Thursday, August 28, 2008

Garden Update

I've been lacking in my veggie gardening duties for the last few weeks. I don't think I've pulled weeds in the veggie garden in three and a half weeks now. I know, I'm terrible. I've read that the biggest blunder of the first-time veggie gardener is letting the garden get overrun with weeds... well I'm afraid I fall into that category this month. But surprisingly, it doesn't really seem to be affecting my veggie yields, at least not too much.

My green beans were attacked by some unknown predator, eating away at the leaves and then the bean pods before they were ready to be picked. I had given up on them, but I noticed last night as I was out there pulling off the eaten/dried up pods that the plants are producing lots of new little bitty beans again. So I'm going to try to keep a closer eye on them to see if I can figure it out and hopefully I can get a few more beans out of my plants.

My tomatoes are coming in full-force right now. Unfortunately, I've had absolutely no time this week or last to do anything with them, so I've been sticking them in the freezer. I'm hoping to make a batch of pizza sauce (and maybe a batch of pasta sauce if I continue getting so many each day) next weekend.

I was going to pull my zucchini plants since I thought they were done, but I noticed last night that there are four new baby zucchinis on two of the plants, so I guess I'll be leaving them now. I'm excited and surprised to see more zucchini.

My butternut squash plants are running everywhere, but unfortunately don't have many squash on them. I thought I'd have squash coming out of my ears with all of the female flowers I saw a couple of months ago. But I think I only have five squash out there. I'm going to look for some at the MSU organic farmer's market in a few weeks since I had plans to make up a lot of squash puree for food for Carson.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the garden this year. And I can't wait to have a bigger one next year. I think I've decided that next year, I'll put the garden out in the field where it'll receive sunlight all day and evening. And I can make it huge. And big enough so that I can get the small rototiller between the rows so I don't have to do so much weeding. :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Recap and Menu Plan

Well, my meal plans last week never happened. The only meal we had that I'd planned on were the burgers from the freezer. My mom made lasagna on Wednesday and sent plenty home for us for dinner when I picked up Carson (she'd been watching him that day). Thursday we had the burgers, Friday we ended up ordering pizza because I was so exhausted from preparing for Carson's baptismal party on Sunday. And Saturday we had roasted chicken and baked potatoes.

I don't really have meal plans this week. Kevin is leaving for Lafayette, Indiana in the morning and won't be back until Friday. I'll probably just eat some Italian Wedding Soup or some Pasta e Fagioli soup I made a few months ago and have frozen in the freezer and/or leftovers from yesterday on the nights that he's gone. Tonight I'd like to make the pesto pasta since I really need to use up my basil in the garden still (I meant to cut some and send some home with Mary yesterday, but totally forgot about it - d'oh!). But we'll probably just eat some leftovers from yesterday since we have a ton of them. Plus, it'll be a busy evening. Carson and I have to take Kevin up to the Flint airport so he can pick up his rental car for his trip, plus make sure Kevin gets packed and has everything he needs for the trip. It's also Carson's bath night tonight, but I guess it won't be such a big deal if we don't fit it in tonight and we end up doing it tomorrow.

Kevin returns on Friday. Then Saturday morning I'll be going with Jaime and the rest of the bridesmaids for manicures and pedicures followed by lunch afterwards. Then home for a few hours, then we have to drop Carson off at my parents and head to Grand Blanc for the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Sunday morning I have to head over to Jaime's mom's house between 8am and 9am, or just after I get Carson down for his morning nap. And I don't think I'll be home again until about 1:00am when we get home from the wedding. Its going to be very tough for me to be away from Carson so much over the weekend. :( Then Monday the three of us will go to Jaime's mom's house for a brunch and to watch Jaime and Jeff open their wedding gifts. Then we'll be preparing for Kevin to leave on another trip to Tennessee for the week, so next week will be another busy week. The week after that, I'll be in Texas for a conference, and then the following week it looks like Kevin will be gone again, this time to Mexico. In short, its going to be a very rough month on all of us.

In terms of food preservation, I'm not planning anything this week. Just too much going on with Kevin being gone and preparing for Jaime's wedding (still have to write me speech - eek!). Next week, I'd like to get some peaches and put them up. I'd also like to do another batch of strawberry jam since I've given away two jars (one to my parents and one to my grandparents). My tomatoes are coming in hard core right now, with the warm nights we had this weekend. So I'll need to do something with them - pizza sauce and pasta sauce hopefully. For now, I'm utilizing a tip I got on one of the yahoo canning boards I visit, and have been putting them in the freezer until I have time to use them. Otherwise, they'll all go bad because there's no way I can do anything with them this week. I also need to go out and inspect our pears in the orchard, too. I think they may have scab, so I need to find out if they're still safe to eat/can if we remove the skins (which is what scab affects).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Zucchini Casserole

Tonight I tried another new recipe from RecipeZaar for a zucchini casserole. Its a great way to use up those veggies from the garden. I thought it was really good, Kevin thought it was okay. He ate it and ate two helpings if that says anything, but I don't think he'd request it again. I'll probably make it again anyway, though. It reminded me of a quiche, or maybe similar consistency to a breakfast casserole. I added some extra veggies and next time I think I'll add even more if I have them on hand. Some salsa would probably be really good in this, or even on top of this, too.

Zucchini Casserole

1 cup Bisquick (I don't buy Bisquick, so I substituted 1 cup flour + 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1 Tablespoon shortening)
1/2 cup chopped onion (from our garden!)
1/2 cup grated cheese (I just used a colby-jack medley I had in the fridge and I added about a cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/4 cup canola oil + just less than 1/4 cup water)
4 eggs (I used farm-fresh, hormone-free brown eggs)
3 cups thinly sliced zucchini (I used a combo of green and yellow zucchini)
(I also added some green bell pepper (from our garden) and some mushrooms I had frozen in the freezer. Carrots, broccoli and celery would probably be really good in this, too, if I'd had them on hand.)

Mix all ingredients and pour into greased 9X13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (I then turned the broiler on low for about three minutes to brown the top a little.)

Market Recap, Weekend Preservation & Meal Plans

Kevin and Carson joined me at the Swartz Creek farmer's market again after church this afternoon. We didn't get much, just another dozen ears of sweet corn and three more yellow zucchini. I was really disappointed the organic garlic lady wasn't there again, so yet another week I have to put off getting the good garlic to dry. I'm hoping to prep the sweet corn tonight, I'm going to make Kevin some canned creamed corn in the pressure canner. I don't think I'll have time to can it tonight, but we'll see how the evening goes still, I guess. Probably not till Tuesday.

I've had a rather productive weekend in the kitchen, with canning the strawberry jam and salsa yesterday. I also dried some more herbs from my garden and have another batch of cherry tomatoes drying in the dehydrator right now. Those should probably give me another half-pint of dried tomatoes. Still no garlic, so still just plain, dried tomatoes in a jar right now. I also got another couple bags of grated zucchini in the freezer and also some sliced zucchini in the freezer, all from our garden. I think the plants are about done for, though. We'll see, maybe a couple more.

I didn't get any peaches this week, like I'd originally planned. They'll be around for a few weeks still, since the Red Havens are just now coming into season. So I'll get some after Jaime's wedding (Labor Day weekend) and can some then. I also didn't get to the blueberry pie filling like I'd hoped to yesterday. The salsa took me a lot longer than I'd planned, so the berries are still sitting in the freezer.

As far as meal plans go this week, this is what I'm thinking at the moment... of course we'll see what the week brings and things can always change.
Sunday ~ zucchini casserole (new recipe)
Monday ~ Late night for me, going with Jaime to her final dress fitting, so we'll probably eat out and Kevin will be on his own to make something from the freezer.
Tuesday ~ pesto pasta
Wednesday ~ no-noodle lasagna in the crockpot
Thursday ~ probably just burgers that I have pre-made and frozen
Friday ~ pasta primavera
Saturday ~ who knows at this point, it'll be a busy day getting things ready for the party Sunday
Sunday ~ We're having a BBQ at our house with our family and a couple friends to honor Carson's baptism that morning

I won't do any canning this week other than the creamed corn, it'll just be too busy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Strawberry Jam

I went to the new farmer's market here in Mundy Township (the township in which we live) this morning. It was the first week, as the resolution was just adopted in the last month or so. I'm excited to have another market so close, this one is only about a mile and a half away from our house. It was quite small, only about six vendors I think, but I'm sure it will grow as time goes on and the word gets out. I picked up some local strawberries, believe it or not, from a farmer that lives down the road from us. They put in a new hydroponic system this year and are able to grow strawberries even now! I couldn't believe it. And they are quite tasty, very sweet, too. So I picked up 4 quarts to can a batch of strawberry jam this morning. I tasted it as I was filling the jars and it is quite good. I'm excited to have this on hand. I got 7 half-pints out of this.

Strawberry Jam with No Added Pectin
(Page 23 of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

8 cups crushed, hulled strawberries (this was about 4 quarts of berries for me)
6 cups granulated sugar

Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine the berries and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Boil, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and test gel. If gel stage has been reached, skim off foam. (You can test the gel stage with a spoon, but the easiest way is to just boil the berries to reach 220 degrees, which ensures a gel stage once it cools - and it worked, too)

Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace. Wipe rim, center lid, screw band on to fingertip tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

Makes about 8 half-pints.


This afternoon I made up a half-batch of salsa to can. I got the recipe from my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I've made fresh salsa before and never thought it was that big of a deal. But I'd never had to peel, chop, and de-seed tomatoes before either. What a pain in the tush - at least I thought it was. Very time consuming, even after boiling them for 30 seconds or so to make the skins just slide off - the chopping and removing the seeds was the time-consuming part. I'm not sure I really want to try out another salsa recipe, which had been my plan going into this, hence only doing half a recipe. We'll see, I guess.

We haven't tasted this salsa yet, but it sure looks good and smells good! I got 2 pints and 4 half-pints out of half the recipe.

Zesty Salsa
(Page 207 of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

10 cups chopped, cored, peeled tomatoes
5 cups chopped, seeded green bell peppers
5 cups chopped onions
2 1/2 cups chopped, seeded chili pepper, such as hot banana, Hungarian wax, serrano, or jalapeno (I used jalapeno)
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 Tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, optional (I left this out)

Prepare the canner, jars, and lids.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, green peppers, onions, chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, salt, and hot pepper sauce, if using. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace, wipe rim, center lid, screw band down to fingertip tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process both half-pints and pints for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars, cool, and store.

Makes about 12 half-pints, or 6 pints

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Banana Peppers

I canned a batch of pickled banana peppers last night. I got the recipe out of my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. They were really easy to do. The most time-intensive part was slicing and de-seeding the peppers, which I prepped on Monday night after Carson went to bed. The canning last night was super easy. I'm anxious to see how they taste, but they need to sit for a few weeks or so before they'll be ready.

I only did half a batch and did mine in half-pints since that just seems more efficient to me than the pint jars since we don't use these that often (but hope to more now when we make homemade pizzas more regularly). I got 6 half-pints out of the half-batch. I did half a batch because I only got half the peppers I needed at the farmer's market on Sunday - and I had bought them out. I also did all banana peppers - a mixture of sweet and some medium - instead of the jalapenos and serranos. I've learned that in canning, a pepper is a pepper is a pepper, so you can interchange the different varieties to your liking. That was good to know since we really only love the banana peppers. Another thing to point out if you make these, make sure you have your windows open and a fan running in the kitchen to circulate the air out of the windows. I didn't do this and we suffered with a reaking house for the rest of the night... that vinegar is strong!

I took pictures, but haven't uploaded them yet. I'll update the post once I do, probably not till Thursday night or Friday morning, though.

Pickled Hot Peppers
page 318 in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

6 cups sliced hot banana peppers (I used a combo of sweet and medium)
4 cups sliced jalapeno peppers
1 cup sliced serrano peppers
6 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, crushed

Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the peppers and mix well. Set aside.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water and garlic. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes, until garlic has infused the liquid. Discard garlic.

Pack peppers into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover peppers, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace as needed. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

Makes about 5 pints.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Some Tightwad Recipes

I came across some potentially useful recipes in the Tightwad Gazette and thought I'd share. I haven't tried them yet, but probably will eventually. Let me know if you end up trying any of them and how they turn out.

Tightwad Hot Cocoa Mix
Mix 1/3 cup of dry milk with 1 teaspoon cocoa and 1 teaspoon sugar. Add 1 cup of hot water, or mix with cold water and heat in microwave.

Worcestershire Sauce
Put in a large pot:
1 onion, chopped (or 3 teaspoons onion powder)
3 teaspoons ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

2 cups vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup soy sauce
6 Tablespoons lemon juice

Mix together and add to pot:
3 Tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup water

Bring to a boil and simmer 1/2 hour. While spices are boiling, caramelize 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy skillet and stirring over high heat. Move sugar back and forth as it starts to melt and brown. Lower heat. Move sugar continuously and keep chopping at it, breaking the lumps until it is almost black and soupy, but not burned. Add carmelized sugar to other pot. Cook another 1/2 hour. Store in refrigerator. Flavor will improve with age.

Homemade Crackers
These are supposed to taste similar to Wheat Thins.

3 cups uncooked oatmeal
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup wheat germ
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup oil
1 cup water

Mix ingredients and roll out onto two cookie sheets (use a plastic tumbler for this). Sprinkle with salt and lightly roll again to press the salt in. Cut into squares or diamonds (a pizza cutter works well). Bake at 350 degrees. After 20 minutes, begin checking. The outer ones are usually ready first. Remove crackers as they turn golden brown and hard.

Whipped Topping
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 teaspoons cold water
3 Tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup ice water
1/2 cup dry milk powder
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons oil

Chill a small bowl. Soften gelatin in the cold water, then add the boiling water, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Cool until tepid. Place the ice water and milk powder in the chilled bowl. Beat at high speed until it forms peaks. While still beating, add the sugar, then the oil and the gelatin. Place in the freezer for about 15 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator. Stir before using. Makes 2 cups for about 27 cents.

Remedy to Vanquish Fruit Tree Bugs
2 liter plastic bottle
1 banana peel
1 cup sugar
1 cup strong vinegar

Slice banana peel into strips and insert them into the plastic bottle. In a separate container, combine sugar and vinegar. Pour this mixture into the bottle, then fill it to within 2 inches of the neck with water. Tie the string around the neck of the bottle. Then tie the other end around the lower branches of the tree. Fruit and black flies, yellowjackets, and other insects find the fermenting banana, sugar and vinegar more appealing than the fruit on the tree. Once they fly in, they get caught in the sticky mixture and drown. This reportedly works so well that it can make spraying fruit trees unnecessary.

Seasoned Salt
8 Tablespoons salt
3 Tablespoons pepper
2 Tablespoons paprika
1/2 Tablespoon onion powder
1/2 Tablespoon garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Store in an airtight container.

Taco Seasoning Mix
6 teaspoons chili powder
4 1/2 teaspoons cumin
5 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons onion powder
2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight container. The homemade mix is twice as strong as the store-bought one, so add only half as much.

Market Recap and Weekend Preservation

Kevin and Carson joined me on my weekly outing to the Swartz Creek Farmer's Market yesterday. Unfortunately, due to the weather there weren't many vendors, so Kevin wasn't impressed. I was disappointed that the organic garlic lady wasn't there. I was planning to buy a bunch of her garlic since it was so fantastic when I tried it last week. I had plans to dry some to make my own garlic powder, as well as do some more serious cooking with it. I only have three cloves left from the three bulbs I bought last week, it was just so good. I did get some peppers - banana peppers mostly and a few more jalapenos to supplement my plant from our garden. I'm going to make pickled hot peppers either tonight or tomorrow night. Probably prep tonight and then cook and can tomorrow. Kevin also wanted some sweet corn, so we picked up a farmer's dozen of sweet corn, too. We'll see how it tastes. It was a little cheaper than the trusty favorite Eichelberg's, so if its good, then I'll probably get more of that next week to can some creamed corn for Kevin (he loves it, I think its disgusting). My roma tomatoes are starting to come in, so depending on how many we get this week, I'll possibly be canning a batch of salsa.

So if all goes as planned this week, I'm hoping to can the following:
- hot pickled peppers
- blueberry pie filling
- peach butter
- peaches in syrup
- salsa (if enough tomatoes come in)
- creamed corn (not until next Sunday though)

I didn't get much preserving accomplished this weekend, we just had too much going on. I dried some more cherry tomatoes. I'll have to wait till next week to get them in the olive oil, though, since the garlic lady wasn't there yesterday. But they'll keep just fine being dried already. I also dried another tray each of oregano, sage and thyme. I'll probably put a few trays of parsley in the dehydrator tonight. I did make up two batches of basil-pine nut pesto to freeze and I'm hoping to do another batch or two sometime this week. I grated some zucchini to freeze in 2-cup portions for zucchini bread this winter. I also got the remainder of my 10-pound box of blueberries frozen, though I'll be using up some of them this week to do the blueberry pie filling.

Lets hope I can get everything accomplished that I'm hoping to this week. I'm planning to go check out the farmer's market in Durand on Wendesday evening on my way home from work. I'm hoping to find peaches there so I can do the peach butter and peaches in syrup. Otherwise, I'll go check out the Fenton farmer's market on Thursday evening. Its going to be a busy week!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Zucchini Bread

This recipe comes from an old neighbor of my parents' - Winnie. My family has used this recipe for probably 15 years now. It is a very good zucchini bread recipe, though I'm sure there are probably healthier versions out there, too. You can also probably substitute half of the oil (or maybe all of it) for applesauce and still get a very tasty bread. I don't make this very often, but it always goes over well when I do (or when someone else does).

Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
2 cups sugar
2 cups peeled, grated zucchini
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional (I leave these out)

Beat eggs until foamy. Add oil and sugar, beat well. Stir in zucchini. Add vanilla, dry ingredients and nuts. Bake in two loaf pans at 325 degrees for one hour, or until done.

You may increase the amount of cinnamon and vanilla if desired.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Blueberry Pie

So I tried my hand at making a pie for the first time today. I can't believe I've never made a pie on my own yet. Actually I guess I can't say that I have still, though. Since I started looking for my rolling pins (I have 2) last night and kept looking today and cannot find them anywhere. Its driving me crazy! So I decided I probably shouldn't make the crust from scratch since I didn't have a way of rolling it out. My Mom was stopping over on her lunch hour, so she picked up a refrigerated pie crust for me. So I made the pie, but not the crust. I've got to do some more searching for those rolling pins tonight again - I want to make another one to take to my Aunt Jeri's house on Sunday for a family party.

Anyway, back to the pie. I got this recipe from my sister-in-law, Mary, which I believe is a family recipe of the Hollebooms. Kevin's favorite is blueberry pie and he's been asking me to make one since I started buying blueberries at the farmer's markets. I picked up a 10-pound box of local blueberries at a farmer's market I visited for the first time on Wednesday on the east side of Lansing. So I figured I'd better get at least one pie out of those berries!

The pie was very tasty, just sweet enough, yet still some tartness from some of the berries. Although both of the pies I made over the weekend turned out very runny for some reason. I even added an extra tablespoon of cornstarch to the second pie and it was still just as runny. So not sure what was going on there... any ideas?

Blueberry Pie


2 cups flour
1 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup water with 1 teaspoon vinegar

Sift flour and salt. Cut in shortening in parts: 1st half to look like corn meal; 2nd half till looks like small peas. Add water/vinegar and mix well. Makes enough for top and bottom crust.

Pie Filling:

4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup sugar
2-3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Combine blueberries with remaining ingredients. Fill large (9 or 10") pastry lined pie pan. Put on top crust. Put slits in crust. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tightwadding & Cooking

I've been reading the Tightwad Gazette lately. I checked it out from the library a couple of weeks after Kevin lost his job in hopes of finding some new ideas for saving some extra money. There are lots of tips in that book, some a little too far-reaching for me, but many of them make sense and many of them I was already doing.

Anyway, I've found a few cooking-related ways of saving a few extra pennies here and there that could be useful and I plan to try them out. So I thought I'd share them here on the blog for others. I'm only about a third of the way through the book, so if I come across more tips, I'll post them as well.

- Sub 1 Tablespoon soy flour plus 1 Tablespoon water for 1 egg (the author tested this in baked goods and in meatloaf and did not come across any differences)

- Use powdered milk

- Add 1 Tablespoon wheat germ to white flour for wheat flour

- Save half the sugar usage in baking by using baking soda to neutralize the acid in fruit pies, cobblers, crisps, fruit cakes, and fruit salads. Use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon baking soda and half the amount of sugar needed in the recipe. (This was tested by the author and some things actually tasted sweeter when using this tip)

- Save butter wrappers. Keep them in the fridge and use them when you need to grease a pan, then throw it out.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blueberry Syrup

After weeks of wanting to make some blueberry syrup, I finally did this afternoon. I found a recipe in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving book. It was my first time ever to do any canning, so it was quite the experience for me. I think it took me a bit longer than it would take others familiar with canning, but its all good. The syrup turned out really well, I think. All of my lids have popped, so they seem to be sealing well. I'll find out tomorrow for sure after the 24 hours I guess. I did taste the syrup as I was filling the jars and it tasted very good. I can't wait to have this on pancakes or waffles in the coming months.

Blueberry Syrup

8 cups blueberries, crushed
6 cups water, divided
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
3 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine the crushed blueberries, 2 cups of the water and lemon zest. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and boil gently for 5 minutes. Transfer to a dampened jelly bag or strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth set over a deep bowl. Let drip, undisturbed, for at least 2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars, and lids.

In a clean large stainless steel saucepan, combine sugar and remaining 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook until temperature reaches 230 degrees. Add blueberry juice. Increase heat to high, bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Ladle hot syrup into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw bands down until resistance is met, then increase to finger tip tight. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

According to the recipe, this should make 3 pints, but I ended up getting 4 pints out of it, just perfectly.

Farmer's Market, Dried Cherries and Raisins

I went to the local farmer's market again this morning. I love to see all the new produce each week. Each week there is even more tasty looking produce as it comes into season. This week, I picked up another three quarts of local blueberries, some awesome local organic purple garlic, some local organic pickling cucumbers, some yellow zucchini, and some local organic baked garlic and herb pretzels. I'm going to try out making some bread and butter pickles for Kevin since he loves them so much. I made blueberry syrup (post to come) with the blueberries. The pretzels are for snacking - and let me tell you they are soooo good! The garlic is absolutely wonderful, so fresh and a great flavor. I'll definitely be picking more of that up in the weeks ahead. And I haven't decided quite yet how to cook the yellow zucchini. I always thought that yellow zucchini and yellow squash were one in the same, but I learned today that they are not. I guess the yellow zucchini is supposed to have a lot more flavor and taste almost buttery. So I'm looking forward to trying them out.

I've been working on drying some more fruit the last few days. I just get it in the dehydrator in the morning and then we'd leave to see my out-of-town family that was visiting and the fruit would be done when we'd get home. I dried some organic Rainier cherries on Friday and did some red seedless grapes on Saturday. They both turned out awesome. The raisins are so much better tasting than the raisins you buy at the store. I'm so excited to have them on hand for cooking and baking this fall and winter.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Egg Rolls

Another recipe from RecipeZaar that I found to use up the rest of the cabbage. Other than the egg roll wraps, I had everything else on hand, so I thought it was a perfect find. Plus, I thought it'd be nice to have these in the freezer for snacks for Kevin since he loves egg rolls.

The recipe says it makes 25, but I only ended up making 16 since that was all the wrappers I had in my package. I had enough filling leftover to make probably one more egg roll, but Kevin just ate the filling by itself as a snack. These are very good. I liked that they were baked and not fried. I'm going to make up a dipping sauce of sorts to have on hand, too.

Is It Egg Roll or Eggroll

1 lb ground pork
1 large onion, chopped
6 tablespoons garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoon fresh ginger, no powder please
3 big carrots, chopped or shredded
1/2-3/4 head napa cabbage, shredded or chopped, regular will work fine (I used regular cabbage)
1-2 cup bean sprout, fresh please, leave them out if you do not like them
water chestnut, optional
celery, optional (I didn't have any so I omitted this)
cilantro, optional (I used flat leaf parsley instead since my cilantro is long gone from the garden)
hot pepper, chopped, optional (I left this out)
salt and pepper
25 egg roll wraps or lumpia skins, the thin ones (my package had 16)

Brown the meat in a large pan. Add onion, garlic, ginger, carrots and some salt and pepper halfway through. Remove from heat when carrots are tender. Stir in cabbage and bean sprouts, this will help cool the mixture down. Taste it now and see if it needs any more salt, good huh. Drain this mixture VERY WELL, moisture is you enemy in this recipe. I put it in a colander with a plate on top and a weight. It will look like there are more veggies than meat, that is a good thing. Blot it with a paper towel, it does not have to be bone dry, just not puddling and it needs to be cool before rolling.

We are almost there, have a glass of wine while you are waiting for it to cool!

Stir occasionally in the colander to get the hiding moisture. Lay the wrapper so that one point is towards you. Put about about 3 tablespoons of mixture across the wrapper. Here is where I add a bit of cilantro, green onion, chopped hot pepper. Fold the point that is pointing at you up over the mixture. Now fold the corner on the right over that, now the point on the left and begin to roll till you get to the end. Moisten the last point and finish the roll.

Freeze these individually on a cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap then put in freezer bags unless you are eating them right away.

To cook them, remove to a cookie sheet (do not thaw) and spray them with Pam. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, turn over and spray again and bake another 10 to 15 minutes. They will not get all brown like fried ones but they will be crispy and delicious.

Cole Slaw

I found the recipe on RecipeZaar. Horrocks Farm Market in Lansing had cabbage on sale this week for 15 cents a pound and I just couldn't resist buying one, even though I had no idea what to do with it... but I knew I'd figure something out. So with family in town and a big BBQ planned for Saturday, I decided to try making some cole slaw. I'm not much for cole slaw really, but I'll taste it here and there and I've always liked KFC's. I think KFC is probably Kevin's favorite, too, so I figured I'd try out this copycat KFC recipe.

This turned out to be very good. Everyone at the BBQ complimented it, all the while thinking I just picked up a pre-chopped bag of cole slaw mix and a bottle of dressing. They were all very impressed to hear that I'd made it all from scratch. This was a lot of work, with all the chopping, but it turned out very well.

KFC's Cole Slaw Top Secret

8 cups finely chopped cabbage, about 1 head (I only needed a half a head, but my head of cabbage was enormous!)
1/4 cup shredded carrot, about 1 medium carrot (I used about 3 medium carrots)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Be sure cabbage and carrots are chopped up into very fine pieces, a food processor works great. (Next time I may try the food processor because it took me forever to finely chop all that cabbage!) Combine the sugar, salt, pepper, milk, mayonnaise, buttermilk, vinegar and lemon juices in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Add the cabbage, carrots and a little onion (I left the onion out) and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hrs be fore serving.