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Cherry Fruit Leather from Fresh Cherries

Sugar, water, cherries

Sugar, water, cherries (There’s a few Mt. Raniers in there.)

With cherries in season and some deals here and there, I had some on hand. Unfortunately, nobody was eating them and they were just passing their prime. Having recently discovered that my almost 15 month old grandson was very enthusiastic with the discovery of “Fruit by the Foot” snacks, I decided to pull out the dehydrator and give it a shot. By coincidence, I happened to find a deal on some Presto brand liners for making fruit leather and had bought a couple. That probably spurred me on a bit as well. My dehydrator is a Nesco brand, however, and it has a bigger center hole than the Presto model, so the dehydrator motor would not fit through the Presto accessory’s center hole.

Presto liner on a Nesco dehydrator. Presto has a smaller hole...oops.

Presto liner on a Nesco dehydrator. Presto has a smaller hole…oops.

Having already poured the fruit puree, my best bet was to put the trays at the bottom with the empty ones on top. Those, plus the lid, got me close…still sticking up a little, but enough for the dehydrator to work.

Put fruit leather trays on bottom. Note small gap between lid and motor.

Put fruit leather trays on bottom. Note small gap between lid and motor.

As for the fruit leather, I looked around on Pinterest and found a recipe that looked like what I was searching for. The recipe, at http://www.bakedbyrachel.com/cherry-fruit-leather/  (credit where due!), specifies using an oven at 170F and sheet pans with silicone liners, but I figured that substituting a dehydrator would be no problem. I will admit  that I didn’t really measure my cherries…but I think I was in the neighborhood of four cups. In the end, I perfectly lined the 2 inserts, with none left over.

One tip: double check your cherries for pits. I thought I was careful, but a couple made it into the blender and I had  to run the puree through a sieve. I left behind a little fiber and peel, I guess, but I think I would add that step anyway, for a smoother puree. So, here’s the recipe:

 

Cherry Fruit Leather

4 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup granulated sugar

 

Directions

Add the water and the fruit to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Use a potato masher to mash the cherries as they cook. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until well broken down. (I must admit that I added the sugar also and it seems to have turned out okay, though it was supposed to be added later.)

Mashed cherries simmering.

Mashed cherries simmering.

Transfer the cooked fruit to a blender, in batches, and blend until smooth. I did mine in 2 batches. Be careful with hot stuff in blenders! I left the center hole open and covered with a towel, to avoid building pressure and causing a hot fruit puree explosion.

Pureed and strained.

Pureed and strained.

Return the puree to the saucepan…after passing through a sieve, if necessary or desired. Add the sugar…if you didn’t do it when I did, by mistake. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened some. Remove from heat and stir bubbles down a bit.

Simmered on reduced heat for 10 minutes.

Simmered on reduced heat for 10 minutes.

Lightly spray your dehydrator disks with a nonstick spray or lightly brush with oil and place on dehydrator trays. Ladle the puree onto disks and carefully give a jiggle to even out puree.

Ladled onto nonstick sprayed liner.

Ladled onto nonstick sprayed liner.

Add the cover and the motor and dehydrate until a little tacky to touch, but not dried out completely. (Although…it needed to be a little drier than I thought.) Should be between 4 to 7 hours, depending on your dehydrator, humidity, etc. (Mine actually took more like nine hours.) Allow to cool. Peel from dehydrator inserts and store, rolled in wax paper or parchment and stored in an airtight container, up to one month. (Cut in smaller strips, if desired.) Enjoy!

Ready to eat cherry fruit leather. Rolled in parchment paper.

Ready to eat cherry fruit leather. Rolled in parchment paper.

I did need to go to the longer period of time for the dehydrator…actually, well beyond. One tray was a little thicker than the other and, when I touched it, it kind of schmudged it some. Yeah…made up that word. And I turned it off after about 5 hours, thinking it was done. I decided it wasn’t done, later, after it had cooled. I popped the trays back in the dehydrator and let them go another 3 or 4 hours. The thicker one then went another hour. But they turned out fine, in the end, and taste good. Live and learn. Next time, the process will be smoother.

 

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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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Soup for One from Home Canned Pumpkin

Home canned pumpkin

Home canned pumpkin

I have several pint jars of pumpkin sitting in my pantry that I canned after Halloween this year. I decided to pop open a jar and make some soup!

First, I drained the liquid from the pumpkin and transferred it to a small saucepan.

Drained pumpkin in a sauce pan.

Drained pumpkin in a sauce pan.

(If you substitute store-bought canned pumpkin, you might need to ADD a little water, as it is “solid pack”, meaning that it has had a bunch of water removed.) Then I added about 1/3 cup of buttermilk and a pinch each of powdered ginger, garlic powder, salt, fresh black pepper, and ground coriander.

Spices and buttermilk added.

Spices and buttermilk added.

I combined those ingredients until smooth, using a hand blender, while I brought the soup up to temperature over medium-high heat. I decided to add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of half’n’half and blend that in as well.

Blended, with half'n'half added.

Blended, with half’n’half added.

To have a little more fun, I added croutons to the glass canning jar that the pumpkin had been in, and topped them with about a 1/4 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese.

Croutons and Gruyere cheese.

Croutons and Gruyere cheese.

I poured the soup over the cheese and croutons and stirred. It was stringy with hot cheese and tasted like a soup and grilled cheese sandwich, all blended together!

Soup!

Soup!

Obviously, you could just eat the soup, without the croutons and cheese. You could vary the flavor by changing the flavor of croutons and/or the type of cheese. Also, you could vary the spices added to the soup. Cumin, instead of coriander; mustard powder, rather than garlic; add some chicken stock for a non-vegetarian option. It’s a versatile little soup that you can spice to suit your tastes, plus it’s quick and easy! Enjoy!

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Ratatouille…Sort Of

It doesn't HAVE to be a vegetarian meal...but it could have been.

It doesn’t HAVE to be a vegetarian meal…but it could have been.

Time to put together a Crock Pot vegetarian meal with some items I have laying around. I particularly want to use an eggplant that is still good, but might not last much longer. I went with a ratatouille…sort of. There’s eggplant, of course, and onions; but, instead of the other Summer vegetables, I went with Yukon Gold potatoes and acorn squash. I guess that pushes it from a Summer to an early Fall version of ratatouille. Vegetarian comfort food…enjoy! (But it doesn’t HAVE to be vegetarian! My plate wasn’t!)

Ingredients:

3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, large dice

1 large eggplant, peeled, large dice

1 large acorn squash, peeled, large dice

1 medium to large sweet onion, peeled, large dice

1 can petite diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

a pinch of crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

Directions:

Set up Crock Pot and preheat on “low”.*  Prep vegetables. I put eggplant in a colander and toss with the Kosher salt. As I prep the other vegetables, I just toss them on top of the eggplant.

The veggies.

The veggies.

By the time I’m done, the salt has had time to draw a little moisture and bitterness out of the eggplant. I then toss all the vegetables together and rinse under cold water to remove the excess salt. Enough salt will hang on so that no additional salt will be needed, unless it needs adjusting before serving.

Add all the vegetables to the Crock Pot, add the tomatoes, and sprinkle the herbs and spices over the top.

Ready to cook.

Ready to cook.

Make a couple of holes and bury the bay leaves. Drizzle in vinegar and honey. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring every couple of hours.

After about 4 to 5 hours on "low" setting.

After about 4 to 5 hours on “low” setting.

Ready to serve,

Ready to serve,

Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve with rice or pasta, if desired.

*(After about 4 hours, maybe a little more, I decided to turn the Crock Pot heat setting to “High”. In retrospect, I probably should have started on high and lowered after an hour or two. On this particular occasion, it was 4:00 p.m. and I wanted to have the stew ready for dinner.)

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Yellow Squash Banana Bread

Mmm...warm Yellow Squash Banana Bread!

Mmm…warm Yellow Squash Banana Bread!

I’m making a version of this recipe that I found at :http://www.cooks.com/recipe/5s7g16m9/squash-banana-nut-bread.html   I always like to give credit to my sources and recommend them.

The recipe is as follows:

>>>SQUASH BANANA NUT BREAD

from COOKS.COM

1/2 c. butter, softened

1 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 med. bananas, mashed

1 c. grated raw squash

2 c. all­purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. chopped nuts

In a large mixing bowl cream butter with sugars. Blend in eggs and vanilla, then bananas and grated squash. In separate bowl sift together dry ingredients and beat into first mixture. Stir in nuts. Pour into greased, floured 9×5 inch loaf pan. 350 degrees 55­60 minutes.<<<

So, I made a couple of minor changes. None of us are big fans of nuts in brownies and breads, so I left them out. The recipe sounded a little bland without any spices, so I added a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice. In addition to those minor ingredient changes, I also baked mine in 5 mini loaf pans, instead of the single large loaf. I baked them at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes, testing with a skewer for doneness. (Mine did take the extra five minutes.)

Filled the mini loaf pans about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Filled the mini loaf pans about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

The results were delicious! They were not overpowered by the spice, but it was a good tweak. The banana flavor comes through nicely. The kids love them…and THEN I told them that there was yellow squash in them. My son was shocked, but could not deny how good they tasted! (I had one that stuck to the pan a little and got a little messed up, so it was sacrificed to sampling.) This recipe WILL be used again! Enjoy!

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Yellow Squash Casserole with Swiss Cheese and Cream of Mushroom Soup

IMG_20150714_180756193

So, I’ve had this really easy recipe for a chicken dish that I got out of Southern Living Magazine decades ago. It’s boneless chicken, swiss cheese, cream of mushroom soup, white wine, bread crumbs and melted butter…baked for 45 minutes at 350F. Now that I have to cook for a vegetarian, I need to try some new things. I was looking for something to do with yellow squash from my garden and I decided to make this recipe.

Yellow Squash Casserole with Swiss Cheese & Cream of Mushroom Soup

Most of the ingredients for the casserole.

Most of the ingredients for the casserole.

5 c. Yellow Squash. cut into approx. 1″ cubes

1 medium Sweet Onion, thinly sliced

1 can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

About 2 cups of Shredded Swiss Cheese

2 cups Plain Panko Bread Crumbs

1/4-1/3 c. Dry White Wine

Salt & Pepper, to taste

5 T. Butter, divided

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small saute pan, melt 2 T. butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened, but not browned. Spread the onions evenly over the bottom of a large casserole dish.

Sauteing onions

Sauteing onions

Cover with yellow squash and season with salt and pepper.

Onions, squash, salt and pepper.

Onions, squash, salt and pepper.

Evenly distribute the shredded swiss cheese over the squash.

Swiss cheese.

Swiss cheese.

In a bowl, mix the cream of mushroom soup and the wine. Ladle the soup mixture over the casserole, to cover.

Mushroom soup layer.

Mushroom soup layer.

Next, cover the casserole with the panko bread crumbs. Melt the remaining 3 T. butter and drizzle over the bread crumbs.

Panko and butter drizzle.

Panko and butter drizzle.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 to 40minutes, until bubbling throughout. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Serve hot, over rice.

Served over rice...yum!

Served over rice…yum!

Vegetarian approved…and I liked it too! Enjoy!

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Sauerkraut, Batch #2

Ready to fill jars with kraut.

Ready to fill jars with kraut.

Sauerkraut, batch #2 is ready to eat! First, I’m providing a link to my original sauerkraut post, in case you are interested in the recipe/process:

https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/oh-come-on-make-and-eat-sauerkraut/

The end of the post in this link also includes the beginning of the current batch of sauerkraut. There’s also a link for the end of the first batch and how I prepared a dish utilizing it:

https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/sauerkraut-is-ready-lets-cook-some-brats/

As I noted in the previous post, when I began the current batch, this batch was sliced thinner. It looks really good and is just a few days short of processing for 2 months. I try to make sure that I have enough jars ready ahead of time. I washed and sanitized four 1 qt jars and only needed 3. I also sanitized clean tongs, funnel, lids and rings.

IMG_20150506_110402223

I packed the jars a little less than full and topped off with remaining juices. Lids were put in place and screwed down finger-tight. Jars went into the back of the refrigerator and will last almost indefinitely. Ready for some keilbasa!!!

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