The DIY Life: Habanero Pickled Eggs

2 Oct

Having backyard chickens means that there are times when we are buried in fresh eggs. Right now, the chickens are still laying pretty regularly, but the time is looming when the days get shorter and cooler and the girls will slow down production. So, while eggs are plentiful, I decided to pickle some. Beet eggs are usually the type that people are most familiar with. Since I’m limited in what I can do in the kitchen since I have no countertops, I decided to do a simple pickled egg and make it spicy. I made some jalapeno pickled eggs last year, but they really lacked the heat I was looking for. We grew habanero peppers in the garden this year, and they’ve done well. So I decided to use those for the heat factor. In 7 days, you’ll have nicely pickled eggs with a heat that varies. These are great to have on hand for a flavorful boost of protein, or to have out as a snack for guests with assorted meats and cheeses.

Habanero Pickled Eggs

Habanero Pickled Eggs

18 hard boiled eggs, peeled

3 cups vinegar

3 cups water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dill

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1 tablespoon pickling spice

6 cloves of garlic, mashed and roughly chopped into chunks

4 habanero peppers, tops trimmed off

 

Add all your ingredients (except the eggs) to a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiled, remove from heat, stir and let sit to cool slightly.

Add your eggs to a heat safe glass container – I used a 1/2 gallon mason jar.

Pour the brine over the eggs until the container is almost full. Be sure to get the peppers, garlic and any pickling spices from the brine into the jar so that they can continue to flavor. You will have extra brine, but that is ok.

Add the lid to your jar and let cool for about an hour, then place in the fridge for 7 days to allow the mixture to pickle. Shake the jar each day to get the seasonings, spices and peppers to move around and flavor your eggs evenly.

After 7 days, your eggs are pickled and you can enjoy them!

Quick Weeknight Meal: Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

10 Sep Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

Well hello sarcastic followers! I know, I know. I’ve been MIA again. SO much going on. Weddings, weddings and more weddings. An unscheduled kitchen demo and remodel (another post!), raising new baby chicks and incorporating them into the current flock, gardening, and just life in general has been…hectic. BUT, I’m baaaaaack!

With summer drawing to a close, I was on the hunt for a recipe that would let me use of the last of the fresh basil. I froze a container full to use during the colder months, but still had a nice amount left of the plants that hadn’t been attacked by bugs or started turning brown. Then the the kitchn showed me a way with Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil.  After I read the comments, I made some modifications since there were people saying it lacked flavor. I doubled the lemon juice and zest, didn’t really measure the ricotta (so I’m sure I used more than the 2 cups, probably by about 1/2 cup), and added in garlic. I used an egg pasta for a little bit of a richer taste. The result was a bright, flavorful dish that was like summer in a bowl.

Hubs loved this dish as much as I did. If I were to serve it to a group for dinner, I’d use it as a side with some baked chicken and a salad. It was so quick to put together!

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

1 pound small shaped pasta – I used an egg pasta in rolled tube shape

2 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic gloves, minced

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup sliced basil leaves

1 cup reserved pasta water

 

Salt and boil a pot of water large enough to fit  your pasta of choice.

In a large bowl, mix your ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice and zest. Set aside.

Add your olive oil to a pan and heat over medium flame. Once oil is heated, add your minced garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring so it does not burn. Add your garlic oil mix to your cheese mix, stirring to combine. Salt and pepper to taste (I went heavier on the pepper for more flavor).

Once pasta is cooked to package directions, drain – reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Add ¼ cup of pasta water to your cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add pasta and basil, stirring to combine. If you would like the sauce to be thinner, add more pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. The heat from the cooked pasta and the pasta water will warm the cheese sauce and make it nice and creamy.

Serve immediately! If you have leftovers, save any leftover pasta water to add to the mixture when reheating. This will keep the sauce creamy and delicious.

 

Spinach and Ricotta lasagna roll ups with Roasted Garlic Butternut Squash Sauce

28 Oct

So, about the title. Ya, that is a mouthful and a half. However, I feel like it all needs to be outlined in the recipe title, because you don’t want to forget critical bits of information. Like the spinach. The fact that it’s not layered lasagna, but lasagna ROLLS. And that there is a sauce of squash, not tomatoes. Oh, and it has roasted garlic in it. One cannot forget about the garlic.

I originally saw this post over at Skinny Taste and thought wow, what an awesome way to get some more veggies into a meal and I happened to have some butternut squash on hand.  It was meant to be. Now, obviously I adapted this recipe so it didn’t turn out quite as healthy and lower fat as hers, but it’s pretty damn amazing. I always use full fat cheeses, and freshly shred my own. Why you ask? Because I don’t like that they have to do something to take the fat out of a food. Plus, the flavor is so much richer with a full fat cheese. Why shred your own cheese? That way I don’t get an extra helping of cellulose fibers (what they use in pre-shredded cheeses to keep them from sticking). It doesn’t take a huge amount of extra time to bust out the box grater and shred some cheese for a recipe.

Since there is some extra prep work to this recipe with the roasting of the squash and garlic, I like to roast the squash/garlic over the weekend and puree the sauce so that this can be a quickly assembled weeknight meal.

If you end up without enough cooking liquid left over after you roast your squash, add in some chicken stock until it reaches your desired consistency. Mine turned out kind of like pumpkin pie mix prior to adding the milk, but after the eggs and sugars are added if that helps to give you a visual. You could totally go thinner if you like, but I wanted it to be a bit thicker.

The flavors of this recipe really work well together, and all the fiber you get from the squash really helps make it a filling dish. I will certainly be making this one again. It was worth the effort of roasting my squash, and the roasted garlic gives the sauce a nice depth of flavor that you just wouldn’t have if it wasn’t part of the recipe.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do! The photos below do not do it justice. Seriously. Just make it. The hubs only gripe? No meat. So leftovers will be provided with some turkey meatballs. Because they are good too.

squash roll done

Spinach & Ricotta Lasagna Rolls with Roasted Butternut Squash Sauce

Adapted from Skinny Taste

Roasted Garlic Butternut Squash Sauce Ingredients: 

2lb butternut squash, cut in half with seeds removed

1 head garlic, top cut off

¼ cup parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper to taste
Lasagna Roll ingredients:
9 lasagna noodles, cooked and cool enough to touch

1 ½ cups frozen spinach, thawed and drained

30oz ricotta cheese

1/2 cup shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese

1 egg

½ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

¼ cup freeze dried chives

¼ cup parmesan cheese

Salt & Pepper to taste
Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a shallow baking sheet, place your butternut squash halves skin side up. Add 1- ½ cups water to the pan and put in oven. Roast for 40 minutes, or until fork tender.

While your squash is roasting, put your head of garlic in a small oven proof dish, drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Place in the oven with the squash and check on at 20 minutes. Garlic should be fork tender, with the tops of the cloves nice and brown.

Once your squash is cooked and your garlic roasted, let cool enough to handle. Scoop out the flesh from the squash and squeeze roasted garlic cloves into a medium mixing bowl. With an immersion blender, blend until the mixture is smooth. Add in the cooking liquid from your baking sheet, stirring to combine until the mixture resembles a very thick sauce. Stir in parmesan cheese, and season with salt & pepper to your liking. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, spoon a thin layer of the squash sauce, setting the remainder of the sauce aside.

In another clean mixing bowl, add in all of the lasagna roll ingredients, with the exception of the noodles. Stir until combined.

squash roll pre assembly

Lasagna roll assembly:

Lay out a piece of waxed paper to keep noodles from sticking to the counter. Add a layer of the ricotta mixture to the center of the noodle, leaving 1 inch of the noodle end free of the ricotta mixture.

squash roll ricotta mix

 

Roll noodle up and place seam side down into your baking dish. Continue until all noodles are filled.

squash roll sauce

Top noodles with the remainder of the squash sauce, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and cover your pan with foil. Bake in your 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Serve immediately, along with some crusty bread and nice big salad.

The DIY Life: Arugula Pesto

22 Oct

So, um, wow. I haven’t blogged for over a month. Now that I’ve had this epiphany, I feel it’s a little ridiculous because I’ve been cooking my ass off making all this from scratch food. Lots of squash type dishes. Complete with photos. And yet, not a blog post to be found for over a month. Damn.

Well folks, don’t you worry your pretty little faces off anymore. I am back. I have recipes out the wazoo. But since it’s been so long, I wanted to start off simple. With a different twist of pesto sauce. Most of the time when you think of pesto, you think of basil, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Which is delicious and simple in its own right. BUT…what if you were to try a pesto made from peppery arugula, mixed with salty parmesan and nutty roasted almonds?!?!?!? Have I blown your mind yet?!?!?!? It’s a simple list of ingredients, and the only other tool you need to make this is a food processor. And like, 5 minutes. Really. I made a bunch of this and froze it into cubes so that I could use it on pizzas, in sauces, or as a cooking medium for chicken. It’s pretty versatile. And tastes wonderful. For reals.

2013-09-07 12.07.28 2013-09-07 12.08.22

Arugula Pesto

7oz bag of arugula

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Pinch of kosher salt

1/2 cup olive oil

2oz toasted almond slivers * see notes below on how to toast

Add your arugula, cheese, almonds and salt to a food processor and pulse until combined. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to add the arugula in batches (I did). Once all of the arugula has been processed, turn the processor on and slowly pour in the olive oil until combined. Use immediately on whatever tickles your fancy, or freeze for later use.

Spoon into ice cube trays and let freeze until solid. To remove cubes. set the ice cube tray in a shallow dish of hot water to loosen up the pesto cubes. Place in a freezer safe bag or container and use as you need to!

Notes:

To toast almonds, put in a dry skillet that has been preheated over a medium flame. Toss around until they start to brown. Let cool completely before adding to food processor.

The DIY Life: Canning your own fresh made pasta sauce – Tomato Basil

13 Sep

I realized when looking into my freezer, stuffed to the gills with bags of frozen garden tomatoes, that I had never posted the recipe for Tomato Basil sauce last year. Then I looked at my drafts and confirmed it. And I’m thinking, hmmm….we are coming up on the end of tomato season here in Pa, with the last bushels available for purchase at the local farms thinning out and thought ya, I should probably post that recipe. You know, as a reminder to folks who want to can some sauce to get their hands on some tomatoes…and those who have tomatoes get canning! Below is my original, forgotten about post from Tomatopalooza of 2012. Tomatopalooza of 2013 hasn’t happened yet, so I don’t know what my sauce yield will be. I still have some sauce on the shelf, so I’m not in a huge hurry to get on canning sauce. Plus, I’m waiting for hubs to hook me up with an outdoor propane stove so I can can on the deck under the the open sky. *hint hint hubs*

Enjoy the post from the past!

 

Tomatopalooza continued – this round consisted of a basic pasta sauce with simple flavorings so that it can be canned and stored for later use. With the surplus of tomatoes I have in the freezers, I needed to get a head start on making pasta sauce. We don’t eat TONS of pasta anymore because of the heaviness of it and the fact that it packs on pounds unless you are planning to run a marathon – so pasta becomes a special treat instead of a weekly meal. But I wanted to stop having to buy canned pasta sauce. I have become a huge fan of being able to look at a the jars on my shelf and be able to recite – and pronounce – all of the ingredients, regardless of the jar. And gifting someone a jar of something I made from scratch is so fulfilling. People are so appreciative of something, anything in a mason jar. And canning makes me feel proud and empowered. In control of my food source. It also makes me feel in touch with my family history because my Bubba was the canning icon in our family. Sadly, she passed away when I was only 7 so she never got to share her wisdom with me but I can feel her in the things I do.

This batch of sauce was something I spread out over 2 days. Since all my tomatoes were frozen, I thawed them in a HUGE pot over the next two nights, draining off any of the water that seeped out of the tomatoes (this made the cooking down process much faster!) and piling more in as the tomatoes settled and squished down. Out of roughly 40lbs of tomatoes, I ended up with 8 quarts + 6 pints of sauce. It wasn’t super thick like some of the commercially produced sauces but it was a nice consistency. We had some for dinner and with it being just a basic tomato sauce I added spinach, ricotta cheese, some salt and some cooked sausage. It was great!

I have linked to the original post on the Ball canning site for those of you wanting to not do such a huge batch of sauce. Me, I can’t help but do everything in bulk!

Basil Garlic Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Ball Canning

Yield: will vary depending on how long you cook the tomatoes and what type you use. 

2012 yield: 8 quarts 6 pints

40lbs frozen tomatoes – preferably Roma’s

2 cups chopped Vidalia onion

16 cloves garlic, minced

¼ – ½ cup dried basil

Citric acid or bottled lemon juice – refer to canning book for amounts based on jar size

Canning jars, lids and bands – sterilized and hot according to proper canning methods.

The day before cooking sauce, thaw your tomatoes in the pot you will be cooking them in. Drain off any “water” that seeps out of the tomatoes. Add your onion, garlic and basil to the pot. Use a potato masher to break up the frozen tomatoes. Cook until everything is boiling and onion is soft.

Strain the mixture through a food mill to remove seeds and skins. (At this point, you may put the strained sauce into the fridge and cook down another day)

Cook the strained mixture down until reduced by half for a thin sauce.

Add your citric acid/bottled lemon juice to each jar according to size. Fill with sauce to 1 inch headspace. Add to PRESSURE CANNER and process for 15 minutes for both pints and quarts at 11lbs of pressure, adjusting for your altitude.

No pressure canner, or you’re scared of it? You can process jars in a water bath canner as well: 35 minutes for pints

Let cool on counter for 24 hours. Remove bands and wipe down jars and store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year. Any jars that did not seal can either be reprocessed or stored in the fridge for use.

***Follow all canner directions for both pressure and water bath***

Use up that jam! Easy Homemade Jam Ice Cream.

30 Aug

I have to say, for a little bit there I was on a strawberry jam kick. It was easy to whip up and can a batch of it and be able to enjoy that one batch the whole year. But then I got chickens, which means I have lots of eggs. Which means my most favorite way to enjoy those eggs is over medium. What does that mean for my jam? It means it doesn’t get to make its debut on a buttery english muffin quite as often since strawberry jam coated english muffins do not go well being dipped into egg yolks. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not my thing. So my strawberry jam has been collecting a little dust, going unloved on the canning shelf.

Then Northwest Edible Life throws me a recipe that is simple to whip up and use some of that jam! This ice cream recipe is so simple to use. No cooking a custard base, no cooling. Just your ice cream maker and 4 ingredients and you’ll have a batch of homemade ice cream with homemade jam for sweetness and flavor. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it!

It’s a great way to use up some surplus jam. Don’t have any homemade jam? You could give it a try with store bought. Not quite as good in my opinion, but it will still be quick and taste amazing. After tasting this easy ice cream, I plan on making a large batch of jam – strawberry and apple pie – so that I have it on hand for a quick batch of this ice cream! And to smear on homemade bread and english muffins of course.

strawberry jam ice cream

Homemade Jam Ice Cream

Adapted from Northwest Edible Life

1 cup cold milk – I used 2%

2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled

1 pint jar jam of your choice – I used strawberry

Put all your ingredients into a mixing bowl and combine using an immersion blender. Pour mixture into your ice cream maker, following the manufacturers directions.

Since this will be a soft set, I like to place it in a freezer safe container and firm up overnight. The lovely thing about this recipe? It doesn’t get rock hard. My ice cream scoop easily cuts through it and I serve it up with a little chocolate sauce for dessert. It’s rich, so one or two scoops will satisfy.

A healthy dessert alternative – Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites

19 Aug

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I love me some coconut. And not just food, coconut everything. Coconut oil, candy, body wash, body spray, shampoo, soap, candles, beverages. You name it. I haven’t met something with coconut anywhere in the description that I didn’t like. Seriously. As many of you have picked up, I am working to lead a healthier lifestyle. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat well or live a good life. I still enjoy food, and the whole act of eating. I just choose to make better choices. Organic as often as I can, growing and preserving as much food as possible, and doing much of my cooking from scratch. I have cut back on my beer consumption since that and too large portions are what contributed to my weight gain (fall beers are starting to arrive though, so I’ll have to be strong!!!) I don’t follow any particular diet or eating fad. I’m not gluten free, paleo or vegan. I like meat. I like dairy. I like bread. I don’t stop myself from eating the things that I like, I just limit myself to how much I’m eating. I’ve stopped boredom snacking. When I have a craving for something that may not be the healthiest food choice, I wait a few days. If I still have the craving, I indulge in a small bit of whatever it is I have a hankering for. Like a slice of pie, or a piece of cake. If the craving goes away, it was just a random craving. I certainly don’t exercise as often as I should. My days have been pretty busy as of late with cleaning, gardening, and taking care of my 10lb back surgery dog. So I’m not sitting around. I have actually lost 10lbs of the 30 that I want to lose, and that is mostly with diet changes. It’s amazing how great it feels when a pair of pants that had previously not fit FIT. Like you can button them up and not struggle to breathe. There is no muffin top or unsightly bulge. It’s a total victory. I’m not FAT, but I’m certainly not at my healthiest weight. So this lifestyle change is working, and I can see results. Therefore I choose to continue making healthy food choices. BUT…that doesn’t mean this girl doesn’t want something sweet from time to time. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have it be a healthy sweet treat. Enter in the Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites – aka Coconut Klondike. Coconut is a healthy fat to ingest. Coconut oil has so many benefits I won’t even go into listing them all here. Dark chocolate is also beneficial. One of these little Coconut Bites satisfies a craving without blowing your daily progress and on a hot day, the frozen texture of them helps give you a mini cool down. I love that they are a 2 bite treat (on if you are a man and toss the whole thing in your mouth), there are no added sugars, no processing, no ingredients that can’t be pronounced or identified. They are actually a HEALTHY treat!!!  Go figure!

Your yield for these can vary depending on how much you fill up those muffin liners. I got 30, but know I could have gotten less if I would have packed in the coconut. I also chose to add in some more of the shredded coconut – probably 1/4 cup more so I got a larger yield. The original recipe called for making these in the standard size muffin papers but I chose to do mini so having 2 would feel like a real indulgence.

If you like coconut, are trying to be healthy, or both definitely give these a try. I’m so glad I did!

Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites

Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites

Yield 20-30

Adapted from PaleOMG

 

Ingredients

1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut

½ cup coconut butter

½ cup organic coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1 bag dark chocolate chips

In the bowl of your food processor, add all of your ingredients with the exception of the dark chocolate chips. Blend it until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed and you have a silky texture with bites of coconut.

Line your mini muffin pan with paper liners, adding a scoop of coconut mixture smashing down the mix with the back of a spoon to level it. You will fill your liners ¾ of the way full, leaving room for chocolate.

After filling all of your muffin cups, melt your chocolate chips. To melt, I used a double boiler, but you can also use the microwave if you want to do it quicker.

Top each coconut cup with melted chocolate until tops are completely covered.

When done, place muffin pan in the freezer for 20 minutes until coconut cups are set and firm. Remove from freezer, transfer to an air tight container and store in freezer.

When you want to eat one, remove it from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes to let the coconut and chocolate soften a little.

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