Posted in 4th of July, Canning, Classic, Cook out, Grilling, Pantry Staples, Patriotic, pickled, Portable/Picnic, Preserving, Sandwiches, Summer, Vegetarian, Veggies, Vintage

Summer Bounty – Bread & Butter Pickles

You all know I say I am NOT a big fan of summer.  I’m really not.  I don’t like the humidity.  I burn when I look at the sun.  The only time I “like” to sweat is when I’m working out or cleaning my apartment or something.  I’m  not a super big beach/pool person so I could kind of care less.  I know that’s sacrilege for a lot of my friends!

BUT…

The more I think about growing up in rural Ohio (I’ve been getting seriously nostalgic lately) the more I realize there are things about summer that I absolutely love.  So many of my favorite memories as a kid happened during the summer time.  And so many of those memories are wrapped up around our garden, the local farmers, spending time harvesting lots of veggies and spending a lot of time with my Grandma in the kitchen as she cleaned, prepped, and canned green beans, beets, tomatoes, made jam, and made her own homemade pickles.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I can’t stand pickles.  Well I should say, I don’t like dill pickles.  Growing up I would tolerate my Grandma’s bread and butter pickles but get anything dill anywhere near me and I would run the other way.  As I’ve gotten older and my tastebuds have grown with me I have finally discovered a love of all things pickl-y.  I’m still not a fan of dill but my world has been opened up to so many amazing ways of preservation in the last few years that I’ve been much more adventurous and have found some things I can’t live without.

One of my latest summer staples has become the humble bread and butter pickle for sure.  It’s amazing how easy they are to make and how just this simple little pickle will make a burger, or even a simple turkey sandwich something really special.

I’ve been working to perfect a new smoked turkey recipe that isn’t quite ready for the world yet but I had to go ahead and share this quick and classic pickle recipe that you can enjoy all summer!!

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I need to get my Grandma’s recipe but this one has become my go-to!

Bread & Butter Pickles

2 pounds medium Kirby cucumbers
2 cups small dice sweet onion
¼ cup kosher salt
1 pound ice
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
½ teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups cider vinegar
1 bay leaf, torn into pieces
3 whole cloves
½ jalapeno pepper, sliced paper thin

 

Sterilize three quart canning jars, along with the rings and lids. (I recommend checking out the Ball canning website for tips if you’ve never canned before, http://www.freshpreserving.com/canningmenu.html.

 

Cut the blossom end off the cucumbers and slice the cucumbers into 1/8-inch thick slices. To draw out the excess liquid and increase the crunch, layers the cucumber slices with onion, salt, and ice in a glass or stainless steel container. Weight with a plate large enough to cover all the cucumbers and keep them submerged when the ice melts. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

 

Drain the cucumbers and onions, put them in a large stainless steel, and add the sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, vinegar, bay leaf, cloves and jalapeno. Bring the mixture to a simmer over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Using a digital thermometer to check, make sure that the internal temperature of the cucumbers reaches 180° and stays there for 90 seconds. Skim off any foam that rises to the top.

 

Divide the hot cucumbers among the sterilized jars. Ladle the remaining hot vinegar mixture over the cucumbers, leaving a ¼-inch headspace. Wipe the rims and threads clean. Place the lids and rings on the jars and tighten the rings. Cool the jars on a clean dish towel or a rack, not directly on the countertop.

 

Refrigerate for at least 1 week to let the pickles cure before eating (you can skip this step but the wait will be worth it!). Unopened, the pickles will keep for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. Once opened, they will keep for up to 3 weeks longer in the refrigerator.

 

Source: Heritage, Sean Brock

 

Posted in Chicken, Cooking for Two, Dinner, Family Friendly, Grilling, Healthy, Marinade, Pantry Staples, Quick cooking, Summer, Veggies

Pantry Staples – Greek Marinade

Spring has finally sprung!  The sun is shining.  The birds are singing. My eyes itch and I’m sneezing my head off.  Darn it, I’m still going to enjoy the beautiful weather!

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Now that the weather is nice I start craving all kinds of spring/summer foods.  I want to be grilling, eating veggies, and making all kinds of fresh salads.  BUT I don’t want to spend a lot of time in a hot kitchen.  Give me quick and easy and I’m a happy camper!

My biggest tip for putting together a quick and easy dinner is to make sure you keep your pantry stocked with a variety of things to throw together a meal quickly and with very little effort.  One of my favorite, go-to pantry marinades is my Greek Marinade.  I use it on chicken, shrimp, veggies, fish.  It is so versatile and easy to put together!  Pair some chicken with a quick side dish of veggie couscous and you’re set.

For marinades I almost never actually measure ingredients.  Once you’ve done it a time or two you’ll get it just the way you like it.  My rule of thumb for a marinade is pretty simple: 2 parts oil, 1 part acid, salt & pepper, herbs and spices of your choice.  The best method though is just to taste it.  You know what you like. Trust your instincts!

Greek Marinade

Olive oil
White balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
Zest and juice of one lemon
Salt & pepper
Greek seasoning blend (the brand I use has onion, garlic, oregano, mint)

Put all the ingredients in a mason jar and shake it up. Marinate your choice of protein or veggies for about 15 minutes.

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Other variations:

Asian-olive oil, a dash of sesame oil, orange juice, rice wine vinegar, Sambal Olek (instead of pepper), soy sauce (instead of salt), garlic, ginger, honey

Southwest-olive oil, lime juice, red wine vinegar, salt & pepper, cumin, chili powder, garlic, cilantro, splash of tequila

Greek Grilled Chicken and Veggie Couscous is one of our regular rotation meals.  It’s super simple, comes together in about 25 minutes, and is light and healthy.  You can have dinner on the table with very little fuss, very few dirty dishes, and can be back to enjoying the warm weather and extra hours of sunshine in no time!

Greek Grilled Chicken and Veggie Couscous

For chicken:
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
Greek marinade

For couscous:
1 box couscous, cooked according to package directions
Olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
2 medium zucchini, cut into rounds
Grape tomatoes, halved if they’re really big
Garlic
Salt & pepper

For sauce:
1 cup greek yogurt or mayonnaise
1 cup feta cheese
Juice of a lemon
Parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Put the chicken in the marinade while you’re gathering your other ingredients, about 15 minutes. Preheat a grill pan over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the chicken and grill 2 minutes per side until you have some nice grill marks. Pop in the oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking. Remove chicken when done and let rest a minute before serving.

While chicken is in the oven, preheat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil and onion, saute until translucent. Add the zucchini and cook for a minute or two until it starts to brown a little. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds until fragrant. Turn heat down to medium and add tomatoes and cook, stirring for another minute or until they start to pop and release a little liquid. Add the couscous, salt and pepper and toss together.

For the sauce, mix all ingredients together and serve with chicken and couscous.

To serve: top the vegetable couscous with a chicken breast (sliced to make the presentation pretty) and a tablespoon of the sauce. Garnish with a little chopped parsley and lemon zest if you want.

Source: Ruth’s Table

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Posted in 4th of July, Childhood treats, Comfort Food, Cook out, Date Night, Goat Cheese, Grilling, Memorial Day, Sandwiches, Summer

Hot Diggity Dog

My husband, Steve, travels A LOT.  I mean like every weekend a lot.  It’s been traveling off and on for most of the 9 years that we’ve been married but that’s okay.  I knew what I was getting into when I said “I do” and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Sting - Lockdown PPV, Cincinnati, OH

We have been blessed over the years to have him work at some amazing places and with some amazing people but I have to say that his current job is probably my favorite.  He is the Assistant Production Manager for TNA Wrestling.  I’m not afraid to admit that I love professional wrestling.  It has been a guilty pleasure of mine since I was a kid (more on that later!).  You can imagine my reaction when he got this job!  The past couple years have been an awesome opportunity to meet some of the most amazing, entertaining people I have ever encountered.  My life (and our marriage) are much better for them.  They certainly make our lives more colorful!

Jellyfish - Newport Aquarium

I have the pleasure of travelling with Steve several times a year which is always an adventure.  Usually he’s so busy (I mean he is working after all) that we don’t get to spend much time together but I find ways to entertain myself.  I love museums, zoos & aquariums, parks and outdoorsy stuff so it’s never hard to keep myself occupied.  I’m a self-taught, wannabe photographer too so it doesn’t take much to amuse me!

We had a rare occasion on a recent business trip to Cincinnati, Ohio to have a date night.  An online gaming friend of my husband’s suggested we check out SENATE Restaurant.  For someone who’s never met us and hardly knows us, he nailed us perfectly.  It’s a hip gastro-pub in the up and coming trendy Vine St. neighborhood.  If I could pick this place up (and the whole area for that matter) and move it to Nashville I definitely would!  Their menu consists of gourmet street food, local beer and hand-crafted cocktails.  For anyone who knows me and Steve, you know that those words describe us to a T.  I had one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever eaten (the Hello Kitty with cole slaw, bacon and wasabi peas on a brioche bun) which just so happens to have been featured in the latest issue of Food & Wine magazine (http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/hello-kitty-hot-dogs-cocktails-2011).  How cool is that?  Try it with a cocktail or local brew and you won’t be disappointed!  The cocktails are fresh and made by the skilled bartenders right in front of you.  The open kitchen allows a view of the wood fired grills and the chef’s creating your food.  The atmosphere is hip and energetic.  It is all the things that we like in a date-night restaurant!

Check out their Facebook page for the daily dog inspired by and named after celebrities.  It’s amazing how a hot dog can perfectly describe a person!  A couple weeks ago Senate pub caught a case of Beiber fever and I have to say now I have too!  Since I haven’t tasted their original I’m not sure how close I am but it was dang tasty!

SENATE Pub inspired “Justin Beiber” dog

  • 1 package chicken sausages (usually 4 per pack)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked to your liking
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • Crushed pretzels
  • Your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Hearty hot dog rolls, brioche rolls, hoagie rolls

In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat butter and olive oil until melted.  Add onions and salt & pepper.  Cook 3-5 minutes until they start becoming translucent.  Add sugar, stir and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook, stirring occassionally, until brown and carmelized – about 15 minutes.

While onions are cooking, heat grill pan or electric grill to high.  Cook chicken sausages according to package directions (they should be fully cooked already, you’re just heating them up and getting grill marks).  I start mine in a hot grill pan on the stove until they get grill marks on each side and then transfer them to the oven to finish, about 7-8 minutes total.

To assemble dogs: Place 2 slices bacon on bottom of roll, top with sausage, onions, BBQ sauce, goat cheese and crushed pretzels.  Serve immediately.

The moral of this story is, don’t be afraid to try something new.  One of our favorite things to do when we travel is discover the city/region by it’s culinary voice.  I love coming home from a trip and recreating my experience with food.  There are a handful of restaurants I’ve visited across the country that truly inspire me.  SENATE Restaurant is definitely one of them.  If you find yourself in the Cincinnati area for any reason make sure you stop by and say hello (kitty, ha!).  You won’t be sorry, believe me!

SENATE Restaurant http://www.senatepub.com/

Check out the daily dog on their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/SENATE-Restaurant/134193393637

More shameless self promotion:  Check out my Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/mndapnda421/ for more TNA Wrestling, zoo/aquarium and lots of random photography.