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Archive for the ‘Cucumber’ Category

How about two cents?

Who doesn’t like pickles? Well…test subject Bill is a self-proclaimed pickle hater. With this in mind…well…I made pickles anyway 🙂

With Alton Brown’s refrigerator pickle recipe recipe in hand, I was determined to produce the best pickles ever. Or, at least something edible. His recipe calls for “pickling spices.” I visited three different stores, including two different Whole Foods, but there were no pickling spices to be found. So I sought out my own pickling spice recipe. A fellow blogger was kind enough to provide her pickling spice recipe so I thought I was good to go:

PICKLING SPICE I

2 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon crumbled whole mace
1 teaspoon dill seeds
4 dried bay leaves
1 small piece dried ginger

Mix together all the ingredients.

Store in a small, airtight jar up to 2 months.

Makes about 1/4 cup.

Well…a few of those ingredients were hard to come by. I tore Whole Foods and Publix apart but had to substitute ground ginger for the dried ginger and ground mace for the whole mace. I made my pickling spice and hoped for the best.

Cucumbers waiting to become pickles.

Cucumbers waiting to become pickles.

Using a combination of cucumbers from my CSA box and the Saturday farmer’s market, I got to work slicing and mixing. The recipe is suprisingly easy – I can’t believe I didn’t do this before. I filled up nine small canning jars and one large one with cucumbers and onions, simmered the spices and vinegars and water together and poured them over the top of the veggies.

Alton’s recipe calls for half a cup of sugar. I don’t like using so much (plus I think sweet pickles are gross) so I did one batch with the full amount of sugar, one with half the sugar and one with a quarter of the sugar called for. I guess I just can’t leave things alone – must experiment!

After the jars cooled to room temperature, I lidded and refrigerated them. The great thing about these pickles is that they are ready almost right away. I tried some the very next day and was pleasantly suprised. The sugar wasn’t overpowering and offered a nice balance to the tartness of the vinegars. I didn’t taste too much difference between the full sweet and half sweet ones, so I think I’ll just use half the sugar from now on. The quarter sweet ones I also enjoyed, although they were a bit more sour than the others. The substitutions I made in the pickling spice didn’t seem to have had an adverse impact on the final product. Yay!

Oh pickle my pickle!

Oh pickle my pickle!

Test subject Bill finally taste tested them tonight. “These taste better than pickles,” he announced. (All according to my plan…slowly but surely I will turn him…) I have to agree – they are superior to store bought pickles and not difficult to make. The only problem is that they only last two months.

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Last week I had a produce panic attack.

There are loads of goodness coming in from the local farms, and I think half of it ended up in my kitchen. Between my CSA box and my inability to stay away from the Suwanee farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, my fridge and counter tops were bursting with produce. It was time to freak out.

What do I do with all this bounty??

So I got to work. I froze a ton of green beans and some raspberries (I can get a few raspberries down here and they are great, but they are just not the powerhouses like the ones I got back on the farm in Iowa). I felt better after that, but still…all that squash…

Zucchini bread and squash muffins

Zucchini bread and squash muffins

So I got to work making squash muffins courtesy of a recipe from my CSA newsletter. Sounds weird, but they really do taste good. (Especially with butter and a little honey!) I made two dozen of those, put some in the freezer and some in bags to give to friends. Then I made a loaf of zucchini bread from my How to Cook Everything book. I’ll have to tell you how that tastes later because it’s in my freezer right now, which is just about to explode.

Last night I made a tomato and cucumber salad with Vidalia onions, with just a little salt and pepper, fresh parsley and a drizzle

Tomato and cucumber salad

Tomato and cucumber salad

of olive oil. Super yum.

I also found a recipe for squash fritters so I thought I would give that a try for a little appetizer. You grate the squash, strain and squeeze out the moisture, then combine with flour (recipe calls for almond flour but I had none, so I used arrowroot flour…anyone know if that makes a big difference?), seasonings, and egg. They ended up looking grate and tasting good (test subject Bill had four or five of them) but they were a bit soggy. I think I wasn’t aggressive enough in

Squash Fritters

Squash Fritters

squeezing out the liquid. Next time those squash won’t know what hit them. They were fun to make, though, and it was actually my first time using coconut oil. Tasty stuff!

For a main course I made a beef and eggplant stir fry with red bell pepper, green bell pepper, misc hot peppers and those light green not-hot peppers that grow around here that I have no idea what they’re called. For the seasoning, I coated the beef strips in this Chinese 10-spice I got at the farmer’s market, then made a

Scratch and sniff

Scratch and sniff

sauce with a little water and cornstarch to thicken it up. The beef was a sirloin steak from Nature’s Harmony Farm. I used the leftover coconut oil from the fritters to do the frying.

It was SO GOOD. The beef was tender, the veggies were slightly crunchy, the sauce was phenomenal. Truely, I wish this was a scratch and sniff blog with a taster option because I can’t even explain how great this smelled and tasted. And all I really did was throw stuff together. A smart cook uses good ingredients so they don’t have to work as hard 🙂 Test subject Bill went back for seconds.

Wheaties, hit the road.

Wheaties, hit the road.

When I woke up this morning there was still work left to do on the produce barrel. I stirred some of the sweet and hot peppers into my morning eggs, tossed in some chopped tomato and topped it with a dallop of sour cream for a southwestern southeastern egg dish. I cut up a baby cantelopue (those things are so darn cute) and used the raspberries I didn’t freeze to make a dessert for my breakfast. (Who says breakfast can’t have dessert?) Add some toast made from Ezekiel bread from the farmer’s market, a cup of tea and a glass of real milk and that’s what I call the breakfast of champions. Wheaties is for chumps.

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

Finally, and this has nothing to do with produce, but after all that effort I needed a sweet treat. A couple eons ago I had this Care Bear cookbook. It was filled with ridiculously sweet treats for kids to make, but the one thing I made over and over again was the Nutty Shake. It has been probably 20 years since I made one. I was due.

I used some of my homemade vanilla ice cream, some organic peanut butter, milk and replaced the white sugar that the original recipe called for with honey and let it rip in the blender. I think I used a tad too much milk because it didn’t come out as thick as I wanted, but it didn’t matter. I sucked it down and was grateful.

I know this all sounds like a ton of work, but I am so relaxed right now. We ate well and there’s more in the freezer for later. There’s just something about real food that makes me smile.

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