicken the soup.  Add the half and half, then salt and pepper to taste. 

  1. Garnish the soup with a few of the asparagus tips that have been cooked.  This is good hot or chilled.   

If you make this soup out of season, it can be quite expensive to make, but in the Spring, asparagus are very affordable.

 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lazy days Chili Colorado recipe

I love Chili Colorado but making it the traditional way takes all day.  For those of you who do not know what chili Colorado is, it is a traditional Mexican dish made with either beef or pork.  It is cooked in a red chili sauce and is best when made with actual chilies, rather than chili powder. 

It is pretty easy to find dried chilies in Arizona and for the most part, they can be found in many grocery stores, Mexican grocers and even Wal-Mart.

I almost always order it when I go to a Mexican restaurant and decided that I should learn to make it myself.  I've been making it for a few years and at a recent party, several people asked me for the recipe.  This is my take on a recipe. 

Chili Colorado Finished
Traditionally you cook the pork or beef in the Colorado sauce, but I always have pulled pork in the freezer and often have some Colorado sauce there too, so I decided to see if it worked as well using items from the freezer.  To my pleasure, it did.

This version of Chili Colorado is quick and easy because it uses already cooked pulled pork.  If you do not already have cooked pork available, just cook a pork shoulder in the crockpot until it reaches about 190° so it is easily pulled.  Save the liquid from the pork to use in this dish.

 
 
 
 
Chili Colorado Recipe 
 
Pepper Sauce

·        5 dried ancho peppers

·        2 dried pasilla peppers

·        2 dried guajillo peppers

·        3 cups hot pork stock (or chicken stock if pork stock is not available) 

Pork

·        3 cloves garlic, crushed

·        1-2 tsp dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you have it)

·        1 tsp ground sage

·        1-2 tsp ground cumin

·        2 tsp kosher salt or to taste

·        ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

·        2-3 cups of boiling or pork or chicken stock, as needed

·        3-4 pounds of cooked and shredded (or cut into squares) pork shoulder

 

1.      To make the sauce, cover the chilies in about 3 cups of chicken or pork stock (or water if necessary) until they are soft.  This will take about 30 minutes.  Remove the stems and seeds.  Place the chilies in a food processor or blender, adding enough of the soaking liquid to allow the chilies to become smooth…almost paste-like.  A vitamix, if you have one, works exceptionally well. 

2.      Place the chile paste mixture into a Dutch oven.  Add in the garlic, oregano, ground sage, and cumin.  Stir together.  Add in the pork and about 2 more cups of either pork or chicken stock.  This should cover the pork and be liquidy enough to keep pork moist.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

3.      Simmer covered, for about 30 minutes.  Add in more stock if necessary while simmering.   Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

4.      Serve with tortillas, rice and beans.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Try a delicious and very simple scratch made cookie even toddlers can help make

I love to bake during the holidays.  Some of my favorite cookies are more difficult to make.  But what if I want to bake with kids....small kids?  I have the perfect recipe for that. 

Kids always seem to love making cutout cookies, but with all the fabulous cookies I make, I do not enjoy making cutouts.  So in my hunt to find something that tasted like a sugar cookie but did not require that I spend hours rolling, cutting and worst off, decorating them, I found a recipe for No Roll Sugar Cookies.  The original recipe was different and still required a little patience to complete.  I do not remember the original source of the recipe, but we made several changes to it anyway.

The recipe is simple and uses ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.  You can use sprinkles, colored sugar or leave them plain.  You can also color the dough with food coloring if you like. 

To show you how easy these are to make, my friend Tram Mai who is on Channel 12 in Phoenix prepared these cookies with her twins. 

There are a few hints that will make these cookies successful.  First, you can use the heel of your hand to press the cookies from a ball into a disc.  Be sure to press hard enough so they are about 1/4 to 1/2" thick.  Not pressing them hard enough will make the cookies very thick and may not bake as nicely.  If 'little hands' are doing this, you may want to assist with the pressing to make sure they are not too thick.  Second, and I learned this from my friend, Tram, it works really well to use sprinkles that are in a shaker top.  It certainly creates less mess.

This picture was taken for a TV segment with Tram and her adorable twins Zak and Zoey actually making the cookies.  They are about 2 1/2.  I told you they are easy...and tasty too.
Here's the recipe.  They are delicious and will be wonderful on your cookie platter.  One other plus; we are at 5700 feet altitude and no adjustments are needed for these.

No Roll Sugar Cookies 

Prep time 30 minutes;
Bake time 10 minutes
Makes 42 cookies 

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup powdered 10x sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup sprinkles (jimmies) or colored sugar 

Heat oven to 375°. 

Beat butter, margarine and both sugars in a large bowl until fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla until well blended.  Beat remaining ingredients in with mixer on low until just blended.  Do not overmix. 

Roll tablespoons of dough into 1 inch balls.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.   

The easiest way I found to shape these is to press the balls with the palm of your hand, then put sprinkles on the cookies, lightly pressing sprinkles into the dough.   

 You can also put plastic on the cookie ball and press with a glass, then spread sprinkles on top. 

Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden.  Cool on a wire rack. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The best and easiest blueberry lemon Danish recipe

When we go to LA, we love to go to the farmers market.  Besides all the great veggies and fruit, they always have food vendors where we can get things that are delicious.  One of our favorites is the blueberry lemon Danish.   
I decided to try making them at home so we did not have to travel to LA so often.  This was my take.  I was not planning on writing this up except maybe for me and my nephew, but lots of people asked for the recipe, so here it is.  I did not measure as I made this, so amounts are approximate.  If you need a recipe with exact measurements, then this might not be for you. 

To make this recipe easy, I chose to use puff pastry rather than homemade Danish dough.  It was still fabulous.  Here's what I did.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
First, I made the lemon filling.  I mixed together cream cheese and lemon curd. I used homemade lemon curd, but you can easily buy it from the grocery store. 
I was cooking some frozen blueberries anyway, so I just took some from the pan before they broke down too much.  In the blueberries I added some brown sugar, cinnamon and lemon.  You can easily use fresh blueberries or even canned blueberry pie filling.  I drained the liquid from the blueberries before I used them on the Danish.

I rolled out one sheet of puff pastry into a 12" square.  I tried to keep the borders straight but if yours rolls out with a less than perfect border, cut the extra parts off.  Try not to roll the puff pastry too hard or it will impact how much your pastry puffs.  Cut the puff pastry into four equal pieces.
The next part is a little tricky.  Each square will need to be cut so that you can make the design.  Use a sharp, pointed knife.  Cut along the top and sides of each strip at about 1/4 inch.  You will cut from the edge to almost the center for each corner.  Look closely at the photo to get a better idea of what this should look like.  While this does not have to be perfect, cutting it properly is important.

Now for the fun part.  Take some of the lemon curd/cream cheese mixture and place it in the center of each piece of puff pastry.  Use a spoon to spread it out just a little.  A few tablespoons should do it and this photo shows about 1 tablespoon.
 
 
Put a tablespoon or two of the blueberries on top of the filling.
 
 
  
  
To form the Danish, carefully take one outer corner of the puff pastry and pull it to the center.  Repeat the same with each corner, gently pressing the center pastry together.  If you want, lightly fold the outer points of puff pastry up a little, but you do not have to do that if you do not want.  Put a little blueberry over the center where the puff pastry folds meet.  I used several berries to cover the center.
  
Put the pastry on a sheet of parchment paper.  Do not use a silpat as is shown in the photo or your puff pastry will be soggy. Here's the recipe.  I hope you enjoy as much as we did.
 
Blueberry Danish
Makes 4
 
Ingredients
  •   1 sheet puff pastry thawed
  •     6 oz cream cheese, softened
  •   2 tbsp lemon curd (or to taste…may use more; maybe less)
  •     ½ - 1 cup blueberries (I cooked them a little, added a little sugar and lemon, but left them whole. You probably could use raw ones…or even canned blueberry pie filling if you must)
  •   Powdered sugar
Instructions
 
Mix together cream cheese and lemon curd until smooth.  It should not be too lemony, but you can make it to taste.  Set aside.
 
Prepare blueberries by either cooking them slightly with some added sugar and lemon or using them uncooked…or just using blueberry pie filling (as a last resort).  See the texture of the blueberries on the photo below.
 
Roll out puff pastry to 12”, being careful not to press too hard or it will impact the puff you get from the pastry
 
If the pastry is uneven, cut off extra bits to make pastry square.  Cut the pastry into 4 squares.  Separate carefully.
To make the shape use a sharp, pointed knife.  Cut along the top and sides of each strip about ¼” in.  You will cut from the edge to almost the center for each corner.  Look closely at the photo to get a better idea of what this should look like.
 
Place a few tablespoons of lemon crème on the center of the puff pastry.  Slightly spread out.
 
Place blueberries on top of cream.  I ended up using more than this…maybe about 1 ½ times as much.
 
Fold each of the pre-cut edges into the center to make a shape like this.  (that’s why you don’t cut the dough all the way through and stop cutting  at the middle.  Add more blueberries on top of the center of the crust.  I added a lot more on the final product than I did on the first ones.
 
Place on parchment paper (DO NOT USE A SILPAT LIKE I DID IN THIS PHOTO.  THE BOTTOMS WILL NOT BAKE NICELY)  Bake in preheated 400° oven for about 15 minutes or until crusts turn brown.  This is how they will look directly from the oven.  Move to a wire rack and let cool.
 
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




 
 
 
 
 
 



Saturday, July 2, 2016

Make peach pit liqueur for an unforgettably easy and delicious recipe

Its that time of year where peaches are readily available.  I love to make peach preserves but when I'm done, I have a million peach pits.  Rather than throw them out, I wanted to find a way to use them.  A friend of mine said she likes to make peach pit preserves.  I got her recipe and with a few modifications, got to this fabulous liqueur.

Do not let the appearance of this liqueur scare you.  This is what it looks like when it's in the jar 'becoming liqueur'.  Once it's strained, it is beautiful.  I gave it as a gift one Christmas.  It's nice over ice cream or mixed into a drink.

One other thing...you may have some peachy sugar left in the jar when you are ready to bottle this.  DO NOT DISCARD.  I kept it in the fridge and used it to make a delicious syrup for waffles and drizzled some over sautéed fruit (such as peaches, apples and pears).  

 

Peach Pit Liqueur

1/2 quart peach pits
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground or whole coriander seed
3 cups 80 proof vodka
1 cup water

Pour vodka and water over peach pits and infuse in the sun for 6 weeks.  I used a large mason jar for this.


Take 1 cup pits crush (hammer works well) and return to jar and infused for another 2 weeks. (I was unable to break my peach pits no matter how hard I tried, so I omitted this step)

Strain and add sugar and spices.  Leave in a cool dark place for another several weeks  This is a slow to meld liqueur, but worth the wait.

You can store this in a mason jar or decant into beautiful decanters.  I store this in the fridge but that is just me.  You may be able to keep it in your liqueur cabinet, but I cannot guarantee that.

I hope you enjoy making and sharing this fabulous liqueur.

 What a nice gift to give.  I found this beautiful food safe decanter and filled it with delicious peach pit liqueur.



 

I used the 'leftover' flavored sugar on the bottom of the jar to start this syrup, but you can also make a syrup with the liqueur alone.  This was so good.  Keep in mind, this is NOT FOR KIDS!!!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Waterbath canning made easy video

A while back I did an educational video for the Valley Dish TV program in Phoenix.  This video dealt with waterbath canning.  In the video, I gave you step by step methods for waterbath canning.  While there are many safety rules you must follow, this will give you an idea of how waterbath canning is done.  See Waterbath Canning by Judy Toth

For those of you who are new to canning, there are a few canning methods you can use.  Waterbath canning is done for high acid foods like pickles, tomatoes, jams, etc.  There is another method that is used for low acid foods like green beans, meat, etc.  That is called pressure canning.  This video DOES NOT deal with pressure canning and canning low acid foods using the waterbath method can make you sick or even kill you.

About Me

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I am a former information technology girl who left the business and opened up a cooking school. Cooking and entertaining are my passions and I love to share this passion with others. I am currently on hiatus from teaching classes, but hope to begin offering them soon. In the meantime, enjoy the tips. Students always told me how much they loved the tips and now you can, too. I'll put out a new tip each day.