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Welcome to my little space in the world-wide web. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, sit down and enjoy your trek. I am not sure what brought you here, but I am glad you came. I hope you find something you like and come back often to visit. Be sure to sign up on the right to recieve all updates via your email.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Penne ala Vodka aka Vodka Riggies


Everyone likes pasta because it is so versatile, easy to prepare and reasonably priced. It works well when serving as a main dish or as a side.   

This Vodka sauce is reasonably easy to make and tastes yummy. Roasted peppers and salty prosciutto jump into a saucepan with crushed tomatoes, parsley, cream and vodka for a tasty sauce. Add Parmesan cheese to finish and serve and the cheese lover in your house will be a happy camper. Once you have the sauce to your liking you can add or take away the remaining ingredients to suit your taste.


Vodka Riggies

Ingredients
Salt
One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with their liquid
1 pound penne
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 slices of prosciutto, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Crushed hot red pepper, to suit your taste
1/4 cup vodka, good vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
¼ cup juice from jar of sweet peppers
1-2 roasted red peppers diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil for finishing the sauce, if you like
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing if you like









Optional
Chunks of grilled chicken breast
Cooked Shrimp
Cooked Italian Sausage
Mushrooms
Green Olives
Black Olives


Directions
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Pour the tomatoes and their liquid into the work bowl of a food processor. Using quick on/off pulses, process the tomatoes just until they are finely chopped.

Stir the penne into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 8 to 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Peel and whack garlic with the side of knife to split open. Add whole crushed garlic cloves to oil cook, shaking the skillet, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes. Add the prosciutto and sauté just until crispy. Add the tomatoes and pepper juice to the pan. Bring to a boil, season lightly with salt and generously with crushed red pepper, and boil 2 minutes. Lower the heat, so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and pour in the vodka, simmer to reduce or thicken or until the pasta is ready. Be careful not to catch the alcohol on fire. 

Just before the pasta is done, remove the large pieces of garlic from the sauce and pour the heavy cream into the sauce. Add the 2 tablespoons butter, if using, and swirl the skillet to incorporate into the sauce. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. Add diced sweet peppers. Add your choice of optional ingredients here. Toss to coat and heat through. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the parsley over the pasta.  

Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheese over the pasta, and toss to mix. Serve immediately, passing additional cheese if you like.

Notes and swaps
For a quicker version, use your favorite marinara sauce to replace the tomatoes. 
 



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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Black Raspberry Jelly Photo Story







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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sweet Pickled Jalapenos aka Cowboy Candy


A few years back I made Heaven and Hell Pickles, basically a sweet pickle with some jalapeno slices mixed in.   They were really yummy, pleasing those who like a little sweet and those that like a little hot and spicy.   Made them again this year, but my son said I didn’t put enough jalapenos in.    So, I am surprising him with some full on Sweet Pickled Jalapenos, also known as Cowboy candy.   
 
I researched some recipes on line but found that they range from really absurd recipes with just water and sugar to more difficult recipes with a long list of ingredients.   My favorite recipe is not really a recipe but requires a package of Mrs. Wages Sweet Pickle Mix, white vinegar, sugar and water.    Simple and easy.
 
Notes/Swaps
  • Put these on a hamburger or hot dog
  • Place on top of cracker spread w/cream cheese and jam/jelly
  • Pat dry and put some in your corn bread
 


If you can't find the pickling mix put out by Mrs. Wages you can follow this recipe for sweet pickles.  Just swap out the small cucumbers for jalapeño's
 

Sweet Pickles

Ingredients:

6 pounds pickling cucumbers, ¼ inch slice
6 Tablespoons kosher salt
4 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
4 cup granulated white sugar
4 cup white vinegar
2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
6 teaspoons mustard seeds
4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Directions:

Combine cucumbers and salt in a large, shallow bowl; cover and chill 1 1/2 hours. Move cucumbers into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain well, and return cucumbers to bowl. Add onion to the bowl.  Mix with hands.  Pack into prepared canning jars.

Combine sugar and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour hot vinegar mixture over cucumber mixture.  Fill to ¼ inch from top of jar.  Cover with lid and twist ring cap as tight as you can.   Place in hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove to cool completely.   Check for unsealed jars when cooled.  Place sealed jars in pantry and unsealed jars (if any) in the fridge (will keep up to 2 weeks).  





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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blueberries, BBQ Sauce and Ribs


Who doesn’t love BBQ Ribs?   They are a staple at my house.  Everyone likes them.   We make them throughout the year by baking them low and slow in the oven.   I purchased a jar of liquid smoke a few years ago and I sprinkle a little of that on before dry rubbing the ribs.  Set them aside and let that marinate for a couple hours before baking them off in the oven, uncovered, at 300 degrees, basting them with BBQ sauce the last fifteen minutes of their cooking. They come out perfectly cooked, tender and juicy every time.

 
Did you know there are differences between spare ribs, baby backs, country ribs, and St. Louis cut ribs?   We have tried them all and but we prefer the extra meatiness to the St. Louis cut. 


Today, I made my own BBQ sauce to use up some of the 11 pounds of blueberries that I picked yesterday.    We really liked it.  

 
Try something a little different for your next batch of ribs, pulled pork, or chicken. I promise you won’t be disappointed with Blueberry Jack Daniels Barbeque Sauce .  You should serve them at your next tailgate, picnic or dinner.  Your family, friends and guests will be happy you did!
 
 


Ingredients:
¼ cup chili sauce
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
¼ of a large white onion, diced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pint fresh blueberries
14 shakes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce or one diced jalapeno (seeds removed or not)
5-6 shakes of garlic powder
2-3 ounces Jack Daniels or other Bourbon (hold the bottle upside down and give it a solid 3 Mississippi count)
 
Directions:
Combine all ingredients except onion and blueberries, in a sauce pot and heat uncovered over low heat.  Either chop onion or blueberries by hand or place in food processor and chop until fine.  Add blueberries and onions to the pot while stirring.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about an hour.  Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool.   Slather sauce over your favorite BBQ creation and enjoy! Leftovers must be stored in the refrigerator.
 
Notes/Swaps
I doubled this recipe.  I used some to baste the St. Louis ribs, but I am going to keep the rest in a mason jar in the fridge.     Blueberries go really well with pork.   We can’t wait to try it with grilled chicken or beef.  

If you make enough extra, you can put it in pretty jar and give it as a gift.      




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Picking Berries

Growing up we spent a lot of time picking wild berries of summer. My dad had 40 acres of land. When the wild berries were ripe we would manage to pick several quarts a piece. We would start the season with wild strawberries, move onto black and red raspberries, and then end the berry season with black long berries. Sometimes we would find an occasional current bush or goose berry bush. My favorites were always the wild strawberries and black raspberries. I always liked them freshly picked. My mom however, liked to can and freeze jam and jellies because it would allow the tastes of the season to last longer and also stretch the deliciousness to many more hungry mouths.   
 
We would always get ready by dressing in heavy jeans and a long sleeve shirt.   Mom, would spray us with bug spray on occasion, hand us a large pail and send us out the door.   We would come back with 1/2 full and full pails, stained hands and mouths, burdocks on our clothing and sometimes in our hair and plenty of scratches from taking off our long sleeved shirts and tramping through the berry patches.  Often whining it was too hot or buggy to pick anymore.  
These days I am lucky to find a few wild strawberries and a quart of wild black raspberries. I have however found a few places that I can pick blueberries and purchase them by the quart a lot cheaper than I can buy them already picked by the quart. I find it very relaxing and enjoyable to stand at a bush pulling off the ripe berries and hearing them plunk into the bottom of a plastic bucket. I often lose all track of time and am always surprised at how fast a couple of hours in the patch go by. I also find it very hard to stop picking until the bucket is full. That is how enjoyable I find it. Funny, how as a child I always thought of it as more of a chore and couldn’t wait to get to the eating part.  
 
 
 
Infused Blueberry Syrup
Ingredients
1/2 cup maple syrup (your favorite brand)
1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp. lemon juice 
Dash of salt
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
Directions
Put the syrup and blueberries into a sauce pan and bring to the boil. Be sure you have a pan big enough that it won’t boil over. Syrup or sugar based syrup tend to foam up when boiling. Let bubble for 5 to 8 minutes, and then pour into a creamer and bring to the breakfast table with the pancakes. If you like your syrup thicker you can reduce it further down by cooking it longer.   However, be careful not to overcook it, as the natural pectin may thicken into a jelly.
Notes/Swap
  • You can also smash the blueberries with a potato masher while cooking the syrup down and then strain the syrup to remove the skins. 
  • Also good poured over ice cream
  • Stirred into plain  yogurt
  • Drizzled over plain cheesecake
  • Added to milkshakes or smoothies
  • Spilled over pancakes, waffles or French toast

  • Serve it over a brick of cream cheese with finely diced jalapeno peppers w/crackers
  • Serve over pork chops or pork roast with a few fresh berries thrown in 
  • Make extra, pour it in a mason jar and give it as a gift.  



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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Not Your Usual Side Salad

Using fresh from the garden or market vegetables can get boring if you are always eating the same kind of salad.   Switch it up with a Broccoli Salad.  Dark green vegetables are a good healthy source of fiber and vitamins.   

It doesn’t take much time to make this.  If you have a food processor it will take even less time to chop those fresh veggies.  I even make the bacon in advance by making extra for breakfast and storing the left overs in a Ziploc bag in the fridge for use at a later time.   Plus like any other salad it is very versatile, you can omit or add any ingredients you dislike or like.    

 

Broccoli Salad
¾ pound bacon, cooked and ready to crumble
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets or smaller pieces
½ cup red onion, chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped (or sunflower seeds, or almonds)
1 cup carrot, grated
1 cup frozen peas


 
Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup honey
3 tbsp. cup apple cider vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper to taste


Directions
Place broccoli, carrot, onion, cranberries, peas, nuts, and bacon in a large bowl.  In a large mason jar combine mayonnaise, honey, and vinegar together.  Shake and pour dressing over broccoli mixture and toss to coat.   Season with salt and black pepper.  Refrigerate for an hour or so.  Store leftovers in refrigerator.

 

Notes/Swaps

        You can replace bacon with pancetta or ham
        Replace cranberries, with other dried fruit such as cherries, blueberries or raisins
        Carrot is optional
        Swap red onion out by using shallot
        Swap out the dressing for whatever you prefer
        Try adding shredded cheese
        Add some fresh diced apple or pear
        Use your favorite kind of nuts or seeds: almonds, pecans, walnuts, sunflower, chia, etc.
 
 
 
 



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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Going Bananas


Who doesn’t purchase bananas when their green and still end up with a few over ripe ones in a few days?   No one ever seems to eat the last two or three bananas so they end up turning speckled brown and over ripen.   For a while I was just tossing them in the garbage.  Then I got smart and started peeling them and placing them in baggies to freeze them.  Then I got lazy and stopped peeling them. I just toss them into a Ziploc bag and freeze them.   I have my father-in-law freezing bananas now too.   About once every other month or so, I go to his house and load up on frozen bananas.   I bring them home defrost them and make us both some banana bread for eating and some for gifting.   




Before you throw away that banana, try freezing it. Ripened bananas, although soft and very sweet, are still good for a variety of uses in the kitchen.   You can use them in baking, making smoothies or dipping in chocolate to create frozen pops.   


You can even use the peels.  They make a great fertilizer for rose bushes.  Put the peels in the blender with some water and whir away until they are smooth.   Use this mixture to water your rose bushes. 
Bisquick Banana Bread
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla
3 bananas (1 1/2 cups mashed)
2 1/3 cups Bisquick baking mix
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray bottom of loaf pan.   In a medium sized bowl.  Mix ingredients in the order they are given.   Do not over mix.  Pour batter into loaf pan.   Bake in oven for 45-60 minutes.   Remove from oven when toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool ten minutes in the pan.  Run knife around the edge of the pan and remove to rack to finish cooling.


Notes/Swaps
  • Try toasting a slice and serve with butter.
  • Cut a slice and spread with canned vanilla frosting
  • Use banana bread to make French toast and serve with fresh whip cream




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