"Reclaiming Homemade in a Small Space"

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Quick, Good For You, Kid-Friendly and TASTY! Salmon Burgers!

A friend of mine from college recently told me that she liked my blog.  She was needing to eat healthy so some of my entries would have to wait.  Yeah, my apple dumplings probably aren't the healthiest thing to try.  Enter the Zesty Salmon Burger!  This has been a standard of mine for a long time.  Waaaay back when I was first pregnant with Emma, I tried to do my best to eat healthy stuff, in spite of having morning sickness 24/7.  I read that salmon had a good amount of calcium and protein, so I set out to find ways to eat more of it.  I also needed quick, because being nauseous from pregnancy, food prep had to be fast.  I found this recipe by Melanie Dunn in a Taste Of Home magazine and was (stifle giggle here.....) "hooked".   This comes in burger form and is great on a whole wheat bun or over top of a green, leafy salad.

 It starts out with canned wild caught salmon. Yes, wild caught makes a difference.  Farm-raised salmon, though tasty, isn't nearly as good for you.  Farm-raised salmon is fatter (it doesn't have to swim as long and far as a wild born salmon) but its omega-3 fatty acids are lower.  Farm-raised salmon is subjected to antibiotics and more polluted water than their wild kin.  Think of farm-raised being raised in the city, living in crowded conditions while the wild salmon roam free.  I also like the fact that most of the salmon caught wild is immediately cleaned and canned within a short amount of time, sometimes right on the boat!

Fortunately, you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for canned wild caught salmon.  Here, I hold a can of off brand wild caught salmon, less than $2 a can.  You could certainly use leftover fresh salmon if you had enough!
Zesty Salmon Burgers:
printable recipe
1 can (14-3/4 oz.) salmon, drained, skin and bones removed
2 eggs
1/2 c. dry bread crumbs
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
1/4 c. mayonnaise
2 T. prepared horseradish (use as little or as much as you like....I always put in MORE!)
1 T. pimentos (I have YET to put these in the burgers...I never have pimentos on hand!)
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

When I made this recipe for the blog, I doubled it.  My family of five LOVES this meal....there weren't any leftovers!

First step is to heat about 2 T. of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Next, drain the salmon and remove the skin and bones.  If you want to get extra calcium, leave the bones, just make sure that you crush them well.  The bones will be very soft and will crumble easily.
Straight from the can.  It won't win any awards for appearance....not yet anyway

Removing the skin.

Taking out the bones.
 Once you do this. then add the eggs, bread crumbs, onion, mayonnaise, horseradish, pimentos (if you have them), salt and pepper in a large bowl.
 Mix it all up
After you have it well mixed, it is time to form patties.  I get five patties when I do a single batch.  Make each patty 4 to 6 oz. each.  (I had a paper cut on my left hand so I covered it with a sandwich bag...you don't have to do this!)
Add your patties to the now hot skillet and cook for 6 minutes each side or until they are a deep golden brown; flip and cook the other side.  These patties are a bit fragile so take care as you flip them.  They will firm up as they cook.
Patties that just hit the pan....

Patties ready to hit the bun!

Once the patties/burgers are finished cooking, you can either load them up on a whole wheat bun with a little bit of mayo and a couple leaves of lettuces OR you can put them over a leafy green salad dressed with simply lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  Each patty has 268 calories, 15 g. fat, 8.7 g. carbs, 23.7 g protein  Good stuff, y'all!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings

A couple of months back, I asked on my facebook page what people would like to see me blog about.  My good friend, Jessica, asked for apple dumplings.  I had never made them before or eaten one or even knew what one really was. I stuck that under the category "must try one day".   Yesterday was National Apple Dumpling Day and I decided it was time to celebrate.  I have about a third of a bushel of apples leftover from making apple sauce with some ladies from church.  Experimenting with a new apple recipe would be fun.  I googled apple dumplings and came across this recipe by Micki Wood at Allrecipes.com.  I also found out that the apple dumpling is VERY Pennsylvania Dutch, this was a have-to now.

The premise of an apple dumpling is simple.  An apple is wrapped with flaky pie crust and baked in a sauce with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Kinda like an apple pie in miniature, but without the hard edge of just crust.  And then, there is the sauce.

The original recipe called for 6 large granny smith apples.  I had "seconds" from Simmons Farm which meant the slightly ugly, deformed or small fruit that wouldn't make it to the market.
Here is the recipe:

  • 1 recipe pastry for double-crust pie
  • 6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored  (I used 8 small apples)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 There is A LOT of butter and A LOT of sugar in these, so I found myself cutting back on both.  Not so much that you could tell though.

First, I peeled and cored my apples.  I don't have an apple corer (shame!) so I peeled them, cut them in half and took out the core on each side.  Once the apple halves were placed back together, they stuck well.

I rolled out my pie crust and divided it into 8 rectangles.
I placed an apple in the center of one of the rectangles, pushed about 1/2 to 3/4 T. butter in the cored section.  Added brown sugar in the middle and around the bottom of the apple.  Then dusted it with ground cinnamon and fresh nutmeg.

The next step is bringing the dough around the whole apple, sealing it around until it kinda resembles a dough wrapped baseball.  Then I placed it in a 12 inch cast iron skillet.  The original recipe called to place these in a 9x13 baking dish, but I thought the cast iron skillet might work better.
I didn't use as much butter or brown sugar as the recipe indicated.  I had just under 4 T. butter leftover and about a couple of T. of brown sugar.  Time for the sauce!

Again, modifying the recipe like I wanted, I took 2 T. butter, 3/4 c. sugar and 1 1/2 c. water and brought them to a boil for 5 minutes and added 1 t. vanilla.  The sauce appeared very watery. I wondered if it would make the dough soggy.
This was poured over the dumplings.  I was careful not to dislodge any of the crust.  My 350 degree oven gladly accepted this apple-y offering.  They cooked while the rest of our dinner was prepared and consumed, about an hour.  The dumplings came out of the oven piping hot; the sauce had reduced to a wonderful syrup-like consistency.   They smelled so good, we couldn't wait to try them.
I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream that melted all over that dumpling.  The flavor was astounding.  Very much like apple pie, but better.  I was right to use the cast iron skillet, the bottoms were a deep golden brown.  The sauce added an element that was so complimentary to the apple and to my glee, did not make the dough soggy.  The crust was super flaky and the apple had completely baked down to a soft consistency.  What a treat!  It was a little more time consuming than making apple pie, but I think I will do this again.  (But on a weekend perhaps!)  Give it a try and see what YOU think.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Indian Spiced Glazed Carrots

I have a confession to make:  I don't follow recipes, usually.  Maybe if I am doing a recipe for the first time, I may follow it to a "T" but for the most part, recipes in my opinion are guidelines.  I can't tell you how many times I have followed a recipe against my better judgement and regretted ignoring my instincts. This is especially true when it comes to making veggies and side dishes.  Normally, I just "wing" it and make our family's side dishes right out of my head.  For the vast majority of the time, they are serviceable but nothing earth shattering.  One day, I was making glazed carrots and had a burst of inspiration.  In our fridge was some leftover chutney from some Indian fare we'd enjoyed. I also had a fair amount of garam masala in the cupboard as well. As Matt tried the carrots for the first time that night, I was anxious for his reaction. They were a hit!  The best thing is that this is SIMPLE and it has a bit of the exotic to it.  Here is my recipe for what I came up with that day...feel free to follow it perfectly or use it as a suggestion.

But "Wait!" you say, "What is garam masala? What is chutney??"  Garam masala is simply an Indian spice mix.  Much like curry powder, chili powder or cajun seasoning, it is a spice blend of several individual spices.  Garam masala is a blend of cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and other spices.  You can find it at the market or make it yourself.  I happened to buy mine.  It is at the center of many, many Indian dishes.  About chutneys....they are generally fruit, vinegar and sugar reduced down like a jam.  They normally have a savory element to them like onion or garlic.  There are lots out there and most have a bit of heat to them.  Even the mild one I used, was a bit spicy for the sensitive mouths of my children.   A mango chutney is what I used for this recipe, feel free to use whatever kind you want.

Indian Spiced Glazed Carrots
click here for a printable version
2 Tbsp. oil or butter
1 pound of carrots, sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. garam masala
3-4 Tbsp. mild chutney
Optional: raisins, black garlic , pistachios, crystallized ginger

Start out with a pound of carrots.  I prefer regular sized carrots that I peeled and sliced.  You can certainly use baby carrots, though they might take a little more time to cook.

Heat oil or butter, then add your carrots and onions. Cook until the onions have taken on some color and the carrots are beginning to soften.  8 to 12 minutes depending on how hot your stove top is.

Next, add the garlic and garam masala and cook 2 minutes.

Chutney addition is next,  add 3 to 4 Tbsp.

Cook for just a few more minutes to just make sure the chutney has come up to temperature.  Time to serve!

I added black garlic (YUM!) to this batch, but I have also used crystallized ginger.  Certainly you can add raisins or pistachios, they are often used in Indian cooking.  This a fabulous and QUICK side dish....good for you too!

Friday, September 7, 2012

What in the World is THAT??? Black Garlic

I first heard of black garlic while watching an episode of Chopped on the Food Network.  It intrigued me...I watched the contestants taste it and saw that most of them liked it.  Fast forward to a couple of months ago, I saw a package for black garlic at Giant Eagle Market District.  I picked up the package to check it out but put it down.  I just wasn't sure what to do with it.  I was at Market District again recently and found myself with the package in my hand again.  I threw caution to the wind and bought some.  The package states that black garlic is made by fermenting high quality garlic blubs for three weeks, aging it for another week and then it is sent out to for curious gastronomes to try.

Below is a picture of one of the bulbs freed from the package.  It is slightly browned compared to a regular bulb.  The outside is still papery, but a slight squeeze will reveal the garlic is much softer than a normal blub. It still smelled like garlic but with a sweet note to it.

Peeling the individual cloves was a bit tricky.  The garlic was a little sticky, it reminded me some of the inside of a gumdrop.  (Not the taste or smell though.)

Below is what the individual clove looked like after peeling it.  I'll admit, it isn't the prettiest thing at the ball, but looks are deceiving here.  I sliced it up and gave it a taste.  I was immediately a fan.  It was definitely garlicy but not overly powerful...the fermentation took the bite out and added a mild sweetness.  It reminded me of molasses, but with savory overtones as well....think chutney.  The texture was soft and smooth and definitely less pungent.
The night I used it for the first time, I sliced up a few cloves and put them on pizza.  My husband and I both agreed we'd do that again.  It was really a nice change of pace.  The black garlic package suggests not only trying this on pizza, but also BBQ, beef, potatoes, Asian food, etc.  Black garlic does differ from regular garlic since it must be stored in the fridge once it is opened.

If you find black garlic at your local grocery store, buy some and give it a whirl.  At two bulbs for $5, it isn't an expensive experiment.  I've started incorporating into my recipes......be looking for how I've used this new ingredient at The Teeny Kitchen That Could.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Peach Preserves....Now with lower sugar!!!!

The summer fruit just keeps coming!  I mentioned in my last blog how Matt picked $81 worth of strawberries.  That was good for you, because I got to blog about strawberry preserves.  Saturday, after getting my van stuck on the side of a muddy hill at Simmons Farm , I ended up picking two bushels of peaches.  Lushious, juicy, New Haven free stone peaches.....Mmmmmmmm.  Don't worry, the nice folks at Simmons helped this low lander get unstuck and back to picking the deliciousness off the trees.  I topped Matt by purchasing $84 dollars of fruit.  So far I have made 11 qts. of canned peaches, 6 1/2 jars of peach salsa, I've canned several pints of peach preserves, made one pie, one tart and one crumble.  Whew!  Are you tired from reading it, because I am really tired from doing it!  But my good friend Jessica has been asking for a new blog:  here it is.
I read several blogs and other websites devoted to preserving "old school" by fermenting or other ways of preserving. I grew up reading the "Little House" books and I'm pretty sure Ma Ingalls didn't go down to the general store and stock up on Sure-Jell.  It got me thinking about how I put up my summer fruit.  I have been canning preserves for years, using pectin and an insane amount of sugar.  The sugar content is almost always MORE than the fruit.  (3 c. of chopped fruit, 5 1/2 c. sugar)  When blueberries were in season, we had a ton of those too...and I didn't have any pectin on hand.  I surfed around on the 'net to find an old school way of putting them up. Both blueberries and peaches are low pectin fruits, so to get them to a good jell without commercial pectin would take another ingredient....time.  I was super pleased with the results of the longer cook time with the blueberries, so I tried the same method to peaches.  Success!  It definitely takes more time than preserving with pectin, but the lower sugar is such a plus.  Commercial jelly is 50 calories per Tablespoon, this homemade stuff is 35 calories per Tablespoon.

The recipe is so, so simple and very versatile.  You can make as little or as much as you like.  For each pound of chopped peaches, use one cup of sugar.  If you don't have a kitchen scale, I used 17 medium to small peaches and it came out to 4 lbs. or 7 cups of diced peaches.  I leaned heavily on this site to come up with my own method.

I prefer to use freestone peaches because of how easily the pit separates from the flesh.  Some sites suggest that clingstone peaches are better for preserving because they tend to be sweeter.  I find it a study in frustration as I cut around the pit.  But that choice is up to you.  Since I pick my peaches right from the tree, I get a very fresh, very sweet/tangy fruit that has proven fabulous for making jam.

Okay, let's get started with the whole process!  Peeling is a snap if you first blanch your peaches in boiling water for about 30 seconds. 

I use a slotted spoon to drop them in.

Blanch for 30 seconds.

All my blanched peaches ready for peeling
I normally can fit 5 to 6 peaches in the pot at once.  Peeling now is a breeze.  If your peach is free of blemishes, the peel should just come off with the rub of your fingers.
I find if there is a blemish like a bruise, the skin will cling to the peach in that spot.  Just use a paring knife to remove it.  Also, a less ripe peach will hold onto its skin harder than a ripe one.

The next step is to chop the fruit finely.  If your fruit is super juicy, make sure you catch all of the juice, that is straight flavor! The very first batch I made, I chopped coarsely and found that the pieces were just too big, the second and third time, I nearly diced them.
Here is a peeled, halved peach.  The pit will come right out.

These peaches will brown if you don't take some precaution to prevent it.  If you have some lemon juice, use 1 T. for that amount of peaches.  I didn't have any lemons on hand, so I crushed up a vitamin C tablet, which is just a concentrated form of asorbic acid- an anti-browning agent.

Pour that right into your chopped peaches and give it a stir.  In a large pot, bring your peaches to a simmer over medium heat. Add sugar.

Now add the most important ingredient to the recipe....time.  Let peaches simmer over low to medium low heat for at least two hours, stirring occasionally for the first hour.  During the second hour, pay closer attention to the pot and stir more often. The sugar tends to sink to the bottom and scorch. This is what it should look like at the end. 
Take a small spoonful, place on a saucer and stick it in the fridge for five minutes. If it looks thick and jam-like, it is ready to can.  If it seems too thin, let it reduce a little more, keeping a close eye on it.
Now you can either freeze it or can it.  Check out my strawberry jam blog for canning instructions.
So delicious, so yummy....  AND, lower in sugar!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Strawberry Jam!

It's June in the south hills of Pittsburgh and that means strawberry season!  It is one of my favorite times of the year, when I can take some time by myself and spend it in the strawberry patch.  I really enjoy picking the first of the summer fruits.  I missed last year's strawberries in Arkansas because we were moving and I didn't have time to make it to the patch. 
That meant no strawberry jam for the fam for a year.  And believe me, we have felt like we were missing something from our lives!  It felt very strange to me to purchase some strawberry jam a few months ago.  It was so disappointing too....it tasted more like strawberry candy than jam.  So, when I called and found out the local farm was having a strawberry festival, complete with u-pick strawberries, I was going to be a part of it.  Then it clashed with a vacation I had scheduled.  Matt was determined NOT to go without strawberries this year.  He loaded up the kids and went to the festival without me.  Guess how many pounds he bought????  31 POUNDS!  I lol'd when he called me on the phone and told me.  Yeah, I would have my hands and my fridge full when I got home.  I think he bought twice as much as I would buy in one season.  What can I say?  He wants his jam!!!!!!  Who can blame him....remember that jar of strawberry jam that I bought?  No one asks to have THAT jam on their toast.  They want the "real" stuff.
My yummy homemade stuff is on the left.  On the right, with less color (and flavor!) is Smuckers.

Notice I keep saying jam, not jelly and not preserves.  Jelly is made from just the juice of fruit and preserves are made from whole fruits.  When I make jam, I use the traditional canning method.  I like it over freezer jams simply so I have more space in my freezer for meat.  I'll take you through what you need.

*water bath canner w/basket  *jar gripper  *mason jars  *lids   *jar bands  *wide mouth funnel  *5 c. crushed strawberries  * 1 box pectin  * 7 c. sugar (exactly measured)

The first step in canning is getting your canner boiling.  You're going to be bringing several gallons of water to boil.  This takes a long time, so get the heat going as soon as you can.  I'm not quite sure how much water I used.  I filled it up to a line around 2/3 of the way up.  Put the lid on and crank up the heat!

Prep is SO important when canning.  You need a clean kitchen, equipment and jars.  Now, I don't mean that your jars have to be sterile.  The water bath in the canner is going to kill all the germs. Wash all your jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well and set aside to dry.

 After you wash all your jars, place the lids in a hot, but NOT boiling, pan of water.  If you boil the lids, you will damage the sealant.

After you've prepped all your jars, turn to prepping the fruit.  Make sure your fruit is ripe and fresh.  The quality of your berries determines the quality of your jam.  Wash about 8 cups worth.

I like to set up a little station of fruit prep.  A bowl for hulls and any bad berries and a bowl for the capped ones.  

I cut each berry in half.
It is time now to crush the fruit.  You can either use a potato masher and crush one layer of fruit at a time. OR you can use a food processor!  Place about a fourth of the berries in the bowl of your processor and pulse four or five times.  If you liquify your berries, your jam won't set....same with under processing them.

 I ended up with 5 c. of crushed berries.

Measure out 7 cups of sugar exactly!  You can't use sugar substitutes in jam...it won't set.

Make sure you have good pectin too.  I have found Sure-Jell is the best.

Here's where we get cooking!  Pour your crushed berries into a large pot.  Bring to a full, rolling boil...one that doesn't stop when stirred.  Add the pectin at that point.  I also like to add a 1/2 t. of butter.  That itty bitty amount of fat keeps the jam from making too much foam as it cooks.

Bring to another roiling boil and add the 7 c. of sugar. It will seem like the sugar clumps up, but the cooking will dissolve all of it.
Full rolling boil

Adding the sugar...keep stirring!

All the sugar has dissolved and it's coming to a boil.  Keep on stirring!
 When you reach the second full rolling boil, set a timer for one minute and continue to stir. While it rolls at that full boil, it is likely going to pop some big bubbles and splatter you with hot jam.  I like to use a really long wooden spoon and stand as far away as I can as I stir.  But don't stop stirring....sugar burns fast and burnt sugar does not taste good.  When the timer goes off, keep stirring, count to 10 and then take off the heat.  The 10 count is just a little extra insurance of time that will make sure the jam will set. 

Next, fill your jars.  Place the wide mouth funnel in one jar.

Then fill the jar with the hot jam.  I like to use a soup ladle to fill the jars.  Don't go all the way to the top of the jar, leave about a 1/4" of space.  This is called head room and it is there so that when the jars are processed, the air is sucked out in the water bath leaving a vacuum in the space at the top of the jar.  That way no wee beasties grow in your jam and make you sick later! Place the lid on the top of the jar and then screw the jar bands on.
An example of head room with just the lid. This is probably a little more head room than is needed.
After you screw the bands on, wipe down the outside of the jar.
Repeat with all the jars.  I typically get four pint jars from one batch with a little left over that I put in a small 1/2 pint jar.  (I don't process that one.) Place the jars in the basket of the canner.  Make sure the water is boiling. Carefully lower them into the water bath.  They should be covered by 1 to 2 inches of water.  If you need to, add boiling water to reach 1 to 2 inches of coverage.

Boil (or process) them for 20 minutes.  As mentioned above, this will pull out the air in the jars and seal the lids to the jars.  It kills any germs in the jam or jars and makes the jam shelf stable.  After 20 minutes of processing, pull out the jars with the jar gripper.
 Let them sit on the counter until they are cooled.  The fruit bits tend to rise to the top.  You can see that in the picture above.  To combat this, I like to turn the jars upside down and shake them occasionally while they are cooling.  This distributes the fruit through the entire jar.  While the jars cool, the the lids will make a "pop" sound.  When that happens, you know your jars are sealed.  Check each jar by pushing on the top of the lid to see if it is sealed.  If the lid has any give after it has completely cooled, either reprocess it or refrigerate it.  It has not sealed and is therefore not shelf stable.  The jam will take from 2 to 24 hours to set.  If for some reason you jam doesn't set, open the jars, empty the jam into a large pot and bring to a boil for one minute.  You will need to reprocess them though.  I've been making jam for years and that has only happened to me once.
Look at these beauties!  They are now in our basement waiting for some time later in the year when they will get opened, months from strawberry season, and it will taste like early summer again!  Homemade jam makes GREAT gifts!  I hope you get inspired to try your own canning!  Look on Craigslist or at garage sales for canning equipment.  I found 4 huge containers of mason jars at a garage sale recently for only $3! Happy Canning!