Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cooking and Canning

It's been a month since I blogged.  WOW!  And that month has gone by quickly.  I took a vacation in Wisconsin for a week and have been tending to my deck garden.  OK, that's not exactly true.  My oldest son has been tending to my deck garden.  And he has done an excellent job!  My hot lemon peppers are turning yellow, my habanero peppers are turning orange, my Big Boy tomatoes are ripening, and I harvested a bunch of jalapeno peppers and the lone yellow bell pepper that my plant produced.

While on vacation, I made stuffed peppers.  I'm not a stuffed pepper fan.  I don't ever make them at home.  But, I did on vacation.  They turned out quite tasty, too.  Although, I'm not going to start making them all of the time.  Here's what I did.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

4 good sized green (or whatever color you prefer) bell peppers that will stand up
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 8oz. package of  baby bella mushrooms, chopped (can use sliced)
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipolte flavor
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb flavor
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 of a package of vegan crumbles
2 cups of your favorite marinara or other pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Slice tops (approximately 1/2") off of the bell peppers.  Chop up the tops of the bell peppers.  Put olive oil in a large skillet.  Warm and then add chopped bell pepper tops, onion, and mushrooms.  Saute until onions and peppers have softened and the mushrooms have released their water.  Add seasonings and vegan crumbles.  Saute until vegan crumbles are warm and have dried a bit.  Add marinara sauce; stir to blend.  Can top with shredded vegan cheese or Parmesan cheese.

Stuff each bell pepper and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet or cake pan.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
Besides making peppers, I had a serious craving for soup.  I had a package of Yves Veggie Chorizo  that I either needed to use or toss, so of course, I went looking to use.  I stumbled across Vegan Sausage and Kale Soup on Stacy Eats.  I actually had kale in the house as I've been getting it in my CSA boxes.  I didn't take the big stem out, which is one thing I would do if I use it for soup again.  Plus, I'd saute it longer so it was more tender.
The recipe is very simple and has a relatively short list of ingredients.  I used No-Chicken broth versus veggie broth and butter beans instead of Great Northern.  It was quite tasty and I ate it for a few days until the very last of it was gone.  I do confess to adding some fresh picante sauce to it and a couple of good shakes of my favorite taco sauce to kick up the spiciness.  It's a soup I'll make again, but next time, I'll probably use spinach.  I don't usually keep kale in the house.
The absolute BIGGEST pot I've ever owned.  It's HUGE!
Last weekend, I made Bread and Butter Jalapeno Pepper Slices and Patty Pan Squash pickles.  I've not made either of these before, so I'm be anxious to see how they turned out.  I say I'm anxious as the Bread and Butter Jalapeno Pepper Slices have to sit for a month before I can open them.  I'm not sure how long the Patty Pan Squash are supposed to sit, so I'm letting them sit for at least a couple of weeks.
I got the recipe for the Bread and Butter Jalapeno Pepper Slices from Darlene, the ULTIMATE canning person, in my humble opinion. Darlene is AH-MAZE-ZING!  :::smile:::  She can answer virtually any question about canning or dehydrating.  Here is Darlene's recipe for Bread and Butter Jalapenos.  If you like canning and dehydrating or want to start canning or dehydrating food, please join the Yahoo! Group, Food Preservation, Drying, Canning, and More.  Hands down, this is the friendliest group that I belong to.  The people there are completely supportive and helpful.
Bread and Butter Jalapenos
Yield: about 7 Pints
This makes a very tasty and spicy addition to almost any meal. For those that 
are daring substitute the jalapenos for habanera peppers but BEWARE these are 
HOT. Use gloves handling any peppers!!!

4 lbs jalapeno peppers
2 lbs onions
3 cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp mustard seed
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp ginger powder

Wash and cut jalapenos and onions into thin slices and cold pack into jars.

Place remaining ingredients in large saucepot and bring to a boil.

Pour hot mixture into jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. 
Adjust headspace if needed by adding more hot mixture. Wipe rims. Adjust caps.

Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

NOTE: Best after letting sit for 1 month but can be used after 2 weeks.
While I have only made the jalapeno variety, I have a TON of habanero, tabasco, and hot lemon peppers starting to ripen on my deck.  I may try this with a combination of the three peppers.  That same Sunday, I threw some Roma tomatoes in the oven to slow roast at 200º overnight.  The recipe for Slow Oven-Roasted Roma Tomatoes stated they should cook 10 to 12 hours.  I left mine in about 11 hours and they were WAY overcooked.  :::sigh:::  I'll try it again, but I'll do it during the day so I can check on them.  I've also thought about just throwing them into the dehydrator instead of the oven.  That may work as well.
On Wednesday, I decided to make Blueberry Butter.  The recipe states it should take 6 hours or so to cook.  Well, MINE took a whopping 23 hours to cook.  I can't believe it took that long, but my crock pot is 40 years old and cooks at a very low temperature on the Low setting.  I only used about 3 1/4 cups of sugar and I doubled the spices.  I used an immersion blender to smooth out the butter just before I ladled it into half pint jars.
The Blueberry Butter turned out great.  It's thick and smooth and spreads like a dream.  It's a tad on the tart side, so it's not over-the-top sweet.  I'll make it again, only next time, I'll use the High setting on the crock pot to cut the cook time in half.

I discovered I like a vegetable I have hated since I was a kid.  That vegetable is beets.  OK, I can't say I like the red variety, as those are the ones I have hated since childhood, but I can say I have tried gold beets and I like those.  I got some in my CSA box on Thursday.  I scrubbed them, cut them in 1" chunks, and then tossed them with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  I roasted them at 350º for about an hour.  They taste a little like sweet corn to me.  It's an odd flavor and one I don't quite trust, but they are really quite good.  I'll be ordering them again this week.  My CSA also offers red beets, but I'm just not ready to try those yet ... maybe one day.
Soooo ... that brings us to today.  Today, I am making Peach Butter.  I am loosely following a recipe from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and a recipe for preserves posted by Darlene in the Yahoo! Group.  I took the skin off of about 3 1/2 pounds of peaches (submerge them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then in ice water for 2 minutes and the skins slip off).  Then, I chopped the peaches and threw them in my crock pot.  I added 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 cups of sugar, 1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon (or a bit more) of freshly grated nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons of homemade vanilla.  It's cooking on HIGH heat :::chuckle::: and I'm hoping it will be done sometime TODAY!  :)  I'll let you know on that.
Finally, I am roasting some Zuma Grape Tomatoes.  These grape tomatoes are orange in color and very tasty.  They are sweet, a touch sweeter than red, and I love eating them like cherries.  However, there were way too many for me to eat before they spoiled.  So, I decided to roast them at 275º for 2 hours.  I washed them, cut them in half, and tossed them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and a sprinkle of both fine sea salt and pepper.  Once done, I'll throw them into a ziplock baggie and put them in the freezer.  I'm going to use them for pasta dishes, pizza, garlic bread, etc.  Nothing better than having slow roasted tomatoes ready for consumption.
I bought the girls a new bed last weekend.  I'm leaving you with a picture of Kobe thoroughly enjoying the new bed.  All three of my dogs sleep in it on a regular basis.  Nice to see that they all like it so much.  Hope you are having a great summer!

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