Monday, October 31, 2011

White Halloween!

In my 31+ years I don't think I've ever seen snow in October, at least not at my house.  While "White Halloween" may be an exaggeration, we did get a light dusting of heavy, wet snow this past weekend.  Some areas of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and New England actually ended up with measurable snow and some schools are closed today.  A snow day on Halloween.  Crazy... at least for the Mid-Atlantic.

It was crazy to see the trees, just past their peak autumn colors and still holding on to some green summery leaves, covered in snow.  I even had to break out the snow brush for my car on Saturday. 

I spent most of the snow day with my friend Jennifer and we continued our canning adventures with Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce, Pear Ginger Preserves, and Pear Port Compote.  And yes, I'll be sharing the recipes.  As an added bonus, all of the ingredients are in season, so if you're ready to give canning a try these are perfect recipes!

For now, here's a preview from our latest canning session...

I can't wait for Thanksgiving!  Although, who am I kidding?  I don't even eat cranberry sauce with my turkey, I prefer to eat it for breakfast

Although I didn't make any Halloween-specific recipes this year, click here to link to an oldie, but goodie:  Halloween Bark!

Happy Halloween!  Are you dressing up for the occasion?  How about your kids?  Pets? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apple Pie in a Jar

Food preservation is my new love.  I vaguely remember my grandfather (mom's father) canning applesauce, peaches and other goodies, but that was many, many years ago... long before I was old enough to even use a stove.  In the past year I've been hearing some foodie buzz about canning.  Then Ball started having commercials about canning.  I still thought it was too difficult.  I mean, I've cut myself slicing onions and I've stepped on a food processor blade (both situations landed me in the emergency room).  Large pots of boiling water and the danger of getting the recipe wrong and dying of food poisoning didn't sound like a good idea. 

Then I realized that I love cooking from scratch.  I love gardening.  As cheesy as it sounds, I'm inspired to cook and bake when I drive through the farms on my way home from work in June, July and August.  I'm even inspired by the tiny container garden on my modest deck.  I decided to try canning.

My mom thought I was crazy.  Canning was a chore in her day, so she couldn't understand why someone would want to spend an entire afternoon processing peaches, tomatoes, apples, pears and peppers when there were perfectly good alternatives in our grocery store.  But I was determined... so I picked up this book at Costco.  It ended up being the best $12 I spent in 2011.

I started with peaches purchased at a farm in New Jersey.  I made peach jam, peach butter, and peach rum sauce.  It would have been nice if I had remembered to blog about these recipes while peaches were still in season in the Northern Hemisphere, but life happens.  I'll save those stories for 2012.

Then I had a canning date with my friend (and former classmate) Jennifer.  We took it to a whole new level with fresh salsa, roasted red pepper spread and the recipe I'm sharing today:  Apple Pie in a Jar.  And guess what?  You can find all of the ingredients to make this right now because apples are in season!

Jennifer stirring the pot.

The recipe comes from Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving, but it's inspired by my summer trip to Vermont.  You know, the one that I still haven't blogged about?  (I'm on a roll here.)  We purchased something called Apple Pie in a Jar at a maple syrup farm and E couldn't stop talking about it.  He ate this like jam - straight up or spread on hot toast.  Since we paid nearly $10 for an 8 ounce jar I figured I'd attempt to make it on my own.  I must say, the results were good!

You start with fresh Granny Smith apples...

Peel, core, dice and throw in a big pot with some lemon juice, lemon zest and apple juice...

While that simmers, chop up some golden raisins.  Yes, raisins!  I used a food processor because I like making tons of dishes for my husband to wash.

Then you stir in pectin.  You can pick up this stuff at a specialty cooking store.  Mine came from Kitchen & Company...

The jam really tightens up once you stir in the sugar and boil it for a bit.  Then you add the raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg...

At this point things are smelling really good.  The only thing stopping you from eating this straight off the spoon is that it would burn the roof of your mouth (possibly landing you in the emergency room....).  So instead you ladle it into prepared jars, then you process it (that means submerge the jars in boiling water) for 10 minutes. 

Remove the jars, let them cool and you've got Apple Pie in a Jar that is shelf-stable for one year!

Do you think you can do this?  I know you can!  I highly recommend you read this website to get the basics down and I also recommend you purchase this book before you start. 

You can buy the supplies at a cooking specialty store or online.  I bought everything at Kitchen & Company and I invested about $35 this year to get started, but from now on I'll only need to buy extra jars (as needed, they are reusable) and new lids (for when I do reuse the jars).  Plus, home preserved food makes a fun gift for all of your friends and family who appreciate homemade food!

Here's what I think you need:
  • A large pot for cooking your recipes
  • A huge pot for processing your jars (we're talking 12 quarts or more, it doesn't have to be high quality)
  • Jar funnel (check your cooking specialty store)
  • Jar-shaped tongs (specialty store)
  • magnetic lid lifter
  • Plenty of clean kitchen towels
  • Jars + lids (I went with half-pint jars, you can do whatever you think is best)
  • Plastic ladle
  • Large bowls for prepping ingredients

Apple Pie in a Jar
adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

3/4 cup golden raisins, finely chopped
6 cups peeled, cored, chopped Granny Smith apples
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 package (1.75 oz, or equivalent measure from larger container) regular powdered fruit pectin
8 cups sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (not breakfast syrup, real syrup)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Prepare canner, jars and lids.  Check out the website and book mentioned earlier in this post.

In a large, deep pot (preferably stainless steel), combine apples, lemon zest and juice, and apple juice.  Boil gently for 10 minutes, or until apples begin to soften.

Remove from heat and stir in raisins and pectin.  Put back on heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. 

Add sugar all at once and stir constantly.  Bring mixture to a full, rolling boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  (It should boil so hard that you can't stir it down.)

Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and nutmeg.  Skim foam off the top.

Ladle jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rim.  Place lid on jar.  Place screw band on jar and tighten until resistance is met (not too tight!).

Place jars back in canner (keep them upright!) and bring water to a boil.  Process for 10 minutes once water starts boiling.  Cut off the heat, wait 5 minutes, then use jar tongs to remove jars (keep them upright!).  Place jars on a kitchen towel to cool.

Allow jars to cool, then store.  If any jars have not sealed, place them in the refrigerator and consume within 30 days.  Otherwise store jars for up to a year at room temperature.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Philly Food & Drink Writers' Event

This past weekend my friend (and fellow Potluck blogger), Emily, encouraged me to join her at a special event for Philly food and drink writers and I took her up on the offer.  Yes, I'm from Delaware, but my home is a short distance from Philadelphia.  I appreciated the opportunity to connect with food writers, photographers and bloggers from our area.

The event was put together through a collaboration among La Phemme Phoodie, Philly Homegrown and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Coorporation (the geniuses behind the Visit Philly campaign) and held at R2L, an upscale restaurant with an impressive (37th floor) view.  I felt like I was in the pages of one of my favorite cooking magazines.  Our tasting menu included several menu items, all of which were beautifully presented and decadent:

Passed Hors D ‘Oeuvres:
· Steak tartare, potato chip + beef butter
· Lobster mac + cheese
· Truffled Flatbread
· Smoked Salmon, mustard cream cheese, pretzel chips
· Crisp risotto, truffle soy
· Tuna skewers, au poivre

· R2L-EVATION | gin, parfait amour, luxardo, fresh lemon, cherry
· SIDECAR | hennessy vs, pallini limoncello, cointreau, fresh lemon

My favorites?  The Lobster Mac and Cheese and the Crisp Risotto.  I love cheese.  I can't help it.

R2L has a large dining room with beautiful views of Philadelphia...

Interesting and artistic decor like this funky light fixture...

And this awesome work of art made from utensils...

Good food, cool atmosphere and of course, great people!

My friend Emily (check out her blog Cleanliness is Next to Godliness)...

And tons of other food writers/photographers/bloggers who love eating and documenting fabulous food!

We weren't just eating, drinking and socializing.  We also had an informative photography lesson from Eric Mencher.  After the lesson we practiced on some edible props, generously provided by R2L...

Oh yes, and we did attack the dessert cart.  I mean, they gave us permission, so how could I resist?

I'm so glad I broke my normal weekend routine (cooking, baking, blogging, housework) to go out and meet other local food enthusiasts!  Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this a successful event... I'm still dreaming about that Lobster Mac and Cheese...

If you're ever in Philly, I encourage you to visit R2L.  You'll get a great view, great drinks, and a memorable and delicious meal!

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Salsa Rice

Happy Friday!

Check out my latest blog post on Potluck for a super-easy Salsa Rice.  It's a great side dish for your Tex-Mex fare!  Think burritos, enchiladas, tacos...  Click here to check it out!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

In my effort to fully embrace autumn, I'm keeping up with my recent trend of preparing seasonally-appropriate recipes.  This latest creation is inspired by the October 2011 cover of Bon Apetit magazine:

I saw this beautiful stuffed, prosciutto-wrapped pork loin and I immediately decided I had to have it.  I ended up making my own version of this dish that's probably a bit easier than the original.  And I'll admit it, it's a pretty impressive dinner!

Before we get started, let's deal with a few things.  First, the pork issue.  I know some people don't eat pork and I know some people have eaten pork, but don't think they like it.  If you're open to the idea of eating pork, but you don't think you like it, may I suggest that you may be the victim of too many over-cooked pork dishes?  I've experienced more dry, gray-ish, chewy, poorly seasoned pork than I care to remember.  There's a huge difference between lean, juicy, properly cooked, properly seasoned pork and dry, under (or over) seasoned, chewy, fatty pork.  I want you to have a positive experience with cooking pork tenderloin (or loin), so I'm offering some suggestions.

First, follow a good recipe and season your meat properly.  For me this means using kosher salt and fresh herbs as either a rub or a brine.  I've posted several pork recipes that use these techniques and I promise they are all good and they will make you a culinary rock star if you can follow the instructions.  Brined Pork Loin is almost guaranteed to be juicy and well-seasoned.  Roasted Pork Loin with Herbs and Garlic is a great choice if you don't have time to brine.  Stuffed Pork Loin is a great choice once you gain some pork loin confidence. The recipe I'm sharing today falls somewhere in the middle in terms of difficulty.  It doesn't require any advanced planning, but you have to be skilled enough to wrap pork with pork.  It's not difficult at all, but it does require a few extra minutes.

Second, do not overcook your pork.  Buy a meat thermometer.  You can get one for less than $10 at most stores and it's well worth the investment.  Why ruin $15 worth of meat because you couldn't tell the internal temperature?  Cook with confidence and use a meat thermometer.

Finally, let the pork rest before serving, but don't let it rest in a hot oven!  You definitely want to let pork rest 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving, otherwise you'll lose all of the seasoned juices from the meat.  What you don't want to do is put the pork back in a warm oven to "rest" before serving.  It will continue to cook and will be in danger of turning gray and chewy... not good.

Okay, on to today's recipe, Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Loin!  I just happened to have 1/4 pound (4 ounces) of proscuitto in my refrigerator.  You can probably find this in the deli section of your grocery store.  Mine was with the pre-sliced, pre-packaged meats.

I almost always have both pork loin and pork tenderloin in my freezer.  I'm obsessed.  Plus, there's a big difference between the sale price and the regular price for pork tenderloin, so when it goes on sale, stock up!  I chose pork tenderloin for this recipe because it's thinner and smaller (sold in packs of 2, each loin is about 1 pound).  It cooks pretty quickly, so the proscuitto doesn't burn while you're waiting for the pork to finish roasting.

The first few steps can be done in advance... maybe the day (or morning) before serving.  If you break this recipe down, it's not difficult at all.

Rub the pork with the herbs and spices...

Wrap the pork in prosciutto.  Tie the prosciutto to the pork using butcher's twine (this isn't fancy stuff, you can find it at most grocery stores and it costs about $2)...

Place the pork atop an assortment of root vegetables and fall fruits (I used potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pears... carrots and onions would also be great).

Roast the pork until done (about 40 minutes).  The vegetables will likely need to roast for closer to an hour, so just remove the pork and let the veggies keep cooking.  Everything will be at perfect serving temperature when the vegetables are done.

Serve with a green vegetable, like Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon.  Invite a few friends over, 'cause this meal will serve 4-6 people.  We invited my mom to dinner and enjoyed this fabulous meal with a bottle of apple cranberry wine from Vermont... you know, that trip to Vermont that I still haven't got around to blogging?  (Coming soon, I promise!)  It was so good that my husband thought he had forgotten an anniversary or my birthday!  This is an impressive meal, people!

It goes without saying that I probably wouldn't make this on a weeknight.  The hands on prep took me about 45 minutes and the roasting took another hour.  However, this meal is really impressive in both taste and presentation, so I highly recommend it for a Sunday dinner or a small dinner party.  I also like that it's served family-style, so you just bring this beautiful masterpiece to the table and let people go to town!

I can't think of a better way to use my favorite cut of meat and some fresh herbs that are still alive in my garden.  I just made a classic even better... give this one a try!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
by Keeley
serves 4-6 

Special equipment:  butcher's twine for tying the pork (you can find this at any kitchen supply store and many grocery stores), a large roasting pan (although any broad pan that will allow the veggies to spread out without touching will work)

2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I use Diamond Kosher Salt.  If you use another brand, use less salt!)
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
3 Tablespoons chopped rosemary (about 3 sprigs)
2 cloves of minced fresh garlic
extra virgin olive oil
about 1 1/2 pounds root vegetables and fruit for roasting (sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, and pears are an excellent combination), chopped into 2" pieces

In a small bowl (or the bowl of a mini food processor) mix garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper and about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Rub this spice paste on the pork.

Carefully wrap the pork with the slices of proscuitto.  Secure the prosciutto to the pork by tying it with the twine.

Line roasting pan with foil.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees (if it has a "roast" setting or "convection roast" setting, use it).

Place chopped vegetables on the line roasting pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  The vegetables should be spread out enough that they are not crowded on the pan.  This will allow them to cook evenly.

Place the prepared pork loin on top of the vegetables.  Roast in a preheated oven until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees (start checking your roast at 30-35 minutes).  Do not overcook.

The pork may be cooked before the vegetables are finished roasting.  If this is the case, remove the pork from the oven and place it on a cutting board.  Continue to cook the vegetables while the pork rests for 15-20 minutes.  After the pork rests, gently remove the twine (I used scissors), slice and serve with hot vegetables.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Happy fall, y'all!  I'm one of those people who mourns the end of summer.  I love my garden, sunny days, the beach, long days, hot nights (in our air-conditioned house), barbecues... by the time the first day of fall comes I'm a bit bummed because I know it's a slippery slope into frost, Christmas frenzies, and blizzards.  For some reason fall always seems too short and I don't really get into it.

2011 is the first fall in many years that I'm not enrolled in school and I have time to stop and smell the chrysanthemums.  I'm celebrating by cooking and baking all things fall.  So what if my nights of enjoying bruschetta with home-grown tomatoes and fresh basil are over?  And why get sad because darkness falls shortly after I return home from work (or sometimes before I even get home)?  It's fall, y'all, so I'm making the most of it starting with one of the most popular fall flavors, pumpkin!

I'm a fan of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.  I know, I know... I'm on the bandwagon.  But it's really good (and I'm looking forward to trying a Salted Caramel Mocha this weekend).  I've only had one this year because I like to eat my calories, not drink them (plus I don't pass Starbucks on my way to work... keeping it real).  This cake is inspired by the famous Pumpkin Spice Latte... except that it has no coffee.  It's super-moist, subtly spiced and topped with a cloud of fresh whipped cream.  I considered topping this cake with cream cheese frosting (which would also be fantastic), but instead I went for fresh whipped cream.  The pretty fluffy cloud of whipped cream topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon reminded me of a fancy coffee drink, so I went with it.

This cake is a hit at my house.  It's still moist (we're headed into day three) and I'll admit that I've eaten it straight up with my coffee for breakfast.  This is one of those desserts that can easily be made in advance.  I like to whip my fresh whipped cream right before serving, but if you're feeling exceptionally lazy you can use the stuff in a can.  It's not the same, but it will do.

Kick off your fall baking season with this cake!

Pumpkin Spice Cake
by Keeley

For cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon  baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon  cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon  pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 small (14 ounce) jar of pumpkin puree

fresh whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Spray an 8 or 9 inch square pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper (or coat with flour).

Make cake: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in pumpkin. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined. The batter will be very thick.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake onto a rack to cool completely.

Cut into squares and serve topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cram and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
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