Category: seasons

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

$1.33 Holiday Brownies

I just moved to Texas four days ago, and while the natives are kind, I’m somewhat limited in baking and cooking due to ALL my furniture and 90% of my belongings remaining in a moving truck that is well,  not here.

Practicing gratitude and sleeping on the floor and feeling thankful for the little things that go right is healthy and all that, but sometimes everyone needs a spirit lifter. Here’s an easy, cheap perk for a cold, drizzly night.

To make Holiday Brownies: Buy 1 candy cane for .33 cents and one package classic brownie mix for .99 cents at the Dollar General Store. Pound candy cane into smithereens using available utensils – a cast iron pan on the counter for me. Mix brownies according to directions and add candy cane chips. If you have peppermint schnapps or peppermint extract, toss a drop or two in. Bake, cool for approximately 30 seconds and then eat half the pan. I recommend washing them down with plastic cups of a $6 liter bottle of Merlot.

Happy cheap, holiday eats!

5 Minute ‘Pickles’

I sometimes whine about cooking when it’s hot, and I’m clearly not alone. In fact, Cooking Light  ran a piece in their July issue about 5-minute sides along with all sorts of shortcuts to avoid the kitchen. It’s not just me!

I made their recipe for Greek Salad Cucumbers for an impromptu picnic dinner. It’s less like a salad or a side and more like super-fast pickles. And they are awesome: crunchy, salty and satisfying on a sticky evening. Plus they’re apparently quite healthy.

  • 1 English cucumber, cut into quarters lengthwise and then crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and swirl around to coat the cucumbers. I misread “red wine vinegar” as “rice vinegar,” only to realize 1/4 tsp of the way through that I was out of rice vinegar. I switched to white vinegar before realizing it actually listed red wine vinegar. And I failed to measure anything. Ya know what? It didn’t matter one bit; they were still delish.

Taste and adjust to preference. The leftover liquid made a nice cracker dip too.

Superbowl Leftovers Revamped

I don’t know about you, but our Superbowl Party averaged at least 1.5 bags of chips per person and awesome amounts of nachos, hummus, baby veggies, bean dip (two kinds!) and beer. Needless to say, we brought home leftovers. Up for a challenge of re-purposing cheese dip for something other than consumption with  corn chips, I created the following recipe.

Before: Half a crock-pot of cold Rotel dip, which – for the uninitiated – consists of a block of Velveeta cheese + 2 cans of Rotel

After: Spicy  Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli

Process: I bought 2 boxes of elbow pasta (buy one, get one free!) and brought one box to a boil. With about 6 minutes left, I dumped in a bag of frozen broccoli. Why use an extra pot when it’s all mixing together anyway?

I drained the pasta/broccoli mix, and scopped out half of the leftover Rotel dip into the bottom of pot. I topped this with the pasta/broccoli mix and then added the rest of the leftover Rotel dip on top. I let it sit about a minute or so to start melting. Stir, stir, and viola! 5-6 servings of mac ‘n cheese with a side of broccoli thrown in for healthy good measure.

Rating: 5 stars. I ate 3 bowls of this before pulling down the Tupperwares and freezing the rest.  Quick, easy comfort food.

TIP: You could thrown in other vegetables or meat you have on hand, and use any dried pasta that’s languishing in your cabinet.

Hmm, apparently I’m not all that innovative. Check out this list of recipes for macaroni and cheese with Rotel.

January is Eat-at-Home Month

As usual, I was a bit overzealous in my holiday gift buying, leaving my budget a bit depleted. It’s hard not to buy things that make me think of people! And by extension, not to treat myself along the way. The thought process goes something like this:” Well, they asked for fun socks and it’s a better deal to buy this large pack, so then I can keep several pairs too because I also need socks.”

Fortunately, there are solutions. Like a diet, little decisions to change add up to bigger results. Bar hop after work? Nah. Pick up a $3 hazelnut coffee? I can have free coffee in the office. Running late and tempted to say f– it? I can always pack peanut butter. And despite what Target thinks, I really don’t NEED another pumpkin spice candle, even if it’s on clearance. So this month is eat-in month.

The Plan: At my house we’re alternating being in charge of dinners – flipping chef or sous chef titles – by each selecting 2-3 recipes for the week and purchasing the necessary ingredients.  We also have some flexibility to eat out one lunch a week, and a dinner out with limited beverages. DC martinis cost something ridiculous like $12 each. So far, eat at home month has turned out a couple new standby’s. A few recipes so far:

  • Easy Tomato-Vegetable soup with rosemary crackers and hummus
  • Crock Pot Beef Stew – held the peas and wine, added tomato juice
  • Fun-shaped Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Lemon-rosemary White Bean Dip
  • Pad See-Ew (literally “soy sauce stir-fry“) with Chicken — An eating out splurge, though I do dream of having Thai noodle cooking skills
  • Chicken and Vegetable Potstickers with soy sauce and sesame oil — The  frozen potstickers were so-so, but I am a huge fan of mixing 2 parts soy sauce: 1 part sesame oil. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or garlic and it’s a party in your mouth.
  • Chicken Gumbo with Sausage soup — canned, with oddly crunchy white rice

On the menu this week:

It’s great being an omnivore, isn’t it? Updates to come! Other simple but tasty dine-in dinner suggestions welcome.