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Easiest Dessert Ever!

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

 

I have always been an admirer of Jaques Pepin. The man is a culinary technique master of masters. Today, I happened to catch an episode of his PBS television show “Fast Food, My Way” and watched him prepare the following recipe. It was SO simple, that I had to prepare it immediately! I didn’t catch a name for the dish, but it’s basically a berry crumble. I can’t imagine a dessert being any easier, and still being “homemade”.

Ready to bake...blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Ready to bake…blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

2 small containers of fresh or individually frozen berries, plus/minus (I used frozen blackberries.)

1/3 cup sugar, more or less, depending on sweetness of berries

Your choice of cookies, crumbled. (I used my homemade shortbread) About 1/2 cup plus/minus

4 T. butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. In a pyrex or similar baking dish, around 8″x8″ or 9″x9″, add enough berries to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle cookie crumbles over to evenly cover the berries. Sprinkle sugar over, evenly, Break up the butter into pieces and dot around the top of the crumble. Bake about 30-35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling throughout the dish. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to warm or room temperature.

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Serve with your choice of accompaniment, such as ice cream, whipped cream, crème fraiche, etc. I can see doing these in individual mini dishes for guests. Enjoy!

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Muscadine Grapes: Unexpected Bounty!

Big, juicy muscadine grapes!

Big, juicy muscadine grapes!

 

I got a text message from a niece recently, because she saw that I had made scuppernong jelly, and I had commented that my usual foraging locations were not productive this year, so I had to purchase the grapes at the local farmer’s market. She and her husband had just moved back to my area recently and she discovered that the property has a large grape arbor in the back yard. Would I like to come by and pick some grapes? Absolutely!!!

I have an 18 month old grandson and she has a 13 month old baby, so we arranged a play date and grape picking get together. A couple of days later, she mentioned that they had friends over this past weekend and they had picked a big bag of the grapes, but she thought there were more available. *sigh* Well, I guessed the grapes would be pretty sparse. After a little playtime inside with the babies, we headed outside…hmmm…there’s a cluster of ripe grapes, and a few more, and more…and I realized that there was no shortage of grapes here.

Kids outside by the grape arbor.

Kids outside by the grape arbor.

I filled a 2 gallon pail and there were plenty left! After another week, there will be more ripened and ready to pick. I have weighed what I picked, and I have 11 pounds, 6 ounces!

Nice haul of muscadine grapes!

Nice haul of muscadine grapes!

So, now I have to decide what to do with the grapes…if I need them all for a batch of wine, or if I will have enough to make some jelly, too. I may have to go back next week for a smaller batch to do jelly. I’ll be reviewing my last two wine batch blogs to see what I did with them. Two years ago, I did a muscadine red wine that turned out pretty dry, due to the yeast I chose. https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/day-144-muscadine-wine/  Last year, I did a muscadine/blueberry wine that was a little lighter/softer, but still fairly dry. https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/starting-blueberry-muscadine-wine/  I would like to do one that is a little sweeter, but I still don’t want to do the overly sweet wines that are normally associated with muscadines. Also, for last years wine, I bought a pH test kit and something to adjust it, if necessary…have to track that down and read up on it again. I also rented a wine bottle corker and bought bona fide wine bottles and corks. The first batch was put into beer bottles. I might have to open a bottle of each…for research.  I have also read that sweeter homemade wines don’t preserve as well, so just a little sweetness would be good. More to follow after research and when I get time to work on it.

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Pickled Green Beans, AKA “Dilly Beans”

Dilly Beans (I left out the optional red pepper flakes.)

Dilly Beans (I left out the optional red pepper flakes.)

I didn’t take a bunch of “process” photos, but I made 2 pint jars of pickled green beans, AKA “Dilly Beans”. I think Dilly Beans sounds kind of silly…although, it is quicker to say than pickled green beans. Anyway, I decided to give this recipe a try, because I got some green beans on sale and they looked pretty good. Plus, I have some dill in my garden that needed trimming back. I didn’t measure my beans, but I’m assuming it was a maybe a pound to a pound and a half?

Dilly Beans

Fresh green beans, trimmed both ends. Enough to firmly pack (2) pint jars.

1/8 c. kosher or pickling salt

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled, lightly crushed

2 fresh dill heads/fronds

1 t. mustard seeds

(optional: pinch of red pepper flakes per jar)

1-1/2 c. white vinegar

3/4 c. water

Directions

Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and mustard seeds in a small, non-reactive sauce pan (like stainless steel). Bring to a boil and reserve, keeping hot. Prepare a water bath canner with enough water to cover jars by an inch or two. Prepare two pint jars, lids, and screw rings. Divide the garlic, dill, and red pepper flakes (if using) between the two jars. Trim the green beans to fit the jars vertically, leaving 1/2 to 1/4 inch space from jar’s rim. Pack the jar tightly, so the green beans won’t float.

Ladle the hot brine over the beans, trying to distribute the mustard seeds evenly. Bring the brine up to 1/4″ below the jar’s rim and covering the beans. Use a skewer or a knife to make sure there are no trapped air bubbles and add more brine, if necessary. Using a paper towel or clean cloth, wipe the threads and rim. Place a prepared lid on each jar and install the screw ring to “finger tight”. Add to boiling water bath and process for 10 minutes. Leave jars in the hot water, off heat for another 5 minutes. Remove to a kitchen towel on a counter top and leave for 24 hours. When cool enough to touch, tighten lids. If lids do not “pop” to indicate seal, store in refrigerator. If properly sealed, remove the rings and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use. (I would wait at least 2 weeks and maybe a month before opening.)

I had a little leftover brine and the bean ends that I trimmed to make the beans fit the jars, so I put them in a plastic container and let them sit on the counter for a few minutes, then I popped them in the fridge. I’ll have them as a snack in a few days.

 

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Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

About a week ago, my wife was looking for a box of Crunch ‘n’ Munch Caramel Popcorn that I had bought. I had bought two boxes and she had eaten one over the course of a couple of days. She assumed that the second box was hers, too, since I know she likes it. A reasonable assumption, but one that was proven wrong, because I had a craving the night before. Poor thing was so disappointed!

Never wanting to leave a woman disappointed(*wink, wink*), I decided to pop onto the computer and do a little secret research. Most of the recipes called for corn syrup, which I didn’t have on hand, or exact temperatures and extra steps that I just didn’t want to deal with for a quick recipe to surprise my wife with on short notice. To the rescue came a recipeI found through Pinterest at http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/04/23/peanut-butter-caramel-corn/ . Take a look, if you have a chance, you may find something else you like there as well! I like to give credit, where credit is due, and support those people who have helped me with a great recipe.

This recipe is simple, easy, and can be done in a matter of about 20 minutes with pretty common ingredients and equipment. There’s no need for a thermometer or precision. What you will need is some measuring cups, a small sauce pot for the caramel, a medium sauce pot with a lid for popping the corn (or you can use microwaved or air popped), a large mixing bowl for combing the popcorn and caramel a spoon or wire whip and a rubber spatula.

Here’s the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • 10 cups unflavored popped popcorn (homemade or 1 standard size bag)*
  • 2/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts, optional
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
 *I think I use a little more popcorn and stretch the caramel out a little thinner.
Directions:

Pop the popcorn, remove any unpopped kernels, and set aside.

Popped a good sized bowl of popcorn and leave room for mixing!

Popped a good sized bowl of popcorn and leave room for mixing!

Line a sheet pan with parchment and a little non-stick spray. Put the sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. You can cover it initially to help it come to a boil, but it isn’t required. Once the mixture comes to a boil, let it go for about three minutes.
Boiling sugar and honey...HOT!!! Be careful.

Boiling sugar and honey…HOT!!! Be careful.

 

Carefully remove the mixture from heat and add the salt, peanut butter and, if using, the optional peanuts.* Stir until well-combined.
Peanuts, salt, and peanut butter added and stirred well.

Peanuts, salt, and peanut butter added and stirred well.

Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and, using a rubber spatula, turn the popcorn until the caramel is evenly distributed.
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Pour the popcorn onto the prepared sheet pan and carefully spread the hot mass out evenly to cool completely. (See header photo) When cool, break up the caramel corn into bite-sized clusters and try not to consume it all in one sitting!
*The recipe actually calls for the peanuts to be added after the caramel is poured on the popcorn, I think…but I wanted mine coated with the caramel as well.
So, I dove into the recipe and knocked it out. I have to admit, It wasn’t *quite* completely cool when I broke mine up into clusters and presented it to my wife…so it was just a tiny bit chewy. But that didn’t really matter…my wife was suitably amazed and impressed with my thoughtfulness and effort. Then she tasted the popcorn…amazing! She could not put it down. It was a MAJOR success! Eventually, she made me take it away from her, so she wouldn’t eat it all. Again, being the loving husband, I finished the rest of it. This one really is a winner. I hope you’ll try it and enjoy!
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Chinese Sausage Baked Buns

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I  bought a package of uncooked Chinese style sausage recently at my local supermarket and decided that this would be the way to go with it.

Raw Chinese style sausage

Raw Chinese style sausage

I thought about doing steamed buns, however; I couldn’t locate the steamer baskets for my wok. Baked buns, it is. The recipe I used for the dough was taken from Pinterest. I generally credit things like this, but I completely forgot to make note of the source. But for full disclosure, I did NOT create this dough recipe. If you search Pinterest for Chinese Baked Buns, you may stumble across it. The filling IS my creation. I just boiled the sausage to cook it through before making the filling. So, here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

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Filling:

3 Chinese Sausages, cooked and diced small

1 T. Fermented Black Bean Paste

2 T. Ketchup

2 T. Soy Sauce

1 T. Honey

2 T. Vegetable Oil

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Combine all the ingredients, except the sausage, and make a sauce/marinade.  Add the cooked, diced sausage and stir to evenly coat. Place in refrigerator until ready to assemble buns.

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Dough:

10 TBSP whole milk

4 TBSP butter

2 tsp rapid-rise (instant) dry yeast

2 1/2 TBSP lukewarm water

1 large egg

2 1/2 TBSP sugar

12 1/2 oz All-purpose flour (About 2-3/4 cups)

1 large egg, lightly beaten (To brush buns before baking)

Glaze:

2 TBSP honey mixed with 1 TBSP warm water

For the dough, melt the butter with the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes, or until warm (about 110°F). (I melted butter in the microwave, added milk and microwaved another 15 seconds and then cooled briefly.)

Put the yeast in small bowl, add the water, and set aside for 1 minute to soften. Whisk in the milk mixture and the egg to blend.

Combine the sugar and flour in a food processor. Pulse two or three times to blend. With the machine running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. After a sticky mass of very soft dough forms, about 5 seconds, (I added about 2 extra tablespoons of milk for mine to form the ball) continue processing for 45 to 60 seconds to form a smooth, slightly sticky dough that mostly cleans the bowl.IMG_20160210_121839764 The finished dough should stick a bit to your finger when pressed. Lightly oil a clean bowl and add the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place (for example, the oven with the light on) to rise for about 45 minutes, or until nearly doubled.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper before beginning to assemble the buns.

Remove the dough from the bowl and put on a lightly floured surface. Knead it a few times, then cut it in half. Cover one-half with plastic wrap or an inverted bowl to prevent drying. Roll out the dough into a 12-inch log, and then cut it into 8 or 16 pieces for medium or small buns, respectively. I find the bigger ones easier to handle and fill.IMG_20160210_132400953 (Halve or quarter the log first to make it easier to cut even-size pieces. The tapered end pieces should be cut a little longer than the rest.) Lightly roll each piece between your hands into a ball and then flatten each one into a 1/4-inch-thick disk. Use a wooden dowel-style rolling pin to roll the pieces into circles, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter for small or 3-1/4 inches in diameter for medium buns. The rim should be thinner than the center; keep a 1-inch-wide belly. The finished circle will rise as it sits. Lay the finished circles out on your work surface, lightly dusting their bottoms with flour if you fear they will stick.IMG_20160210_132704653

To form a bun, hold a dough circle in a slightly cupped hand. Use a spoon or fork to center about 2 teaspoons of filling for small buns, or about 4 teaspoons of filling for medium ones, on the dough circle, pressing down very gently and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of the dough clear on all sides; your hand will automatically close slightly.IMG_20160210_133007204 Use the thumb of the hand cradling the bun to push down the filling while the other hand pulls up the dough edge and pleats and pinches the rim together to form a closed satchel. (I don’t know about the crimping meticulously thing, but I got mine sealed and ball shaped.)

Pinch and twist the dough closed at the end. Place the bun pleat side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, spacing them 1-1/2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Set in a warm, draft- free place (for example, the oven with the light on) for 30 minutes to rise. Meanwhile, work on the other dough half to form more buns.IMG_20160210_133242039

To bake the buns, about 10 minutes before the rising time is over, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. (Let the buns finish rising at room temperature if you’ve had them in the oven.)

Bake one baking sheet at a time, brushing the top and side of each bun with the egg right before baking.IMG_20160210_153039114 Bake small buns for about 14 minutes and medium buns for about 18 minutes, or until a rich golden brown; the cooked buns sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove them from the oven, set on a rack, and let cool for 5 minutes.

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Brushed with honey glaze

Brush the honey mixture on the buns for a sweet-glaze finish that will also soften the crust. Enjoy warm and out of hand. Refrigerate left- over buns for up to a week and reheat at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes, until hot. When making the buns in advance, wait to brush on the glaze until after you’ve reheated the buns. These buns may also be frozen for up to a month. Thaw them completely before reheating.

 

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Traditional Scottish Shortbread

32 year holiday tradition!

32 year holiday tradition!

Well, I thought I had documented this recipe somewhere before, but I could not find the entire process anywhere. So, this is it! I was reading food magazines and cookbooks when I was a kid (along with comic books). In 1983, Cuisine Magazine printed an article called “My Father’s Scottish Shortbread”. It was a beautiful remembrance of a woman’s Father and his tradition of making Scottish shortbread, by hand, and how he passed it along to her. I kept that magazine and faithfully re-read the article every year and followed the process religiously for decades. Eventually, I lost the magazine. Then, with age, my hands started having trouble with creaming the sugar into cold butter and then working in the flour. I have, in the last few years, adapted to using my KitchenAid mixer to make the dough.

Creaming sugar into COLD butter.

Creaming sugar into COLD butter.

You just have to make sure the butter doesn’t warm and soften, or it will separate. Once you start the dough, you need to work steadily until it is back in the refrigerator.

Also, the tradition was to make the shortbread only between around November through February or March. This was when the cows were brought in from pasture for the Winter and they switched from eating a variety of plants to eating grain. “Summer milk” is less consistently flavored than “Winter milk”, so goes the butter. However, with today’s milk production practices, that isn’t really true anymore…unless you get your milk from a friend’s cow and make your own butter.

The recipe is deceptively simple. Just four ingredients. But the process is a little more intense. And, unless you are really good or have someone make you a frame, the dough may not have the same dimensions every time. The important part is to get the thickness pretty uniform, about 3/8″, and the length and width in dimensions the one side can be marked off in one inch increments and the other side in two inch increments.

Dough rolled out and scored.

Dough rolled out and scored.

Then you use a straight edge and score the pieces and mark each with the tines of a fork, three times. This is both for decoration and prevents the dough from puffing up during baking. I roll my dough on parchment or wax paper.

Ready for the refrigerator.

Ready for the refrigerator.

Make sure you have a refrigerator shelf clear and transfer the dough to it. I carefully slide my dough onto a cutting board to move it to the fridge.

Using cutting board for dough transfer.

Using cutting board for dough transfer.

The dough needs to chill for at least 30 minutes; otherwise, the cookies will spread when they bake. When ready, you carefully break into pieces and bake.

THE INGREDIENTS 

1 lb real Butter (I use lightly salted)

1 cup Sugar

4 cups unbleached All Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon Salt (1/2 tsp, if using salted butter)

DIRECTIONS

Cream the sugar in the cold butter, until well blended, but still cold. Add the flour until the dough is starting to come together. It will be crumbly. Don’t overwork it. Using you hands, press it all together and compact it into a dough. Overlap a couple of pieces of wax or parchment paper. Roll dough out and form a rectangle about 3/8″ thick and about 10″x 15″. That can vary. See notes above. Mark 1″ x 2″ pieces, score the dough and prick each piece three times with the tines of a fork. Transfer to refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Chillin'.

Chillin’.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Put the dough on ungreased cookie sheets leaving an inch or so between them. Pop in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Immediately turn oven temperature down to 275F. Do not open the door for 30 minutes! What you are looking for is a sand color for the tops and lightly browned on the bottom.

Light brown bottoms.

Light brown bottoms.

Sad colored tops.

Sand colored tops.

You make have some ready before others, depending on size and thickness. It may take 40 to 50 minutes to finish cooking each batch. Reheat oven before the next batch goes in, but don’t forget to adjust it back down as soon as the dough goes in the oven. Remove to wire racks to cool. They smell great, but need to cool to really be good. Enjoy!

 

 

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Finally Made Wrangler Jelly!

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

It’s been about three years ago, that I pinned an interesting sounding recipe on Pinterest to my “MMMFoodies Canning Stuff. https://www.pinterest.com/mattmmille/mmm-foodies-canned-stuff/ Even though the recipe called for canned crushed pineapple, I had a fresh one and I was going to try it. Well, I wound up using that pineapple for something else and that recipe sat there, unused…except that it was one of the two most re-pinned recipes from my collection!  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/516928863450185549/

Well, it’s getting down to freezing temperatures overnight, in my area, and I just picked a few small poblanos and a couple of small, green tomatoes ahead of the freeze. Looking at them, the Wrangler Jelly recipe came to mind. I had the canned pineapple and pectin on hand, so I decided to give it a try. I followed the recipe as linked above with the substitution of the poblanos for the jalapenos and the addition of the little green tomatoes. I chopped all of them fairly fine.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

The recipe says to add all the ingredients, except the pectin, and bring to a boil. Then add the pectin and boil for one minute. In my jelly and jam making experience, I always held back the sugar until the boil was reached,

Bringing the ingredients together.

Bringing the ingredients together. (Including seeds from ONE of the peppers.)

…added the sugar, returned to the boil, added the pectin and brought back to the boil for one minute. I don’t know if it makes a big difference, but that’s what I did.

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure... glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure… glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Bringing back to a boil with the sugar added.

Bringing to a boil just before the sugar is added.

After canning, I actually got 4 half pint jars and two 4oz jars. I always prepare more jars/lids/rings than what is called for in the recipe, for just such a situation. (The recipe said it would make the 4 half pints.) I tasted a tiny bit that was left in the pot, and the cayenne pepper plus the poblanos made it plenty spicy! I think the green tomato will add a small citrusy component and a touch of added texture…and probably accounts for some of the excess volume.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

My plans for this batch include a cream cheese and Wrangler Jelly appetizer with crackers at Thanksgiving, maybe some glazed pork chops, and possibly a Wrangler Baked Brie. This may not be the best jelly for your morning toast, but I don’t think I will have any problem finding uses for this versatile little jelly! And I may gift a jar or two. I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to make it…it was so easy! If you decide to save this recipe, don’t put it off…make it! And enjoy!

Update: I may have to try this again and add the sugar at the same time as the other ingredients…or something. The jelly didn’t really set and I have more like a candied relish product; sort of like that pineapple topping used on ice cream sundaes. It will still work for some of my intended recipes, but I would still like to figure it out!

Hmmm...still tasty, but didn't gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

Hmmm…still tasty, but didn’t gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

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