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Getting Into Hot Water

The rain here in northwest Georgia this year has been tremendous. The crops in my garden have not. A few tomatoes and a few bell peppers and some okra. Cucumbers? Pfft. Too much rain can definitely be a bad thing. (However, I am not complaining.  I love the rain.)  What do I have the most of? Hot peppers. They are thriving. The irony is, my family, nor I, don’t really eat a lot of hot peppers. Such is life. So, what to do? Give some away and can the rest.

About a week ago, I picked 50+ peppers- jalapeños and cow horns.  The jabaneros aren’t ready just yet. I knew this was going to be quite a task, as peppers are tricky to work with. 

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The beginning of the crop.

The difficulty begins in the cutting. You must wear gloves for this and remember not to touch your face or skin! The capsaicin will get you for sure.  Peppers are much like onions, giving off vapors that can affect one’s eyes and breathing. I, of course, was no exception.  After about fifteen minutes, I had to crack the windows and back door to let some fresh air in. The coughing had commenced. Once the cutting was finished, I had to wipe down every surface I had come in contact with in the gloves.  The juice and seeds had managed to spread…

The jars were ready, the peppers went in, and the water bath began.  (10-15 min)

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Jars filled, ready for the hot liquid.

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Into the canner!

After 5 or 6 minutes, I could really smell the peppers in the air, which I thought was odd. Then I really started to sneeze and cough a great deal.  I glanced at the pot and saw a couple of seeds floating in the water, which was not good, but, curious. I stared to remove them, and saw a jar bobbing in the water! Thinking to myself, surely I didn’t not leave that much air space in the jar that it would float.  In all my years of canning, I have never experienced the problem shown below.  Two of my jars had broken on the bottom! The peppers were continuing to cook and the vapors were filling the air. Not sure why this happened.  I had the jars sitting on a rack, so that they were not touching the bottom of the pot. Funny thing is, I rarely use a rack on the bottom and have never had a problem.  One of life’s mysteries, I suppose.

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Oops!

So, I cleaned the jars off under hot running water and quickly brought a fresh batch of water to a boil. Plan B was to use a vegetable steamer in the bottom.  It worked like a charm and held the weight of the jars beautifully.

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Plan B!

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Finished product. Beauties!

In the end, the result was beautiful.  My eyes eventually stopped watering and my coughing and sneezing subsided. The peppers were so pretty and now I have lots of gifts to give.

Have you had a disaster in your kitchen this summer? Tell me about it!

Cheers, Olivia

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Food, Garden, Kitchen

 

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Trying a New Vinaigrette

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This, ladies and gentleman, is one of the best salads I’ve made and had in a very long time. Tired of the mundane oil & vinegar or ranch that I often eat, I was ready for something fresh and different. I browsed around on the net and came across a couple of salads that looked yummy. Of course, based on what I had and what I liked, I combined and modified them. The salad has a multitude of flavors, combining far east, the South, Southwest and turning into nothing less than American. Here is the end result of my experiment.

Ingredients for the salad:

butter lettuce
spinach
corn
avocado
bleu or gorgonzola cheese
blueberries

As usual, there is very little measuring with me. I just put each salad together on the plate rather than tossing it and prepared it for either one, two, or three people at a time. I put the greens down first, then sprinkled the rest of the ingredients on top.

You can roast the corn on the grill or on the stove top. I chose the stove top. The kernels went into a medium hot dry iron skillet and were stirred occasionally to obtain the blackened edges. Do not use any oil, butter, or liquid. The purpose is to brown, not cook/fry the corn. Keep an eye on it. You want the kernels to be darkened but not burned to a crisp. They can go from browned to burned in a flash. The day I took this picture, I used frozen corn. A different day, I used fresh, but just made sure to have as little liquid as I could in the skillet.

Here is the dressing. It can be halved or doubled at your leisure. It should not be a problem.
1/2 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
4 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. chili garlic sauce (Sriracha)
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin

Mix and drizzle over the top of the salad. You could toss it in a big bowl as well, but the presentation seems prettier when the ingredients aren’t damaged in the toss.

This would be a great addition to a low carb diet. There is very little sugar in this. The greens, avocado, and blueberries are loaded with nutrients and the berries with antioxidants. The addition of [local] honey and the chili garlic sauce will help with sinuses and allergies.

A couple of good variations would be adding some toasted nuts or seeds or changing up the fruit. Other berries or citrus would be a yummy substitute.

Probably my favorite part of this salad is the avocado and the Sriracha. The little bit of heat is such a nice addition. It makes so many things so much better or so different! I could go on and on. That’s a post for another day.

Enjoy! Let me know how it goes for you. Olivia

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Food

 

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Dan Dan Noodles via F&W

This recipe came to me via the Food and Wine email and I had perfect opportunity to try it. I have a friend that has recently moved to rural northwest Georgia from Tibet. We have been spending quite a bit of time together and she loves having me over to her house to cook meals and watch movies among other activities. She is trying her best to make food like that of her homeland, but it is hard to come by the same ingredients and she sometimes becomes frustrated. The day following a meal at her house, I got the F&W email and decided to try to give her a little taste of home, if only similar.

See the recipe here.

I did manage to find all of the ingredients in my local market, which was a relief. I took everything over there and commenced on making the meal. I asked her to prepare her mein noodles as she does at home and asked her if these ingredients looked familiar. They did and I could see a sparkle in her eye as I was bringing everything together.

She does not have a food processor or blender as of yet, so I chopped all of the ingredients by hand and used a whisk. It worked just fine. It was beautiful as well.

 

After using the skillet for the first cooking, I browned some pork chops in the peanut oil with just a little salt and pepper. Once they were nicely browned with the perfect crunch, they were set aside for a few minutes. Before serving the noodles, we put them in the skillet so that they could soak up all of the leftover oil and goodness. I thinly sliced the pork with her magnificent Chinese cleaver and placed over the top of the noodles. We poured the sauce mixture over the noodles and pork then topped with green onions cut on the bias and a squeeze of lime.

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This was one of the best dishes I’ve made in quite a while. My friend loved it. Not quite like home, but close enough. She loved it so much that she wanted to cook it a second time this week for her husband’s family. And so, we did. The second time, we used a blender, hoping to get the consistency described in the recipe. However, I must say, we were both disappointed with this method. The flavor was quite different and the second dish did not compare in beauty. We decided that next time, we would revert to the original, more time consuming method.

Let me know if you try it or have already.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Grease Burns in the Kitchen

Ah, the trials and tribulations of preparation in the kitchen. From the rookies to the seasoned chefs, everyone ends up with injuries at some point during their culinary adventures. As for me, I fall somewhere in the middle and am no exception to this rule. My latest food frown comes in the form of 2nd degree grease burns to my left hand and foot. Yes, I said foot, too. Long story short, I left a small pan of oil on a live burner and it went up in smoke. During the course of removal, it sloshed on my hand mostly, then went on my foot when I dropped it on the floor. Not a pretty sight, I can assure you. I’ve been joking that my fingers appear as if they are in rigor. A bit lighter in color, swollen, and stiff. Not to mention the oozing. Enough said.

Here I am a couple of days later, trying to heal and keep the wounds dry. As I’ve read through all the recommended methods of treatment for burns, I decided first, that mine is probably not bad enough to seek medical attention besides questioning the pharmacist.He recommended all sorts of non stick gauze, aloe sprays, tapes, ointments and the like. As I was making my decision, I noticed that tea tree oil was on the shelf with all the other remedies. Bingo. I thought to myself that I had some at home and decided to go with it rather than spending eight bucks on a bottle of burn spray. Once back home, I realized that no amount of tape or gauze was going to work out due to the burns being on fingers, toes, their joints, and in between.

So, I went with the tea tree oil to start with. Let me tell you, the pain relief was instant. I rubbed just enough to cover it and it soaked in within 4-5 minutes.

The days have gone by now; its been 6. I have put the tea tree oil on multiple times a day in addition to taking some otc pain reliever and using some antibiotic ointment on occasion. The blisters formed, filled, and burst. Now the new skin is appearing, the healing itch is in full force, and I’m over the hump. The pain is still here for sure. Elevation, t.t. oil and ibuprofen have gotten me through.

I will say this: the tea tree oil has magnificent drying power in addition to the pain relief. The moral of this story is to try the oil next time you get burned. My experience with it has been better than anything I’ve ever used.

Below is a photo of the products I used. The Aquaphor is an antibiotic burn salve, but regular antibiotic ointment with pain reliever works just as well.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Kitchen, Plants

 

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52 Uses for Coconut Oil

I wanted to put up a 3 Ways post today. After some time, and a mental block, I was perusing the net and then remembered this that I came across a couple of weeks ago. I am taking absolutely no credit for this one. Just passing along a very thorough and useful list of things to do with Coconut Oil!

http://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2012/01/52-uses-for-coconut-oil-the-simple-the-strange-and-the-downright-odd/

Currently, I do not use this for anything and never have. Looks like I need to! I will get some and try it. What are you doing with it?

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in 3 Ways, Food, Kitchen, Pets

 

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Do You Make Your Own Snacks?

Hello there.  I’m about to embark on making some snacks for myself.  Are you making your own snacks at home? What are you putting together? How about healthy options?

I have a huge sweet tooth, so I’m seeking healthier alternatives! Plain fruit or healthy crackers are completely boring to me! I’m going to try to find or come up with some good combinations.  Ideally, I could make a batch of something that I could keep around for a week or two.

Tell me what you’ve got and I will keep you posted on what I come up with.

Pistachios and dark chocolate might be starting this off…

Cheers.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Food

 

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Crème Fraîche 3 Ways

Crème fraîche is a French cream product that has similarities to sour cream. cream cheese, and yogurt. It is thick, smooth and creamy, containing between 18 ad 36% fat.  The flavor is tangy, similar to sour cream and the texture is easily spreadable.  It lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes.

Here are three things to try:

  1. Use it as a substitute for yogurt, sour cream, or even mayonnaise in most recipes.  Give it a shot!
  2. A very simple (and healthy) dessert or snack idea is to add a dollop on top of some fresh berries and drizzle with honey.
  3. Potato Gratin with Gruyère and Crème Fraîche

A fact about crème fraîche that is good to know is that it can be cooked or reheated without curdling.  This makes for easier use and a creamier outcome.

If you are unable to find it or would like to make your own, it is vary simple.  Here’s the recipe:

2 cups heavy cream
2 Tablespoons buttermilk

Stir the buttermilk into heavy cream in a glass container that has a lid (quart canning jar would be perfect).

Leave the container partially covered, and let it sit at room temperature until it’s at your preferred thickness, about 8 – 24 hours.

Stir the contents and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

There are lots of varieties to this recipe.  Some cook for a short period, some use yogurt, some vary the amounts of buttermilk ratio.  I imagine that all will produce a similar product.

Have you ever tried making it?

Cheers, Olivia

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in 3 Ways, Food

 

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Today’s Lunch! Had to share!

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Grilled Cheese w/ cheddar, fontina, jalapeños, and thick cut country bacon! Good grief, it was good!

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Jasmine Rice Cooking Tips

Jasmine and Basmati rices are probably my two favorite of the white rices.  Long grain, wonderful texture, and aromatic, they make up for a stand out product. While cooking some a week or so ago, I started reading the back of the package and was pleasantly surprised with the wealth of information on the back.  They give tons of cooking tips! 

Here’s everything they recommend:

Preparing Aromatic Rice

  • Adding lemon peel shortly before rice has finished cooking gives it a light, bright flavor.
  • For perfect pilafs sauté rice in oil to firm and toast the starchy exterior.

Rice: Dress it Up! The versatility of rice is just one of its key benefits.  Below are some simple ways to make aromatic rice more special.

Starting with hot, cooked rice…

  • sprinkle with friend scallions, shallots, garlic or ginger.
  • add grated lemon zest, chopped fresh mint, and dab of butter and cooked peas
  • stir in peanut butter and chopped scallions and top with chopped peanuts
  • stir in grated Parmesan cheese and sautéed onions
  • season with toasted sesame oil or tamari
  • stir in chopped dried fruit and toasted nuts

When preparing…

  • Sauté garlic, add rice and cook in chicken broth.
  • Cooking Jasmine rice in jasmine tea intensifies its sweet floral flavor.
  • Substitute a combination of chicken broth and white wine for water.
  • Cook rice with a few saffron threads; stir in cooked peas.
  • Cook with shitake mushrooms for an earthy, smoky flavor.
Here are some quick tips for cooking with Thai Jasmine.  Seasonings typically prepared with jasmine rice: lemongrass, cilantro, hot chilies, fish sauce, lemons or limes, basil, coconut milk, nuts, fruits, garlic, shallots, and hot & flavorful curries. Cooked jasmine rice remains soft when chilled, making it an excellent choice for salads or silky rice puddings.

Mahatma Brand Basmati and Jasmine Rices

As you can see, they give you a large variety of options that will go with a number of types of cuisine.  Typically, product suggestions and recipes can be found on the packaging that items come in.  So, if you are stuck on what to make with it or how to prepare it, just check the back of the package.  A good time to do this is while you are in the grocery store. That way, you can get everything that you need in advance.

Take a look at Mahatma Rice.

Have you tried serving suggestions recommended my the manufacturer? How did it turn out?  Leave me a comment below and tell me about it.

Cheers.

3/22/12 Update: I just came across this post via Grist.org by Twilight Greenaway.  Check out her new twist on our old favorites! “This recipe could change the way you look at rice.”

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Food

 

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Jalepeño Cornbread

Growing up, my mother always made cornbread and I must say, has been very good at it. On occasion she would make Mexican Cornbread. I’m not sure how she came into making it, but I always enjoyed it. As I remember, she would add a can of Mexican style canned corn to the batter and occasionally a chopped onion. The burst of the corn kernel and the crunch of the onion always appealed to my senses as a child.

Last night, while making chili, I wanted something different to accompany it. So Mexican cornbread it was. Not having the recipe or being able to get my mother on the phone at the moment, I went to the internet to find a good substitute. Of course, who did I find there? Ina herself. If there is another woman in the kitchen that I love besides my mother, its Ina Garten. After looking no further than the Barefoot Contessa recipe, I was ready to go. Jalepeno Cornbread sounded close enough and better. As it turns out, I decided to marry the two recipes and what a wonderful product I ended up with.

Here’s Ina’s recipe. Link to Food Network.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread 2006, Barefoot Contessa at Home

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
  • 8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar, grated, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish, 3 scallions
  • 3 tablespoons seeded and minced fresh jalapeno peppers

Directions

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don’t overmix! Mix in 2 cups of the grated Cheddar, the scallions and jalapenos, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated Cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Here are my modifications:

First and foremost, this is a giant recipe.  I cut it in half right from the start.  She says that her’s makes 12 large pieces and she isn’t kidding.  In half, it filled a standard iron skillet for me.
In addition to the scallions, I had a little white onion left over from my chili and I wanted to add that.  So, I added about 1/4 of a cup. I added 2/3 of a cup of canned corn (or half of an 11 oz. can). Her recipe calls for 3 extra large eggs. I used 2 large for the half recipe.
In hindsight, I wish I had added the seeds of the jalepenos.  The extra heat would have been a welcomed addition.
I must say, this was truly some of the best cornbread I’ve ever eaten.  The recipe called for much more flour than meal, which is more Northern for sure. We didn’t mind one bit. The texture was cake like and fluffy.  Brandon (the bf) and I walked into the kitchen and said at the same time “Oh my god, that smells so good.” Believe me when I say it- it was so good.  He and I both forgot to take a picture of it when it came out of the oven because we were dying to eat it.  We couldn’t even wait for it to cool at all- which you will see by the crumbs and broken pieces below!! At any rate, I am exceptionally happy with this recipe.  I will probably play with it a little more and I’ve even thought about making some sort of stuffing out of it to accompany some pork. MMMMMM.  Stand by for that.
Cheers.  Olivia

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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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