Friday, August 28, 2015

Puff Pastry Made Easy


A couple of years ago I found this great EASY recipe for puff pasty from Flour Me with Love and have been making these puff pastry treats ever since. The recipe is easy to follow and simplifies the whole tedious puff pasty process into one very simple to follow recipe.

You'll be amazed how light and delicious this puff pastry is! It's so flaky and buttery! This makes the perfect little dessert your family is sure to love, and they'll think you spent hours making it.

Puff pastry dough folded and wrapped for the refrigerator

Cream cheese filling and cherry pie filling added

All folded over and crimped

All set and ready to bake


Ingredients for pastry
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbls. sugar
1 cup butter, frozen and cut into slices (2 sticks)
1/2 cup sour cream

Ingredients for cream cheese
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Strawberry Jam (or your favorite jam or preserves)
Strawberry pie filling
Cherry pie filling
Blueberry pie filling
Caramel Apple Jam

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Add the cut butter slices and using the paddle blade, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles large crumbs. Mix in sour cream just until the dough begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board, and quickly knead it together.  Roll out into a 12 x 13-inch rectangle. Fold down the top half of the dough then flip up the bottom half so they overlap. Now fold in each side until they meet. You should have a nice neat square.  Dusting work surface again with flour, roll it out one more time repeating the folding. It will look much more uniform this time. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or dough can be frozen at this time.

While the dough is chilling, beat the softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until smooth and creamy; set aside.

Remove dough from the refrigerator, and on a lightly floured surface, roll it out into a large square. Trim sides with a knife or pizza cutter to make even. Cut dough in into 6 pieces (cut in half width-wise, then cut 3 vertical slices, making 6 total.

Put 1 tbls. cream cheese filling on each at one end of the dough (leaving a bit of space at the very bottom). Use the back of a small spoon to make a small depression in the cream cheese filling. Top it with 1 tbls. of your choice of fillings (see above). Cut 3 slits into the top section of the dough, moisten all the edges with water, and fold dough over the filling until the top and bottom touch. Using a fork dipped in flour, crimp all around the edges (bottom and both sides) to seal. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet.

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove to cooling rack and let cool. Sprinkle tops with sugar if desired.

Yield:  6 pastries



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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tomato Sauce Canning Made Easy!

Simple Pasta Sauce
I have been canning a variety of tomato products for many years. When I first made tomato sauce I cooked them down some in a stock pot and used a food mill to process the tomatoes to remove the skin and seeds.
Food Mill

Later I graduated to the fruit and vegetable strainer attachment for my Kitchen Aid to process the tomatoes, and it does a great job straining out the skin and seeds, but the resulting "sauce" is thin and needs to cook down several hours to thicken for use as tomato sauce, pizza sauce, enchilada sauce, a base for salsa, and more.

Vegetable and Fruit Strainer attachment

Recently, in a conversation with my daughter, she told me a friend had mentioned their grandmother used to just roast the tomatoes, then mash or blend them for sauce. At first I was a bit skeptical ... I mean, skins, seeds and all? It didn't seem like that would work very well, but I tried this "new to me" technique, and it puts all of the above methods on the back burner! Yep, seriously, what I found out is it's so simple it's crazy, and the resulting products are crazy good! Really good!

Roma Tomatoes

Are you ready? Roast the tomatoes, then simply process them skin, seeds and all in a blender until smooth. That's it ... it's that easy. No more cooking down and processing in a food mill or fruit and vegetable strainer for me! A big PLUS is you lose less product because you use ALL OF IT!! And a real benefit to me is you SAVE TIME, oodles of time, which is a precious thing when you have a lot of product to process, or other things to do. When you roast the tomatoes the natural sugars in the tomatoes become more concreted/caramelize which offsets that potential sourness of the seeds and skins. It's AWESOME!!!

Roma Tomatoes split in half and ready to roast

Roasting Tomatoes

Tomato Sauce

Now I am sure there are many, many great preservers out there who will read this and say "where has she been all these years" and I'll say "I know, right?"  Of course the "old ways" are many times the best way, and so long as you follow today's SAFE canning methods you should have a winner-winner on your hands for your family to enjoy!

Pizza Sauce, Pasta Sauce and Enchilada Sauce

Pizza Sauce


Tomato Sauce

3-4 lbs. fresh, ripe tomatoes (the more you have, the more sauce you can make)
Lemon juice or citric acid

Preheat oven to 425. Wash tomatoes well in a vinegar bath. Cut in half and place in a large, deep roasting pan, over-lapping as necessary. Roast in oven 30 minutes, or until tomatoes and soft and skins blistering, stirring occasionally to prevent them from burning.

Remove from oven and ladle into a blender, a little bit at a time, and blend until smooth. Repeat until all tomatoes are blended.

**Reserve the liquid from the tomatoes that will be in the roasting pan after roasting to use later to "thin down" your sauces if desired. 

**At this time you can stop and pour the tomato sauce into canning jars to process or continue with the instructions below.

Pour sauce into a large stock pot and cook sauce over med-high heat until sauce thickens more, stirring to prevent sticking. This should only take about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and process sauce one more time in blender to make smooth.

Pour hot tomato sauce into canning jars.

**Add 1 tbls. lemon juice or 1/4 tsp citric acid to each pint jar, 2 tbls. lemon juice or 1/2 tsp citric acid per quart jar, leaving 1/2-inch head-space.

Process half-pints and pints 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes, in a boiling water bath.

Yield:  varies depending on how many tomatoes you have
Tomato Sauce

Pasta Sauce
Add to Tomato Sauce:
1 large onion, diced
1 tbls. Oregano
3-4 tsp. minced garlic
1 tbls. Italian seasoning
salt and black pepper, to taste
lemon juice or citric acid (see amounts above)
Cook on stove top and adjust seasonings to taste as cooking. Finish Pasta Sauce by following directions above.

Pizza Sauce
5 cups fresh tomato sauce
1 small onion, minced
3-4 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. course-ground black pepper
1/2 tbls. sugar
1/2 tbls. parsley
1 tbls. oregano
1/2 tbls. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
lemon juice or citric acid (see amounts above)
Cook on stove top and adjust seasonings to taste as cooking. Finish Pizza Sauce by following directions above.

Enchilada Sauce
5 cups fresh tomato sauce
3 chili peppers (jalapenos, poblanos, long green chilis)
1 small onion, minced
3-4 tsp. minced garlic
1 tbls. chili powder
2-4  tsp. ground cumin
2-4  tsp. Mexican oregano
1/2 cup vinegar (I used white distilled vinegar)
Roast chili's and onion until tender. Place in the blender with a little tomato sauce (about 1 cup) and blend until smooth. Add this mixture to the remaining tomato sauce and cook on stove top, adjusting seasonings to taste as cooking. Finish Enchilada Sauce by following directions above, except eliminate the lemon juice or citric acid.


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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sweet and Sour Pork Meatballs


Oh my goodness, these are so good. Since the pork meatballs are baked, not fried, they stay moist and delicious. The sweet and sour sauce adds just the right amount of sweet and tart, making this a very tasty dinner.


1 lb. ground pork (preferably pasture raised pork from a local family farm)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. course-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. Chinese 5 spice
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
Options:  1 bell pepper, sliced into large pieces; 1 small onion, sliced into large pieces
Sweet and Sour Sauce
8 Tbls. Ketchup
6 Tbls. Vinegar
6 Tbls. Sugar
2 Tbls. Cornstarch
2 Tbls. Oil
1 1/3 cups Water
*Options - Add crushed pineapple, pineapple pieces, and/or diced bell pepper and onion as desired.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients for pork meatballs together in a mixing bowl. Shape into small meatballs and place in a 9 x 9-inch baking dish, sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake in 350 oven 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and drain any grease from meatballs, returning meatballs to baking dish, and set aside.

Make Sweet and Sour Sauce: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, heat to boiling over low heat, stirring to prevent sticking. Sauce thickens as it cooks. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm. Note - sauce stores well in the refrigerator for several weeks.

To finish: Spoon about half the sweet and sour sauce over drained meatballs. Add large pieces of cut bell pepper, onion and pineapple chunks if desired, stirring once to coat meatballs.

Bake covered in 350 oven 15-20 minutes or until cooked and heated throughout. Remove from oven and serve meatballs over hot steamed rice topped with additional sweet and sour sauce.


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Monday, August 24, 2015

Cowboy Candy {Candied Jalapenos}


If you like pepper jelly served over cream cheese on crackers, you will love Cowboy Candy. The sugary sweet syrup/brine is the perfect compliment to the heat of the jalapenos.

When my friend, Diane, at Canning and Cooking at Home made these, I knew I wanted to try it for myself. I have pickled jalapenos and made pepper jelly of all types, but Cowboy Candy was a first for me. So glad I tried it!


3 lbs jalapenos, fresh and firm
2 cups distilled white vinegar (original recipe used cider vinegar)
**see here for using different vinegars
6 cups granulated sugar
1⁄2 tsp turmeric
1⁄2 tsp celery seed
3 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Wearing gloves if desired,  slice the stems from the jalapenos and discard. Slice the peppers into uniformed rounds about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and set aside.

In a large pot, bring vinegar, white sugar, turmeric, celery seed, garlic and cayenne pepper to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for 4 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop peppers into canning jars leaving 1/4 inch head-space.

Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes.

Using a ladle, add the boiling syrup to the jars over the jalapeno slices, distributing it evenly between all the jars, leaving a 1/4-inch head-space. Use a small knife, or a plastic canning tool designed to remove air bubbles, and run it around the insides of the jars, moving it up and down to remove any air bubbles. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary.

Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and top jars with lids and bands.

Process jars in a boiling water bath 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints, adjusting for your altitude.

Transfer the jars to a dish cloth covered space on your counter-top and let jars sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

Store in pantry up to one year. Refrigerate any opened jars.

Cooks note - Allow to mellow for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating. Save any extra syrup and "can it up" also for a real treat. Use it to baste on grilled meat, dress up a potato salad, and more.

Yield:  approx. 9 pints

Original recipe adapted from Caning and Cooking at Home


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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ciabatta Bread


Ciabatta is one of my favorite Italian breads, but it is not always the easiest or quickest bread to make, even for a seasoned baker. The dough is rather wet and sticky and can seem impossible to work with when you’re new to the process, but that wet stickiness is also vital to the light, bubbly, airy texture of this bread.

There are some moments when making this bread you are going to shake your head and say "this can't possibly be right," but believe me, this is the best recipe I've ever made for this classic bread.


4 cups all-purpose flour
2¼ tsp active dry yeast
2¼ cups warm (not hot) water
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar

Mix the sugar, water and yeast in a bowl and set aside for five minutes for the yeast to start working. Add the flour and salt and mix in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. You want the mixture to be just slightly thicker than a pancake batter and it should definitely not pull together into a firm dough.

Let the mixture stand for about 15 minutes. Then turn on the stand mixer to a medium-high setting. After about six minutes, the dough will start to make a flapping sound and start rising up the sides of the bowl.

At this point, switch the paddle for the dough hook and knead for another six to seven minutes until the dough starts pulling cleanly off the sides of the bowl. It will be smooth at this stage but still very sticky and loose.

Grease a bowl and pour the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap or kitchen towel and place in a warm spot. In about 1½ to 2 hours, the dough would have tripled.

Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper and then dusting the paper liberally with flour. If you don't have parchment paper, spray the cookie sheet with cooking spray, but do not dust with flour.

Pour the dough out of the bowl and into the center of the cookie sheet. Dust the top with flour. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into two pieces. Now use the bench scraper to shape the dough, tucking the irregular pieces underneath, until you have two flat logs. You may scrape and push the dough several times to get them shaped. The logs should be about six inches apart. This is a rustic bread, and the wet dough is not going to hold a definite shape. It is known as an Italian "Slipper" Bread for a reason.

Dust some more flour over the logs, then cover them with a loose kitchen towel and place in a warm spot for about an hour or until the logs are risen and all puffy-looking.

About half an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Place a pan filled partially with water on the bottom rack while preheating.

Once the oven is preheated, place the cookie sheet with the ciabatta loaves directly on the rack above the pan with water. Bake for 25 minutes or until the loaves are golden-brown and the bottom sounds hollow then tapped.

Cool thoroughly on a rack. Slice and dip in olive oil and garlic for a delicious treat!


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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cherry Amaretto Chocolate Chip Ice-Cream


We recently hosted a "boozy ice-cream contest" with friends, taking their suggestions for flavor blends. This is one of the results and it's so darn good. You simply need to plan ahead so you can soak your cherries in the Amaretto for 2 weeks before making the ice-cream.


Cherry Amaretto Mixture (2 weeks in advance):
24 fresh cherries, pitted and quartered
1 cup Amaretto
1 cup sugar
Stir together, cover and refrigerate 2 weeks.
When ready to use, or the day before, cook over very low heat to thicken, stirring often. Remove from heat and completely chill in your refrigerator.

Vanilla Ice-Cream Base:
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 cups 1/2 and 1/2
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 tbls. vanilla paste
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Cook over low heat until it's a thin custard consistency, stirring often. Chill several hours in your refrigerator until mixture is chilled through.
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (added at the end of making the ice-cream)

To Make:
Put vanilla base in ice cream maker and churn according manufacturers directions. When ice cream has thickened, slowly pour in cherry mixture and 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips and blend well. Scoop ice-cream into containers and freeze.


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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cheesy Corn and Jalapeno Fritters


Fresh corn on the cob, diced jalapeno peppers, diced onion and spices all come together in these fritters. Sweet with a little heat. If you are not a fan of the peppers, feel free to leave them out.


2 ears fresh sweet corn, cut from cob (about 1-1/2 cups)
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (depending on your taste)
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup corn meal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 small onion, diced small
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk

Cut corn from the cob and place in a medium size bowl. To the corn add the flour, corn meal, sugar, onion, bacon, Old Bay, black pepper, salt and grated cheese. Stir the ingredients together.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Add to the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.

Heat oil in a small deep fryer or enough in a medium size frying pan to come to about 1" up the side of the pan. When oil is approximately 350 degrees, or when a bit of batter dropped into it sizzles and quickly floats to the top, it is ready for frying. Drop batter carefully one tablespoon at a time into the hot oil.

Let cook a few minutes, then carefully turn fritters to make sure they get cooked on both sides. Once they are golden brown on both sides (this will only take a couple of minutes), remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately while they are warm.

To reheat and crisp up leftovers, place in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 8 - 10 minutes or until they are heated through.

Yield: approximately 2 dozen.


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