Category: fruit

Pickled Peaches

I bought 12 peaches. One molded and attracted a hoard of fruit flies that made me nearly gag. I didn’t want to throw them all away (expensive!), so I stuck them in the freezer to bide my time and kill any remaining flies. That was 5 weeks ago. Here’s my plan: pickled peaches from Saveur. Any tips for a first time pickler?

INGREDIENTS

3½ cups sugar
1½ cups white vinegar
14–16 ripe medium peaches, peeled
8 whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
1″ piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Bring a canning pot of water to a boil. Submerge 2 one-quart canning jars and their lids and ring bands in boiling water; sterilize equipment for 10 minutes. Remove from boiling water with tongs, draining jars, and transfer to a clean dish towel.

2. Combine sugar, vinegar, and 1½ cups water in a heavy medium-size pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Working in batches slide peaches into the pickling liquid and cook, turning once or twice, until peaches soften but before they turn fuzzy, 4–5 minutes per batch. Transfer peaches to a bowl as done.

3. Divide cloves, cinnamon, and ginger between the 2 jars. Cut any peaches with brown spots into halves or quarters, discarding pits, and trim away the brown spots. Spoon peaches into the jars, filling the gaps with the halves and quarters and packing the jars as tightly as possible.

4. Return pickling liquid to a boil, then pour boiling liquid into each jar, covering peaches and filling jar to 1/4″ from the rims. Let liquid settle in jars, then add more boiling liquid as necessary. Discard any remaining liquid. Wipe jar rims with a clean dish towel, place lids on jars, and screw on ring bands.

5. Transfer filled jars to a canning rack, submerge in a canning pot of gently boiling water (jars should be covered by at least 1″ of water), and process for 10 minutes. Carefully lift jars from water with jar tongs and place on a dish towel at least 1″ apart to let cool undisturbed for 24 hours. To test that jars have properly sealed, press on center of each lid. Remove your finger; if lid stays down, it’s sealed. Refrigerate any jars of pickled peaches that aren’t sealed; use within 4 weeks.

MAKES 2 QUARTS

5 Things I Learned About Food This Week

In no particular order…

1. Switching to a low-carb diet results in brain fog (stupidity), flu-like symptoms of blarg, fatigue like mono, irritability and spending lots of time thinking about food. Apparently this allll goes away, and with it, pounds! It’s magic, they say! But here in the land of low-carb day 8, I just want to sleep and get my throat to stop hurting.

2. The term ‘alcohol sugar‘ is just a fancy name for ‘artificial sweeteners.’ There’s not even alcohol involved. Examples of sugar alcohol to look for are:

  • Erythritol
  • Glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine)
  • hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
  • isomalt
  • lactitol
  • maltitol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol

3. There’s a guy who wants to make food – and eating – obsolete. Given the vast energy I spend making, planning and feeling bad about food decisions, this appeals to the utilitarian in me. But not to the gastro-bliss fairy who sighs over hot bread and fresh butter. (I’m HUNGRY). For more thoughts on the irony of creating soy-based fake ‘food,’ check out this piece on the ethics of food in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake.

4. The infamous ‘Dirty Dozen’ may not be so bad. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the following have the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy organic versions:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Hot peppers

However,  the Journal of Toxicology folks disagree over the significance of the pesticides, “We concur with EWG President Kenneth Cook who maintains that “We recommend that people eat healthy by eating more fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic,” but our findings do not indicate that substituting organic forms of the “Dirty Dozen” commodities for conventional forms will lead to any measurable consumer health benefit.”

5. Which pulls me full circle back to Michael Pollan’s thoughts: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Winter White Cosmopolitan

Thanks to Bonefish Grill, I have a new favorite holiday drink: winter white cosmopolitan. I tossed back two of these and could happily have finished an entire pitcher.

TIP: Don’t skimp on the shaking and martini glass presentation –  the icy chill makes this drink sparkle.

Ingredients
2 oz. cranberry vodka
2 oz. white cranberry juice
.75 oz Cointreau
1 oz. sweetened lime juice (mixture of lime juice and simple syrup)
3-4 raw cranberries, for garnish

Directions: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add cranberry juice, vodka, Cointreau and lime juice. Shake to combine well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and top with 3-4 cranberries.

Verdict: Dangerously delicious

Starbucks’ Iced Lemon Pound Cake

Lemon zest and juice makes all edible items brighter: hot tea, roasted vegetables, baked goods, alcohol, salad, yogurt. I challenge you — what does NOT taste better with lemon? While you ponder deep thoughts, lemme share this copycat recipe for Starbucks’ lemon pound cake. It’s killer: zingy, dense, sweet, soft. I froze half of my original loaf and thawed it a couple weeks later — still delicious.

Yesterday I sampled the original loaf at Starbucks while shopping with a friend — and I have to say that this recipe is actually better. My version has more icing, less grease, less thud in the stomach and less guilt. Apparently we all owe Todd Wilbur our thanks for tinkering to find the secret ingredient: lemon extract. I made a few tweaks, but the basics are his.

“It would take quite a bit of real lemon juice to give this moist cake loaf clone the perfect lemony tang of the original. To avoid producing a batter that’s too runny, we must turn to lemon extract that can be found near vanilla extract in your supermarket. This concentrated lemon flavoring works well with real lemon juice to give us the intense lemon flavor we need. Plus this extract adds just the right amount of lemon goodness to the icing without thinning it out.”

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 TBS salted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
zest of 1 lemon

Lemon Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 TBS milk or milk-product, if needed, for blending to smoothness. (My lactose-intolerant self used coconut milk).
1/2 tsp+ lemon extract
1 tsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Use an electric mixer (or Kitchen Aid) to blend together eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract, lemon zest  & lemon juice in a large bowl.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt in a medium bowl. Add dry ingredient into wet ingredients & blend until smooth. Add oil and mix well.

3. Pour ingredients into a well-greased 9×5-inch loaf pan. I also lined mine with parchment paper — optional. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean.

4. Make the lemon icing by combining ingredients in a small bowl with electric mixer on low speed. I used my immersion blender instead for efficiency’s sake — or laziness. For me, the icing makes this cake. It’s not a thin glaze; it’s a stand up straight and melt-in-your-mouth icing.

5. When the lemon loaf is cool, remove it from the pan & frost the top with the lemon icing. When the icing has set up, slice the loaf into eight 1-inch-thick slices. It seriously looks and tastes and delights as much as the original. Rock on, lemon luxuriousness.

Crustless Coconut Custard Pie

On Sunday at 3pm I was asked to bring a dessert to a dinner starting at 5pm. I didn’t want to go to the store AGAIN, or buy something when I knew my hosts were cooking from scratch. I scrounged around a few recipe books and came across this gem in “Amen, Let’s Eat!” I’d never made a custard pie before it but seemed reasonable enough.

Result? Total hit. Prep time is about 6 minutes and  bake time is 45-60 minutes. Between coats of nail polish I pulled it off without a hitch. It’s shockingly easy and more decadent than expected. Next time I might top it with a shake of powdered sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk – I used a combo of whole milk and rice milk – what I had on hand
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 TBS butter, melted – I used 3 TBS butter and 3 TBS margarine – again, what was in the fridge
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups flaked coconut, preferably unsweetened

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray or butter a 9-inch wide pie pan.

2. Add all of the ingredients to a blender. Process on ‘liquefy’ for 15 seconds. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie pan. That’s it! One blender and one pan are all it takes to go from ho-hum wine bearer to “I’m the kind of dinner guest who brings over a homemade pie still warm from the oven. Boom.”

3. Bake the pie for 40 – 55 minutes, watching carefully after the first 40 minutes. The pie will puff up a bit and then fall slightly in the middle — totally normal. It’s done when a knife in the middle comes out clean and the edges are lightly browned. TIP: You don’t want to overcook or it’ll get rubbery and sulfur-ish smelling.

Remove the pie from the oven to cool. Serve warm or place in the refrigerator to chill. It’s even better cold the next day.

Chicken ‘n Pineapple Coconut Curry

I have a thing for Thai and Indian food flavors – I love the (medium) heat, the complexity of the spices, the warmth and comfort. Yet in spite of owning 5 cookbooks on the methods, I just haven’t yet duplicated any restaurant quality recipes at home.

This one comes close.

Originally created by my big sister as a crockpot dish, I ran out of time and decided to wing it and make it in the oven. Below is the recipe I’ll use next time, with adjustments included as I went along.

Ingredients
6-8 Chicken tenderloins
1 can coconut milk – not the light stuff, people
1 can pineapple chunks
1 small can tomato paste (do they even make large cans?)
1 large green or red bell pepper, chopped
3 TBS curry powder
1 TB minced garlic
4 TBS chopped fresh basil, divided
Juice of ½ lemon
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS salt – for real, it needs it
pepper
prepared Rice (optional)
baby spinach (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place olive oil and chickens in a baking dish.

2. Using an immersion blender or other device, blend together coconut milk, juice from pineapple can, ½ of the pineapple chunks, tomato paste, ½ of the chopped bell pepper, curry powder, garlic, salt and pepper. The sauce is a festive orange and feels slightly thick.

3. Pour the pureed mixture over the chicken, flipping the chicken to coat it. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes.

4. Remove from oven. Stir in remaining pineapple chunks, remaining chopped bell pepper and 3 TBS basil. Cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked and sauce bubbles around the edges of the pan.

5. Remove pan from the oven. Squeeze lemon juice and top with basil. Serve over rice and baby spinach.

To make it in a crock pot, place oil, chicken and blended sauce in a crock pot on low for 6 hours. The final 15 minutes or so, complete step 4 — just long enough to warm everything up.

I enjoyed this dish, though it was a tad bitter for my tastes. What would you recommend to make it even better? Sugar? Butter? Flaked coconut?

 

 

10 Gifts for that Hard-to-Shop-for Man in Your Life

It’s the time of the year when I take stock of who’s on my holiday list: who gets a gift, a gift and a card, just a card, or merely a passing wish for a warm holiday season. Which brings me to the task of shopping, and the hardest folks to shop for – men. Ya gotta balance  interesting, playful, practical, humorous — things that speak to their inner geek or a treat they wouldn’t get themselves.

Women, we’re easy. There’s a standard repertoire of gifts that make us happy: champagne, a spa pedicure, dinner out where we can dress up a bit, new bubble bath, smelly candles, nice picture frames with photos of loved ones included, gourmet cheeses and dark chocolate, a relaxing massage, a hand-written letter, a clean house, tickets to a show or movie we like…you know the drill.

These 10 gift ideas are aimed more at the Brother-Spouse-Significant other audience than Grandpa Joe, but to each family, their own. I present 10 unique finds to get you started shopping:

1. Bacon Necktie: $19 from Amazon. The world of bacon accessories is astounding: bacon bandaids, bacon candy, pork books, bacon cuff links. You name your bacon product and you can find it. For the men in your life who wear ties with some disdain, this  noose, er, necktie, may lift their spirits.

2. Hans Solo Frozen in Carbonite iphone Case: $17 on Etsy. C’mon, this is classic Star Wars. How cool is it to have Harrison Ford’s face of pain on the back of your phone?! This will get you bonus points. If your guy is into Star Wars, this lightsaber corncob holder is pretty kick-ass too.

3. Mustache Bandaids: $10 on Bezerk. It is Movember after all, when men grow out their facial hair to raise funds  that support prostate cancer and testicular cancer initiatives. If you’re nixing the facial hair, there’s always the option of a beard hat. Especially if you live somewhere really, really cold.

4.  Of-the-Month Club: Prices vary – From Of the Month Club. There’s something for everyone: mustard, beer, hot sauce  wine, nuts, bagel, flowers, fruit…Not convinced? Here’s an interesting article on the rise of specialized of-the-month-clubs. The best part of these clubs is the joy of a package each month!

5.  Ninja Knife Magnets: $18 from Cool Material Shop. My family is big on stocking stuffers, and these would fit perfectly– both in the stocking and in the category of stocking stuffer.  They’re not big enough to wrap but area a little humorous something that makes for a conversation starter.

6.  Star Trek Pizza Cutter: $30 from Space.com Store. In elementary school my sister and I raced home from school to catch the 3.30 pm episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, followed by Duck Tales. With the return of Star Trek via lovely Chris Pine, a new generation (ha!) will come to appreciate the Enterprise. Okay, so maybe I just really want this.

7.  Gun and Target Alarm Clock: $23 on Amazon. Few people enjoy being roused from their slumber. BUT, wouldn’t he find it a bit easier if getting up involved shooting a target? With settings from one shot to five (easy to hard), this could also improve his reflexes in case of a zombie apocalypse. Just sayin’ – we watch a lot of Walking Dead in my house.

8.  Craft Beer Home Brew Kit: $50 from RedEnvelope. I actually bought a beer making kit for my dad, and he enjoyed making, tasting, and naming his brews. I enjoyed sampling. I’ve tasted beer brewed at home from guys aged 23-65 years old. My dad’s Knights of Columbus group has an annual taste off, and plenty of my peers pick it up as a hobby. Heck, DC Brau’s was started by two guys brewing in their basements and now it’s a thriving business!

9. A Book from GQ’s Best of List: Prices vary, list from GQ. Sometimes the men in my life enjoy the books I read, but usually our tastes for pleasure reading are quite different. Rather than giving them YOUR favorite book, take a tip from the GQ guys. Their Best of 2011 list published last December list includes 21 options, and I presume a 2012 edition will emerge soon.  You also can’t possibly go wrong with purchasing everyone you know a copy of  World War Z  by Max Brooks.

10.  Mini Guitar Cast Iron Skillet: $16 from Lodge.
A cast iron skillet is a gift for life. Why not spice up cornbread and muffins by adding a touch of the arts to his cooking? Forget Le Creuset; the Lodge has a variety of other skillet, cooking, baking and grilling items – including those in bright colors – and they’re less expensive.