It’s Canning Season! Dilly Beans!

I’m not a canning expert. That needed to be disclosed first. I’m always afraid I’m going to accidentally can something with a high pH balance and kill all of my friends and family with botulism. Still, I do my best. It’s actually one of my favorite hobbies (canning, not killing people). And it’s finally canning season again!

When it comes to pickles – use what’s in season, since it will cost the least and yield the best results. I was at my favorite grocery store this week. Widest variety, cheapest produce of all time. Even though it’s a bit early for them, they had these gorgeous green beans for $.69/pound. K. I bought two pounds, knowing exactly where all of them would end up. As dilly beans in my summer weekend bloodies.

Is there any reason to drink a Bloody Mary if it’s not packed with pickles, questionable beef sticks, cheese cubes, maybe even a tiny hamburger? No. And in my opinion, dilly beans should be a necessity in every bloody.

Before we get started, you really do need a water bath canner plus canning kit for this. This is the one I have. Nothing fancy, $32, but it’s a great investment. I suppose with small batches (1-3 pints or so), you could use a large pot and put a steaming basket in there, as long as it allows your cans to sit upright. Honestly, that is way more trouble than it’s worth. canningbook

This is the fantastic book from Liana Krissoff that I based the Dilly Beans recipe from. If you have any interest in canning, and you’re terrified of things like pectin powder and citric acid like I am, get this book.

These dilly beans, as previously stated, pair well with a packed-to-the-brim bloody. They also pair well with grilled cheese and a sense of accomplishment.

Dilly Beans!

Makes 4-5 pints

What you need:

-2 lbs crisp green beans
-4 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
-4 cups water
-3 tbsp pure kosher salt
-4-5 sprigs fresh dill
-4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
-8-10 dried hot red chiles
-4-5 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

What you do:

1.  Prepare your water-bath canner and jars. To sterilize the jars, just put them (without lids/rings) in the canner, submerged so they are at least 1-inch underneath the water. Boil for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and keep the jars submerged so they are kept warm (this will prevent them from cracking as we pour the hot vinegar/water mixture into them later). Put the flat lids in a heat proof bowl.

2. Trim the ends of your green beans, and make sure they are no longer than 4-4.5 inches long. Portion out your dill, garlic, hot chiles and red pepper flakes so they are evenly distributed and ready to be added quickly to your jars. Set aside.

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3. Combine vinegar, water and salt in a 6-8 quart pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt. Allow to boil for just 30 seconds, and turn off heat. While waiting for vinegar mixture to boil, ladle hot water from the water-bath canner into the bowl with the lids to sterilize them.

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3. Working quickly, divide the green beans among your jars, keeping them upright. Then add 1 sprig dill, 1 clove garlic, 2 chiles and 1 tsp red pepper flakes to each jar.

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4. Pour vinegar mixture into jars (a wide-mouth funnel helps), leaving about 1/2 inch of space from the top. Use a wet paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars clean, then, using your magnetic lid lifter, remove the flat lids from the bowl and place them on your jars. Put the rings on, just tight enough to keep the flat lids in place, but not so tight that air won’t be able to escape in the water bath.

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5. Place jars in the water-bath canner, and bring water to a low boil/simmer. Process for 10 minutes, then remove your cans with your jar lifter and place on a towel to cool, undisturbed, for 12 hours. Check that the lids have sealed after 1 hour, by pressing down on the center. If it can be pushed down, refrigerate immediately (this means the seal did not hold, and bacteria can get in).

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6. Label your sealed jars and store (wherever, but a cool pantry is always your best bet). With a proper seal, these can technically stay fresh, unopened for years on end. Once you’ve opened them, they’ll stay good in the fridge for a couple of weeks… If you don’t eat them in one sitting.

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This is the BEST time for canning, since it’s still just cool enough that I’m not dying from heat stroke standing over the hot water-bath canner. Don’t be afraid to try it out! Plus, pickles are cool, but jams are even better. More on that later. Now treat yourself to a bloody for all your hard (eh, not really) work.

Sweet and Tangy Green Juice

Let’s talk about life. Yeah, yeah, this is a food blog. But food is life, and life – like food – is all about moderation. Some bad for you here, some good for you there.

So let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about how I recently put down three boxes of Girl Scout cookies in under a week. It was still cold and February-ish and Spring was nowhere in sight. So I did it, and I liked it.

But then something amazing happened. The temp hit 70 degrees this week. In March. MARCH! I’ve found my spirit renewed… and my pants too tight. So here’s where we moderate. Bring on the good for you.

I’m not really into the whole juice fad, personally. I don’t believe in “cleanses.” That is not a thing. Toxins and fat don’t magically disappear from your body because you chugged a few gallons of juice in three days. But I actually like green juice. It tastes fresh and gives you a whopping dose of vitamins and nutrients. So I like to have one of these delicious green juices WITH a delicious, healthy breakfast. And by breakfast I do not mean an entire box of Samoas.

Pairs well with a real breakfast of two soft boiled eggs and fruit.

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Sweet and Tangy Green Juice

Makes approx. 1 pint

What you need:

-1/2 cucumber
-3 celery stalks
-1 small green apple (Granny Smith are great)
-3 large romaine leaves
-2 large kale leaves
-1/2 lemon

What you do:

1. Clean your veggies! Remove any unwanted spots, stems, etc. Core your apple.

2. Add all ingredients except lemon to your juicer (these should all be fine on the soft speed, but you might want to increase for the apple).

3. Squeeze the lemon juice into your pitcher. Stir or shake well in a jar.

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And next time remember to only eat one box of Girl Scout cookies in a week. Moderation.

 

A Weeknight Dinner Feat. Strange Pink Potato and Grilled Tofu

I have so many potatoes. I have a potato problem. I’ve gotten them every week for the past 4 weeks in my CSA. Pounds upon pounds of potatoes.

I mean don’t get me wrong, I like potatoes. I think they’re delicious. But they have very little nutritional value. I really can’t justify eating more than one or two in a day.

Eventually I’m going to have to make enough mashed potatoes for an army or something and freeze them. But last night I decided to eat just one of those suckers. The way I used to growing up – good old fashioned microwaved “baked” potato.

Yes, I’m writing a food blog post in which one of the staples of my meal was a nuked potato. It’s fine. There are no rules here.

It was exciting though. Once I scrubbed the potato clean, I realized it was a red-skinned potato. Pretty normal, nothing new. But after cooking it and slicing it open, it was revealed to me that my potato had pink flesh. Has anyone ever seen that?? It was new to me. Tasted the same, but was an interesting surprise.

I had my pink potato with a delicious marinated grilled tofu and boiled kale with lemon and garlic. Recipe below. This pairs well with a sudden drop in temp, a lack of motivation and a glass of cheap red wine.

Baked Potato and Grilled Tofu

Marinated Grilled Tofu with Boiled Kale and Baked Potato

What you need for tofu:

One package extra firm tofu*
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (vegs omit; contains anchovies)
2 tbsp dry red wine
juice from 1 small lemon
1/2 clove garlic, minced/pressed
1 tsp brown sugar

*NOTE: I used Trader Joe’s Organic Sprouted Tofu – it comes in two packages. I only used one, which is about 7.25 ounces of tofu, enough to serve two people. If you use more, just adjust the marinade quantities accordingly. I find the marinade tastes the same even if you just eyeball the ingredient proportions.

What you need for kale:

1 large bunch kale
juice from 1 small lemon
1/2 clove garlic, minced/pressed

What you need for potato:

1 large potato, any variety (mine was about 11 ounces)
1 tsp margarine (Earth Balance)
2 tbsp sauerkraut
2 tbsp light sour cream, optional (vegans omit)

What you do:

Let’s start with the cardinal rule when working with tofu: Press the shit out of it. It’s obvious when it’s not pressed. It’s watery and too soft and flavorless because even if you marinate it for hours, it can’t absorb any of it since it’s packed with so much water.

So we start by taking our tofu and slicing it into four equal “steaks” (about 1/4-1/2 inch thick). Put a dish towel down on a hard surface and place a thick layer of paper towels over it. Add your tofu steaks on top of the paper towels and put another thick layer of paper towels on top of the tofu.

This is where it gets fun. Find the heaviest things you own and place them on top of the covered tofu. I used two big cookbooks PLUS my KitchenAid (like, that thing weighs as much as I do). Let it sit like this for a minimum of 30 minutes, preferably an hour or two. (Admittedly I only did 40ish since I was tired and hungry.)

While your tofu is being pressed, wash your kale. Slice the leaves away from the stalks and cut into relatively large pieces (about 2-3 inches or so in diameter). You can also wash your potato while you wait. And have a glass of wine. Maybe watch some evening TV. I don’t know, it’s your life.

When your tofu is nice and pressed, mix all of your marinade ingredients (soy sauce through brown sugar) in a small bowl and place in a freezer bag. Add your tofu, so it lays flat, and allow to marinate for about 10-15 minutes. You don’t need long, since tofu absorbs quickly.

While your tofu marinates, place a medium-large pot of water over high heat. You’ll bring this to a boil.

Now I’m about to tell you to do a whole bunch of things at once. Don’t panic. They aren’t time sensitive. This shouldn’t be scary.

First, we’ll focus on the potato. Now that it’s washed, stab it thoroughly all over with a fork. Place on a microwave safe plate, uncovered, and nuke on high for 5-6 minutes (less if it’s smaller).

While that’s happening, coat a grill pan with a bit of canola oil and place over medium heat. (You can also use a regular frying pan. We’re inclusive here. Whatever you’ve got. I just wanted grill marks.) Place tofu on the grill pan and heat on both sides, about 5-6 minutes each.

While your tofu is grilling, check if your water is boiling. It is? Awesome. Throw all that pre-chopped kale in there. Make sure it’s fully submerged, and boil for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Drain like you would pasta, and add juice of one small lemon and 1/2 clove of garlic. Toss well.

Your potato will stay hot, so it’s okay if that’s done cooking early. The kale tastes fine lukewarm. The last thing finished should be the tofu. Top the tofu with some of the remaining marinade right before you take it off the grill.

Slice open your very fancy pink microwave potato and top with some margarine and kraut. I also added light sour cream because that’s delicious, but I’m sure it would taste just fine without it and then the whole meal is vegan.

First Day of Fall: Sweet Heat Roasted Squash Seeds

As of tomorrow, September 23, 2014, it is officially Fall and I am officially not crazy anymore. Well, I’m not crazy for obsessing over this season way too far in advance. I’m still crazy in other ways. Good crazy.

ANYWAY, I wanted to do something to celebrate the official arrival of Fall. Not to mention the fact that my apartment is filled with all types of winter squash from my CSA. And that it’s actually cool enough keep my oven on for more than an hour. Right now, I have a big fat spaghetti squash, three cute lil baby delicatas, one buttercup and one acorn squash. And one pie pumpkin which I will eventually use for a disgustingly laborious pumpkin pie that I will not eat since, as previously discussed, I do not like pumpkin pie. I am simply a Fall-loving masochist. See, good crazy.

I decided to roast the spaghetti squash first, simply because it would have the most seeds and I wanted to bake them. Because when is the last time you had baked winter squash seeds? Too long ago, that’s the last time.

This recipe could not be easier. If you don’t like the idea of sweet heat roasted seeds cuz you’re crazy in the bad way, you can drizzle them with oil and salt instead and bake them the exact same way.

Sweet Heat Winter Squash Seeds

Sweet Heat Roasted Winter Squash Seeds (And Roasted Spaghetti Squash)

What you need:

1 spaghetti squash, cut in half longways, seeds and strings removed
1 tbsp olive oil
Sprinkle of S&P
1/2 tsp coconut oil (or other neutral oil)
2 tsp Sambal Oelek (or Sriracha or dried chili flakes)
Drizzle of Agave

What you do:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Drizzle your halved, seeded spaghetti squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place flesh side down on a roasting pan or baking sheet. Let roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until it smells sweet and the skin is slightly browned. If you want the flesh to be slightly softer, you may choose to put about 1 tbsp of water in the roasting pan.

While squash roasts, clean the seeds. Remove any remaining flesh and place in a bowl or colander to rinse completely clean. Lay seeds out in one even layer on a paper towel to dry for about an hour while the squash roasts.

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When squash is finished roasting, remove and let cool for about 20 minutes or longer, until cool enough to handle.

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While squash is cooling, set oven to 300 degrees F. Put seeds in a small bowl and toss with coconut oil, chili sauce and agave. (If you do not like the flavor of coconut oil, feel free to use something more neutral, like canola oil.)

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Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place seeds on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until slightly browned. Let cool and enjoy! You can keep these in an airtight container for about a week. Mine were gone within 24 hours… And that was me showing restraint.

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When squash is cool enough to handle, remove flesh from skin by scraping lightly with a fork. Serve warm with drizzle of olive oil, lemon, garlic and parmesan. (Or however you prefer. I personally don’t think it works well as a “substitute” for spaghetti, so I like it this way. The undressed flesh will keep in the fridge for several days and reheats fine in the microwave.)

Both the squash and seeds pair well with a cold Crispin, a warm blanket and a Fall-scented candle. Happy First Day of Fall!

I’m-Hungover-But-Don’t-Want-to-be-Fat Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

I used to get really hungover in college. Don’t get me wrong – I also get the occasional pukey, head-pounding headache hangover these days. But nothing compared to college.

And in my hungover brain, calories never matter. Anything I can choke down that won’t come back up will do the trick to cure it. Preferably very greasy. Preferably of the Asian persuasion. Preferably college budget-approved.

In Madison, there’s this place called Asian Kitchen. Everything they serve is loaded with MSG. I love it. They make this lo mein that I always used to eat when I was hungover. One minute I would be on my deathbed and after eating an entire quart (no, literally) of that lo mein, with about half a cup of grease pooling at the bottom, I felt like a million bucks.

But like, I got a lil porky the year I ate the most lo mein. And I’m pretty sure it was the lo mein. Not all the alcohol that led to the hangovers that led to the lo mein. Yeah. Pretty sure.

Anyway, this is a guilt-free, paleo, vegetarian, every-diet-under-the-sun-approved alternative for my current, “adult” hangovers. You know, if I have some left over. I am obviously not capable of cooking while hungover.

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Paleo & Vegetarian Cauliflower Fried “Rice”
(Adapted from SkinnyTaste)
Serves 4

What you need:

1 medium head cauliflower
cooking spray
2 large eggs, beaten (vegans omit)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1-2 large carrots, finely diced
1/2 medium head broccoli, chopped into small florets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ginger powder
4 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce (vegans omit)
2 tbsp Sambal Oelek (Asian chili sauce; omit if you don’t want spicy – you could also substitute Sriracha, which I’m assuming more people have on hand)

What you do:

Rinse cauliflower thoroughly, remove stem and roughly chop into small florets. In batches, fit as many florets as you can into a food processor and process until fine, but not mush. (I have a mini food processor that only holds 2 cups at the moment, so I had a lot of batches and I ended up making it a little too fine, like cous cous, which was okay. Do yourself a favor and use a bigger one.) Set cauliflower “rice” aside.

In a small bowl, beat eggs. Coat a large saute pan with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Once warm, add eggs and scramble. Don’t over cook. Set aside.

In the same pan over medium heat, add sesame oil and saute onion, carrots and broccoli until tender, about 4-5 minutes. You may want to cover for about a minute to steam the broccoli. Add garlic and ginger and stir to combine over heat for an additional minute.

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Raise heat to medium-high and add cauliflower “rice,” soy sauce, fish sauce and Sambal Oelek. Mix, cover pan and cook cauliflower, stirring frequently, until tender inside but slightly crispy outside, about 6 minutes. Mix in the egg.

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Remove from heat and enjoy! You may choose to top this with some scallions (I had none) and adjust seasoning to taste. I think cooked shrimp or tofu would also be a welcome addition.

Pairs well with cheap sake and/or a bad hangover.

Roasted Squash and Caramelized Onion Tarts

It’s not Fall. I’m sitting here pretending it is, but it’s not. It’s too hot to roast vegetables. It’s too hot to stand over your stove top caramelizing onions. Especially when your kitchen is a narrow little thing in your un-air conditioned, one bedroom Lincoln Park apartment.

But here I am sipping my hot Pumpkin Spice Latte (joke’s on me – I hate pumpkin), dreaming of hay rides, pumpkin patches, baking apple pie and – yes – roasting the buttercup squash I got in this week’s CSA and caramelizing my onions.

But it’s okay. It all comes together in this amazing Fall-inspired tart. I think it was worth it. And maybe by the time anyone else makes this, it will actually be appropriately cold enough to be doing so.

This pairs well with a tomato jam, sauteed spinach, cheap white wine and Christmas music. (WHOA – that escalated quickly. My bad. Apparently we’re just doing all the seasons way too early this year. Also, I don’t celebrate Christmas.)

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Roasted Squash and Caramelized Onion Tarts

Makes 4-6 tarts

Crust (from Joy the Baker – minus the sunflower seeds):
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup olive oil

Filling (Adapted from Joy the Baker and Epicurious):
2 medium onions
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp sugar
1 small squash
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup parmesan
1/2-1 tsp fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc.)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

First, to make the crust, in a medium bowl combine flour, salt, seeds, and black pepper.  In a small bowl whisk together egg, egg white, water, and olive oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir together with a fork.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough comes together in a disk. If necessary, add a sprinkle of water or flour to reach desired consistency. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Slice into 1/2 to 1 inch thick circles and place on a baking sheet. Smash garlic and put on sheet as well. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and roast for 25 minutes.

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While squash is roasting, chop onion into 1/4 inch semicircles. Melt butter in wide pan over medium heat, add onions and toss to coat. Keep at medium heat for 10 minutes, and if your onions are sticking or drying out, reduce to medium-low. Sprinkle with sugar. Let cook for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring every few minutes (not so frequently that they aren’t browning). Add some water to the pan if they appear to be drying out. Once well caramelized, remove from pan to a small bowl and set aside.

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When squash and garlic are done roasting, remove from oven and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, scoop squash away from rinds into a large bowl, with the garlic. Mash roughly with a fork until garlic is well combined. Add caramelized onions, parmesan cheese, herbs, salt and pepper and mix with a fork. Set aside.

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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out into a disk about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into either four equal sized squares, about 6×6 inches.

Lay pastries out on a clean work surface and add 1/3 cup of filling to center of each. Top with a sprinkle of goat cheese. Lightly brush the edges around the filling with egg wash and bring two opposite corners of the dough together into the center and pinch together. Lift the two remaining corners up to the center and pinch together to seal. You should have a square tart with an X on top. Carefully lift and place on lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough squares.

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Brush the tops of each tart with egg wash and bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until the tarts are golden brown/bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving warm. Tarts can also be reheated in a warm oven covered with foil.

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Don’t share. Just kidding. Kind of.