Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers




The first day of fall has hit the Midwestern region and it seems that gardens are producing a bounty of veggies that need to be picked and processed before the cooler temperatures set in.  Once again, a few local growers were kind enough to share an abundance of beautiful produce that was beyond what they could consume.  I was thrilled to see a small bag of assorted hot peppers in the mix.  The orange, red, and green, color combination would make for a beautiful display in canning jars. Because I would only have enough to fill one large jar, I decided to make refrigerator pickled peppers rather than canning them with a water bath method.  This is a quick and simple way to make the great tasting flavor of the peppers last as they sit on the refrigerator shelf and marinate in the sweet and spicy vinegar solution.  Use these peppers to top an Italian salad or to add some flavor to a grilled sandwich. Simply delicious!






Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers

2-4 cups sliced peppers

2 cups white vinegar

1⅓ cup water

1 tablespoon canning salt

2 tsp sugar

Canning jar(s) with tight fitting lid(s)

Wash jar(s) with warm soapy water; air dry.  Pack the sliced peppers in jar(s).  Set jar(s) aside.

In a saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar completely.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Pour mixture over the peppers making sure they are completely covered. Twist on a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. As the peppers sit, the flavors will develop. Store refrigerated for 4-6 weeks.





Homemade Concord Grape Juice

Well, it’s that time of year again!  Ready for the picking are clusters of deep purple grapes hanging off of the vines in my back yard.  While the last couple of years have brought bumper crops to our lot, this year’s pickings have been a bit slim. This didn’t stop me from making a few of our family favorites…flavorful grape juice and grape jam.

There’s no greater satisfaction than to grow and process your own produce.  Several years ago I planted two Concord grape pods and they have grown to cover a large open area with a plentiful bounty of fruit.  Fresh air, rain and sunshine nourish the plants throughout the summer months until the gorgeous fruit are ready for picking.  I don’t water, fertilize, trim or fuss.  This is my kind of gardening!  The reward for leaving the plant to do what it naturally does; lots and lots of grape jam and juice that will last throughout the year.


Above is the recipe from the Ball Blue Book published by Alltrista Corporation.

Here is another method that produces similar results…
Homemade Concord Grape Juice

TO EACH STERILIZED QUART JAR
2 cups washed and cleaned concord grapes

1/2 cup sugar

Boiling water

In sterilized jar place 2 cups grapes. 

Add 1/2 cup sugar.  



Fill with boiling water leaving 1/2″ headspace. 

Seal jars at once with 2 piece lids. Process in water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove from canner and let sit for 24 hours.  Remove metal lid-bands, and label with date and contents.  Let juice stand 3 to 4 weeks before using. (The longer you let it sit, the greater the concentration.) Strain juice from grapes and use juice. Refrigerate after opening. 

For a great tasting homemade Grape Jam, try this Ball Blue Book recipe…



Piper’s Homemade Biscuits



We were recently invited out for a daylong boat ride during this year’s Air and Water Show in Chicago.  Everyone contributed drinks, appetizers, desserts, and other munchies.  As I prepared for the outing, I realized that our hosts would be bringing along their dog, Piper.  I quickly searched on-line sites for an appropriate recipe to make dog biscuits for our four-legged friend.  I remembered the owners mentioning that their dog liked peanut butter so I looked for recipes that focused on this crunchy treat. Here are a few of the recipes that I found…

https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/nutrition/recipes-for-quick-and-healthy-dog-treats#link2

http://www.pauladeen.com/gus-peanut-butter-dog-biscuits

http://www.rachaelray.com/2011/11/make-your-own-dog-biscuits

I decided to make the easiest of the bunch, Gus’ Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits. (I called them Piper’s Peanut Butter Biscuits.)  The recipe includes whole wheat, peanut butter, milk, and an egg.  I laughed as I shared the recipe with the owners and said that these ingredients could make a healthy snack for both dogs and humans!  For added effect, I baked the treats and placed them in a cute container with a bit of ribbon and a cookie cutter.  This way, the owners could make another batch if Piper enjoyed them.  While we didn’t feed her any of the treats on the boat ride, I’m told she found them to be absolutely delicious once she returned home.  

What any easy way to provide your dog with a great snack from your own kitchen…

Late Summer Zucchini Quick Bread



How many of you have loads of zucchini that are ripe and ready for picking?  Just a few plants seem to produce lots of long slender veggies that taste great sliced and sautéed with carrots and onions, diced and cooked into a spicy spaghetti sauce, or shredded and dumped into your favorite quick bread recipe.  

A local farmer dropped off a bag full of produce last week. I was delighted to see the assortment of zucchini that often overwhelm the garden. I graciously thanked my friend and scooped up the zucchini with this delicious recipe in mind.

Tip: I always use my food processor to shred a summer’s worth of zucchini and then place in freezer bags in 2 or 4 cup quantities.  (Label with date, product, and amount).  This way I have zucchini ready whenever I want to bake this quick bread throughout the year.  

This recipe yields four deliciously moist loaves that can be eaten, frozen, or given away as fresh baked gifts from the kitchen.  Don’t forget to share a loaf or two with a local grower who might be inclined to share some freshly picked produce when he/she has more than they can use.

Late Summer Zucchini Quick Bread 

6 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon baking powder

6 teaspoons ground cinnamon

6 eggs

 2 cup vegetable oil

4 cups white sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

4 cups grated zucchini

2 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups raisins

1 package instant oatmeal for topping, any flavor

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray with cooking spray, four 8 x 4 inch pans.  In a very large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together.

Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a separate large bowl. Add wet ingredients to the dry mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini, nuts, and raisins until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle flavored instant oatmeal evenly over batter.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20-30 minutes. Carefully, remove from pan, and cool completely.



Fresh from the Garden Refrigerator Pickles

I was pleasantly surprised this week when a co-worker brought in a big bag of freshly picked pickling cucumbers and plopped them on the break room table.  She announced that the cucumbers were from her father’s garden and that anyone was welcome to take as many as they liked.  Straight away, I scooped up a good majority of the pickles and packed them away for one of my favorite summer projects.  When I returned home from work that evening, I began the task at hand, slicing the veggies for my refreshing refrigerator pickles.  

This recipe yields several jars of a delicious, crunchy, sweet condiment.  Use a variety of green, red, or yellow  peppers to add a bit of color to the mix.  You will love the ease at which this recipe comes together (ridiculously easy). More importantly, you will love the taste of these refreshingly delicious refrigerator pickles!





Fresh from the Garden Refrigerator Pickles

1 cup distilled white vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/4 cup mixed pickling spice

6 cups sliced pickling cucumbers

1 cup sliced onions

1 cup sliced green bell peppers

In a medium saucepan, bring vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved, 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, drop a teaspoon of pickling spices into the bottom of each sterilized canning jar.  

Tightly pack the mixture of cucumbers, onions and green bell peppers into jars. Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables, covering vegetables completely.  Twist on lids and store in the refrigerator for three days before serving.





Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal II



While watching a local PBS cooking show last Saturday afternoon, I was captivated by a recipe that was shared by Ellie Krieger.  After further investigation, a web search disclosed that the original recipe was actually written by an author working for the Washington Post. I quickly printed the recipe and looked forward to baking the dish this weekend.  My children would be traveling back from college for a quick visit and I was anxious to assemble the baked oatmeal for Saturday breakfast.  I doubled and adjusted the original recipe as I wanted to send back to school with my daughter a portion of the dish to be warmed up for weekday meals.  

This recipe did not disappoint.  On my goodness, it is absolutely delicious! While I changed up the recipe quite a bit, here is the link for the original recipe.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/recipes/morning-glory-baked-oatmeal/15077/

My recipe is posted below…



Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal II

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Pinch of salt

4 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats 

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 cups unsweetened almond milk

2/3 cup pure maple syrup

2 large egg

4 tablespoons canola oil

3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups apples, cored and diced  

2 cups carrots, shredded 

1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13X9″ baking dish with cooking spray.

Mix together the pecans, cinnamon, the brown sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, baking powder. Whisk together the milk, maple syrup, egg, oil and vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. Pour the milk mixture over the oat mixture, stirring to combine, then mix in the apple, carrots and raisins.

Pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with the pecan and brown sugar mixture.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden at the edges and just set at the center. Serve warm.

Adapted from a recipe first posted by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Queso Blanco Chicken and Salsa

On a recent Saturday outing, my family and I stumbled upon a quaint new restaurant in the middle of our town square featuring Mexican cuisine.  As we were seated in the festive dining room, a heaping basket of freshly made chips and salsa was delivered to the table.  Looking over the extensive menu, I was excited to find a chicken dish that seemed fresh and flavorful with simple ingredients.  I immediately requested the dish and continued to munch on the crispy chips and spicy salsa while listening to the sounds of the lively Mexican music streaming through the sound system.  

As we waited for our meal to arrive, we chatted about our desire to visit a local farmer’s market to find lots of fresh produce to make our own salsa when returning home for the day.  

Alas, our meals arrived and as the waitress placed the scrumptious looking dish in front of me, I realized how simple it would be for me to replicate the flavors at home and quickly made a note of all of the items on the plate.  After a lovely meal, we headed out to the farmer’s market located a few short blocks through the town square. We enjoyed a lovely walk through the bustling scene teaming with a variety of fresh vegetables and quickly scooped up the ingredients needed to replicate my chicken dish.  This is how I assembled my own version of the delicious meal…

Queso Blanco Chicken and Salsa

6 chicken breasts

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 (15 oz.) jar Queso Blanco Dip

1 1/2 cups Fresh (or store bought) Chunky Salsa (see recipe below)

6 ears corn, shucked and cleaned

2 avocado, sliced

Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Bake or grill for 30-45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  In the meantime, place ears of corn on outdoor grill or indoor grilling skillet, roast until tender.  Slice corn off of the cob.  Season to taste with butter and salt, if desired.  In a microwave safe bowl, heat Queso Blanco Dip until warm and pourable.  To serve, place a chicken breast on each plate, drizzle with Queso Blanco Dip and garnish with fresh cilantro. Next,  add to the plate, a couple of heaping spoons of roasted corn, fresh salsa, and slices of avocado.  Simple and delicious!

Homemade Chunky Salsa

2 cups ripe plum tomatoes, diced 

1/4 cup white onion, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice, bottled or fresh

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

1 small garlic clove, minced

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Cover tightly and refrigerate before serving.