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 Comfort Food, Date Night, Dinner, Family Friendly, Lunch, Make Ahead, Pork, Sandwiches, Slow Cooker, Summer, Vacation Food

Key West State of Mind -Cuban Sandwiches

I have a confession to make.  Some days I just want to run away and be a starving artist in some place beautiful and inspiring.

This feeling usually hits me about mid-week when I’m bogged down with work and life and Friday is just out of reach.  I especially feel this way when it’s the middle of May and dreary and chilly (less than 60 degrees, in May, in the South, what?! Remind me that I was complaining about this when it’s sweltering in August).

On days like today I dream of warm places, filled with culture, interesting people, and of course great food.

Five years ago we visited Key West for the wedding of some very dear friends and absolutely fell in love with the laid back atmosphere.  I often dream of warm, lazy days sitting on the porch, drinking, rum, and reading Hemingway with my pet cat.

Speaking of Hemingway, I’ve become slightly (okay maybe not so slightly) obsessed with him and his time in Key West since we visited there.  After visiting his home and his stomping grounds I am completely fascinated with that time and way of island life.

My husband and I often talk about the day when we win the lottery and run away to Key West.  We have a dream of opening a restaurant, cocktail lounge, and cigar bar combo that has just the right amount of class but still that not a care in the world vibe that would be the place that discerning “tourists” and locals would call home (or home away from home).  This all means a lot of rum, international flavors, and all things Cuban of course.

A girl can dream, right?!

So when I’m missing Key West, I make myself a good Cuban Sandwich, shake up a classic daiquiri, and get lost in the world of The Old Man and the Sea.  Maybe one day we’ll call that world home. 🙂

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Cuban Sandwiches
(makes 4-6 sandwiches)

 

Mojo Pork:
1-2 pound pork roast or boneless pork ribs
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one lime
½ cup chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 Tablespoon paprika
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small onion, chopped
Salt & pepper

 

Cuban rolls
½ pound deli ham
Mojo Pork
Swiss cheese
Yellow mustard
Bread & butter pickles (I prefer homemade but your favorite store bought is great too!)
Butter

 

For the pork: Put all of the ingredients for the pork in the bowl of a slow-cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Shred the pork for sandwiches. (Any leftover pork you have is great served over rice, with black beans, and some fried plantains!)

 

To assemble sandwiches:

Butter the outside of the Cuban rolls. Spread mustard on each half. Top one half with swiss cheese, a couple slices of ham, a good amount of pork (not too much or everything will fall out when you press it), and pickles. Top with the other half of the roll.

Press sandwiches on a panini press (or in a cast iron skillet topped with another heavy skillet) for 3-4 minutes until toasty and the cheese is melty.

 

Source: Ruth’s Table

 

Posted in Asian flare, Make Ahead, Pork, Sandwiches, Slow Cooker

Slow-Cooker Sunday: Asian BBQ Pork Bahn Mi

Have you ever noticed that slow-cookers get a bad rap?  It seems that people either love them or hate them.  I happen to be on the love side of the argument.  What could be more convenient than throwing a bunch of things in the pot, turning it on, walking away, and coming home from work to the delicious smells of dinner being ready?  People often think that meals from a slow-cooker are boring and lack inspiration.  If you are someone who thinks that, my Slow-Cooker Asian BBQ Pork Bahn Mi recipe will hopefully change your mind.

Don’t be discouraged by the long list of ingredients.  If you are an Asian food lover like myself these things should already be in your pantry.  If not, they should be.  I’ll share more recipes along the way for these pantry staples!

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Slow-Cooker Bahn Mi Sandwiches

4 whole wheat hoagie rolls, toasted
½ cup mayonnaise
1 Tbl sambal olek (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
½ cup cucumbers, sliced thin
Cilantro
Slow-Cooker Asian Pork (recipe follows)
Quick pickled vegetables (recipe follows)

Slow-Cooker Asian Pork:
2 lbs boneless pork short ribs
½ cup hoisin sauce, plus 2 tablespoons
2 Tbl soy sauce
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 tsp lemon grass paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbl brown sugar

Picked vegetables:
2 carrots, shredded
1 diakon radish, shredded
½ small onion, sliced thin
½ cup water
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
5 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 allspice berries
Pinch of salt

To make the pork, put all ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hours. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add pork and some of the liquid, and 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce is thick and glossy.

To make the pickled vegetables, heat the water, vinegar, and next 5 ingredients in a small saucepan until sugar dissolves. Place vegetables in a heat resistant bowl and cover with hot liquid. Let sit for 15 minutes while you are gathering your other ingredients. Once the vegetables are cooled they’re ready to eat, however, they are best made ahead of time.  I usually do this in the morning when I put the pork in the slow-cooker and let them hang out in the fridge all day.

To assemble sandwiches, mix together mayonnaise and sambal olek. Spread a thin layer on both sides of the hoagie roll. Top one half with pork, pickled vegetables, cucumber, and cilantro. Top the sandwich with the other half of the roll, cut in half, and serve.

Serves 4.

Source: Ruth’s Table

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Posted in Lunch, Portable/Picnic, Quick cooking, Sandwiches, Summer

Call Me…Crazy

I’m gonna go ahead and say it…

By the time you’re finished reading this post you are going to think I’m a little (or a lot) crazy…and I’m okay with that.  🙂

We all have weird food cravings, those things we can’t get enough of that nothing else will satisfy.  Just go ahead and admit it.  I won’t judge.  You love bologna and grape jelly sandwiches (my Grandma loves them!) or Pepsi and milk cocktails like Laverne and Shirley.  Or maybe you prefer something a little tamer like dipping your fries in mayonnaise or a Frosty (my personal fave).

To each his own I say.

I have a few favorite foods that a lot of people would turn their noses up at.  You’re intrigued now, right?  Two of my very favorite things that I can’t live without are…drum roll please…

salami

cauliflower

Wait!  Don’t run away just yet!!!  Just hear me out!

I am very thankful to have a husband who has an adventurous palate and loves me enough to indulge my weird food cravings…and not judge me for them.  Enter Salami with Marinated Cauliflower and Bitter Greens sandwiches.  Who knew that two of my favorite foods would play so well together?  I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed it but I’m happy they do!!   It also doesn’t hurt that celebrity chef Tom Colicchio endorses my weird sense of culinary bliss.  🙂

Just trust me on this one, okay?

Salami with Marinated Cauliflower and Bitter Greens

Marinated Cauliflower Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Sandwiches:

  • 4 soft ciabatta rolls
  • 1/2 pound hard salami, sliced thin
  • 2 cups loosely packed bitter greens (I used mustard greens)
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Using a sharp knife or slicing attachment of a food processor, slice the cauliflower as thin as possible.  Combine cauliflower and rest of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Marinate for at least 6 hours.  Make sure to stir the ingredients well before using it on sandwiches.

To assemble sandwiches, cut ciabatta rolls in half (tip: cut the bottom of the bread a little thicker so the marinade soaks in).  Place the marinated cauliflower on the bottom half of the bread, top with salami and bitter greens.  Spread the Dijon on the top half of the bread and cap the sandwiches.   Cut into halves and serve.

Source: ‘Wichcraft by Tom Colicchio

I am so weird…sigh…

What is your weirdest food craving?

ps-the cauliflower is really great all on its own!

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.