Popcorn on the cob

Down at the Pickin’ Patch in Avon, CT I found the darnedest thing – popcorn still on the cob! Will wonders never cease? It’s like they knew a snack-obsessed blogger was headed their way. I used to think I was special for making homemade microwave popcorn. But now look at me! Boo-ya!

Seriously, the kids were all excited. It was fun. And the popcorn truly tasted superior to the store-bought variety we usually stuff our faces with.

So, get this, all you do is put an ear of dried corn in a bag. Microwave it for 2 1/2 or 3 minutes on high with the bag folded shut.

Then, ta da, you have popcorn. And a semi-naked cob. Magic!

One ear made more than enough to feed my two growing and hungry children. Now I’m wondering how one dries an ear of corn. Anyone know?

We Have Egg!

It arrived a month late, but all is forgiven now that we’ve finally had our first egg from our hens.

I think I was feeding the hens too many of our kitchen scraps and they weren’t getting enough protein to produce eggs. A few weeks ago I cut the scraps way down. But I had still pretty much given up hope. The days are getting shorter here and supposedly output usually decreases during the winter.

But enough with the boring details….we have a hen that laid an egg! We’ve been feeding and tending these birds for months and months. The egg’s arrival feels miraculous.

No word from the hens (we’re down to only two from the original six – long story) yet as to which one of them finally stepped up to the plate. Regardless, one of them gave us a lovely egg. My taste buds were most likely clouded by the fact that the egg was from hens we had raised, but I’ve gotta say it was mighty tasty. (Don’t think I’m terrible and didn’t share it with my family, we all had a bite.)

The shell was thick which is nice. Thin shells bother me. It was a bit speckled which I’m chalking up to first time jitters. The yolk wasn’t as dark as I’d like. I’ll try throwing them some fresh parsley and see if that does the trick.

If you’ve got any other tips for me, please share them in the comments below. As you can probably already tell, I need all the help I can get.

Healthy Halloween Snacks Round Up

I just spent 17 hours combing the interweb for healthy Halloween snacks. Along with the usual fatigue in my posterior, I think I’m going to lose it if I see another Halloween cupcake, cake pop, cookie pop, cake topped with gummy worms, or mummy dog. All that stuff is great (especially if you’re five years old). But I would like to tip my hat to the brave and creative souls that actually came up with ideas for Halloween snacks that contain something resembling food. My kids will have enough sugary goodness after the sun goes down.

A few of these aren’t necessarily specific to Halloween. But I see some potential there nonetheless. Please fill us all in on any of your brilliant ideas in the comments below. Thanks!

Monster Jaws (along with other goodies) from Our Best Bites.

Devilish Eggs from Martha Stewart.com.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds from The Kitchn.

Jack O’Lantern Smoothies from Joie de Vivre.

15 Healthy Halloween Snacks from Disney’s Family Fun.

Fruit and Nut Crispy Treats from Super Healthy Kids.

Bat Fruit Kebabs and Spider Cheese & Crackers from One Charming Party.

Halloween Sunnyside Eggs from Cute Food for Kids.

Bat Bites from All You.

Veggie Skeleton from Feeding Frenzy.

Pumpkin Hummus from La Fuji Mama.

Deviled Spider Eggs from Shockingly Delicious.

Chickpea Butternut Pumpkin Patties from Angie’s Recipes.

Toasted Bats from About.com

Pumpkin Spice Cashew Cheese Dip (vegan) from Happy Healthy Life.

BooBerry Muffins and Ghost and Bat Beans, Monster Treats from Cook Play Explore.

Pumpkin Pesto Pinwheels from Steph Chows.

Ghostly Eggs from The Gourmet Mama.

Falafel Spiders from Veggie Belly.

Spooky Spider Crackers from Babble.com.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Ghosts from The Kitchn.

Cheddar Witch Fingers from Sunset.

And last but not least, a friend of mine made Raspberry Rockets for a Halloween party and called them Goblin Eyes. Sweet Potato Chips would be another nice one.

Apple Turnovers with Cheddar Crust

Supposedly, back in the day, a piece of warm apple pie with melted cheese on top was the bee’s knees. I haven’t tasted it yet. But I feel like I read a whole chapter about it a couple years ago in John T. Edge’s Apple Pie and have been salivating ever since.

If you’re not in the mood to make dough from scratch, please just keep it simple and make an apple tower which could be almost as good if the cheese and the apple are excellent. But there’s nothing quite like pastry. And this filling is pretty awesome.

Dough Recipe

Adapted from The New York Times Cookbook.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups fine, soft homemade whole wheat bread crumbs
1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cayeanne pepper
Dash of paprika

Combine all the ingredients except the Parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Process for until the dough starts to come together, about 30 seconds.

Remove the dough from the processor and form it into a flattened rectangle about 1 – 2 inches thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

Filling Recipe

2 medium apples, peeled and cored
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 egg
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farhenhiet.

Grate the apple with a box grater. Squeeze excess moisture out of the grated apple. (Save the juice for a little drink if you wish.) Place apple in bowl along with the sugar, applesauce, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

Roll out the dough on a well floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut dough into 4-inch squares with a pastry cutter or pizza wheel. Transfer the squares to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place a generous tablespoon of the apple filling in the middle of each of the squares.

Beat the egg in a small bowl. Paint a bit of the egg wash on the outer edge of each square. Fold each square over into a triangle and gently press the edges together with your fingertips. Seal the triangle with the tines of a fork. Paint more egg wash on the top of each triangle and make a small slit on the top with a serrated knife. Sprinkle each turnover with finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 48 hours.

Yield: 10 turnovers
Prep-time: 1 hour
Bake-time: 35 minutes

[donotprint]Oh, and by the way, we just got a new puppy. He’s the sweetest little boy in the world. His name is Otter. He’s a mutt/rescue. Supposedly his mother was a Boxer/Lab mix.

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Yes You Can!

I clearly remember thinking people who canned peaches were nuts. Heck, my husband was not-so-quietly shaking his head while I was canning some nectarines this summer. But grocery store produce seems increasingly suspect these days. And more importantly, in New England it can be just plain hopeless in the late winter and early spring. Once you’ve gorged yourself on fresh produce all summer long, the stuff flown in from Mexico tastes like cardboard.

To my surprise, a couple comments on my Warm Applesauce post asked for guidance on the canning front. So here are my thoughts just in case you’re interested in canning but aren’t sure where to start. Please know that I still consider myself a novice. When in doubt, please spend some quality time with the National Center for Home Food Preservation guide.

One thing I do know is that not just any recipe can be thrown in a jar and put up safely. The acidity level of the food is important. Follow recipes specifically written with canning in mind. This is super important for every bit of canning you do. No botulism for you!

Be patient with yourself and take your time in gathering equipment and recipes. In the Spring, look for canning supplies at places where farmer’s wives would do some of their shopping: rural grocery stores, the Tractor Supply Company, or even hardware stores. Heck, I’ve even noticed supplies on an end cap at Target the past couple times I’ve been there!

When you’re ready, just jump in and do it. It’s only really going to make sense after you’ve done it a few times. I started out with lots and lots of jam. But I’ve seen Bread & Butter Pickles referred to as a good beginner recipe as well.

(Bare Bones) Equipment and Supplies you will need:

  • Canner with a rack that fits inside
  • Funnel
  • Jar Lifter
  • Mason jars and lids (pint, half pint, or quart-sized depending on what you’ll be canning)
  • Pickling salt (fine-grain salt that contains no idodine)

 

My favorite book for the beginner is The Busy Person’s Guide to Perserving Food. Barbara Kingsolver mentioned this book in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. All the recipes I’ve tried in this book have been stellar and they aren’t overly fussy (e.g. Quick Dill Pickles, Sour Pickles, Pickled Beets) . In addition to all the information on canning, the book contains instructions for freezing, drying, and root cellaring individual foods. This is the first book I’d go to find out how to put up a load of potatoes for the winter, what the best way is to keep blueberries, or how to make raisins.

Another book I’m into lately is Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Her Bread & Butter Pickles have been a huge hit around my house. and the Frozen Roasted Garlic is a keeper. There are a ton of recipes that have peeked my interest, but I have yet to try like Caramelized Onion Confit, Corn Salsa, and Chili-Tomato Jam.

To distract you further, here are a list of links some of which are an endless source of canning information and inspiration:

Food in Jars – Canning 101 Round Up, Homemade Applesauce, Resources

Local Kitchen – Homemade Applesauce

Garden of Eating – How To: Canning

Canning Across America – Resources

Simple Bites – 9 Good Reasons to Can Your Own Food

Good luck!

Book Review and Giveaway: Kitchen Counter Cooking School

Do you sometimes peek into other peoples’ shopping carts at the supermarket? Kathleen Flinn, a recent graduate of the Cordon Bleu,  took shopping cart voyeurism to the next level when she cornered a woman because her cart was full of highly processed foods. Before you knew it they were hanging out with the supermarket’s butcher learning how to cut up a whole chicken.

Flinn’s book about her ensuing experiences is called Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks. This book chronicles her quest to heal the disconnect between people’s desire to eat well and their inability to function comfortably in a kitchen.

Apparently, some folks are two generations removed from anyone who regularly put a home-cooked meal on the table and they don’t have the time to teach themselves. Basically, it doesn’t do one much good to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma if you don’t know how to peel and chop an onion.

Inspired by her supermarket encounter, Flinn gathered a group of volunteers interested in reclaiming their kitchens and thoughtfully guided them through a culinary education during which they mindfully tasted salt, learned how to hold a knife, and how to use flavor profiles to make meals on the fly among many other things. Recipes related to specific lessons are included at the end of each chapter.

Kitchen fundamentals like how to prepare a roast chicken, cook vegetables, and make a cake from scratch are the kind of things we should be teaching our children so that the next generation won’t be so useless in the kitchen. There were plenty of moments in this book when I was shaking my head and made a mental note to be sure that my kids know how to cope in the kitchen when they grow up. Flinn’s students colorfully illustrated how much of a hole can be created in people’s lives in the long term if they can’t perform an act as basic as being able to properly feed themselves and their families.

I’ve made Flinn’s adaptation of No Knead Bread about fifteen times already. I used to pay $5 for fancy artisan bread boules. Now I make them myself and they cost us about 60 cents a pop. I love them.

Thanks to the folks at Viking, I’ve got a giveaway copy of Kitchen Counter Cooking School for you today.  All you have to do is enter a comment below and tell me who taught you how to cook? (if anybody) and I’ll use one of those random number pickers to select the winner. Comments will close on October 7, 2011 at 7pm.

Update – October 7, 2011: And the winner is Staci Rae! Thanks to everyone for your comments. I love hearing from you.

Warm Applesauce with Butter

[donotprint]If you haven’t eaten this little snack, you haven’t lived. Perhaps slaving over homemade applesauce makes it taste better than it really is. Probably not though. I think it is a fabulously simple, smooth, and supreme snack. Every time I cook up some homemade applesauce, a little bowl of this stuff is in order.

The applesauce is pink because a) I am rad, and b) I cook the apples with the skins on and run them through my super food mill removing said skins after they have left behind some of their color molecules.

I’m positively loopy from trying to wrap my head around back-to-school. I forget every year what a sea of paperwork there is to deal with and how many different adjustments need to be made to every aspect of our lives. It’s nuts.

How’s everyone else doing with the craziness? Or maybe I shouldn’t even be asking. I figure you were nice enough to read about my big problems, I should reciprocate. But really I wish we were all talking about amazing fiction we’ve read recently. Or the price of tea in China. Anything but School and Kids.

Oh, and here’s a picture of the applesauce waiting to go into the canner. Isn’t it lovely?

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Warm Applesauce with Butter Recipe

Of course, you could easily make this recipe from store-bought applesauce that you’ve heated up. Maybe that would be cheating, but I certainly would have no problem with it.

1/2 cup warm unsweetened applesauce
1 small pat of butter
Sprinkle of ground cinnamon
Sprinkle of brown sugar. or a drizzle of honey, or maple syrup

In a small bowl, top the applesauce with the butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Serve.

Yield: one serving
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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