Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes - Fresh Ideas for Easy Home Made Cranberry Sauce

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Skip that canned cranberry sauce for an easy, home made one. 

Once you make your own, you'll never go back to the canned stuff.

Now's the time, too, to buy extra bags of fresh cranberries and tuck them into the freezer for baking later when cranberries are no longer available.No special tricks for freezing. 

Simply over-wrap the bags of cranberries (just as they come from the store) with another plastic bag and tuck into the freezer.

When ever you need cranberries for a recipe, just remove the portion you need (the berries don't stick together) rinse them under tepid running water, drain and stir into your recipe.  No thawing needed.

No Cook Fresh Cranberry and Orange Relish
Ditch that canned cranberry sauce for some honest to goodness real stuff made from scratch.

In less time than you think you'll have the shining star of your Thanksgiving feast.
This recipe is so easy and yet so gourmet!  
Best made not more than 1 day in advance.

Makes about 3 cups

1 package fresh cranberries (12-16 oz)
1 thick skinned orange (like a navel orange - about 3 inches in diameter)
Sugar to taste (about 1/4 cup to 1 cup sugar)

Wash cranberries. Remove stems and shriveled berries. Wash orange.

Cut orange (peel and all) into random chunks.  Remove any seeds and white center core. 

Using the food processor, chop cranberries and orange chunks (with peel) together by pulsing.  Do not puree.

Remove mixture to bowl.  Add sugar to taste.  Refrigerate until serving.

Karla's Tip:
Be sure to use a thick skinned navel orange.  
Thin skinned oranges (like juice oranges) do not work well in this recipe.

Ported Cranberries

Prepare up to a week in advance to let the flavors mellow.

Great spooned over toasted pound cake or vanilla ice cream. 
(Or, here's a thought, put the vanilla ice cream on top of the cake and have both topped with these yummy ported cranberries!!)

Makes about 3 cups

1 (12-16 oz.) bag fresh cranberries
2 cups port wine (any type - other wines not recommended)
1-1/2 cups dark brown sugar (lightly packed to measure)

Wash cranberries under tepid running water.  Drain.  
Remove any stems or shriveled berries.

In a large pot, bring wine and sugar to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. (This boils over like a volcano making a HUGE mess so watch carefully.) 

Add cranberries. Cook on medium/low heat till they pop - about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove popped cranberries and put into a heat proof dish.

Continue cooking liquid (uncovered) until it reduces by half - about 10 minutes.

Pour reduced liquid over cooked cranberries. Stir. 

Cool to room temperature  - about an hour.  Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Radical Cooking - The Easiest Thanksgiving Turkey You Will Ever Roast!

Fool Proof, Slow Cooker Roasted Turkey Breast

This is so incredibly easy (and scrumptious) that you're not going to believe this "no-recipe" recipe.

You just pop the breast into the slow cooker and forget it!!

It comes out moist and juicy PLUS your oven is free to cook other yummy things..... like pies! 
It's a great way to add extra servings of white meat.
Perfect for small family feasts, too. 

Once you roast a turkey breast in the slow cooker, you'll never cook it another way!   Roasting turkey in the slow cooker.... that's pretty radical!!

1 turkey breast (4-6 pounds - thawed, if frozen)
(Nothing else.....really!!!)
Wash turkey well under tepid running water.  Drain.

Put turkey into a slow cooker trimming slightly, if necessary, to fit.  Cover.

Set cooker on high and cook 4-5 hours or until a meat thermometer reaches 170 degrees.  
Like all slow cooker recipes, the exact time is very forgiving.
Remove finished breast from cooker and keep warm for serving.

Use the broth as part of your stock when making your gravy.

Karla's Tips
There is nothing else and no other ingredients to this recipe!  
The slow cooker was NOT preheated.
Do not trim or cut the breast any more than is necessary to fit your cooker. 
Do not add any liquid.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Radical Cooking - Winter Squash Made Easy

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist

"In the Kitchen with Karla"
Roasting Winter Squash Class

Next to pie crust and roasting a Thanksgiving turkey, cooking winter squash seems to baffle even the most experienced cook.... and I don't know why.

Maybe it's because winter squash seem so big.  Or maybe because it's not easy to tell when they're ripe.
Or maybe it's because they seem so mysterious.... but winter squash is one of Mother Nature's yummiest treats.

You probably know pumpkin.  That's a winter squash.  And maybe you know Spaghetti Squash and Butternut too, but there are as many varieties of winter squash as there are gardens and fields to grow it.

Winter squash takes its name from the fact that (because of it's hard shell) it will store all winter in a cool-ish space without canning, freezing, drying or any preparation at all.

Maybe the real reason winter squash baffles cooks is its hard shell.  Yes, that must be it.  But don't worry - that rock hard shell which protects the delicate interior is a snap to's how:

1.  Wash the squash well under tepid running water.  Drain.  Drying isn't necessary.
Microwave squash briefly to soften the shell

2.  If the squash will fit into your microwave, heat it for a minute or two just to soften the outer shell so you can get the tip of a heavy knife into it.

3.  Wiggle the knife back and forth into the softened outer shell until it cracks apart.

  Insert the tip of a heavy knife into
the softened shell
Wiggle the knife till
the squash cracks open
4.  Remove the seeds and discard, roasted for snacking (think pumpkin seeds) or save for next year's garden.

5.  Place squash cut side down onto baking parchment lined pan. (No parchment?  Use foil, spritzed with pan spray.)

Roast, cut side down
6.  Roast, uncovered, until it reaches your desired soft-ness from just soft to the touch (like for stuffing them) or till it all falls part (like when you want to puree it for pies).

The temperature doesn't matter so you can roast it along with something else.
350 degrees is ideal but lower temperatures work, too.  It will just take longer.  A little higher temperature is OK as well.

How long will it take????
It depends on the size of your squash.
Allow at least an hour at 350 degrees - maybe longer.
Lower temperatures will take more time.
Higher temperatures may take less.
Winter squash is just one of those things that you can't ruin.... well, most people can't ruin.

Karla's Tips

Can't get the squash into the microwave?  Try cracking it with a hammer.  (Seriously!)

If all else fails, you can roast it with the seeds but sometimes the seeds can make the squash taste bitter so it's always best to get the seeds out before hand if you can.  Also, you can't plant cooked seeds. They won't grow.
You can roast a variety of
winter squash at the same time!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Radical Cooking - How You Can Make An Apple Pie Without Sugar

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Can you make a pie without sugar?
Yes, you can!! 

Cutting back on sugar?
Good for you!!

But don't gunk up your good intentions with artificial sweeteners.
This pie is a REAL pie made with real fruit.  
No artificial sweeteners or other yuck-y things.  
Just the sweet taste of sweet apples.

No one will miss the sugar.
Who knew good health could taste this good?

Unsugared Apple Pie
Not a smidgeon of added sugar in this little gem but plenty sweet.... no artificial sugar either!  The sweetness comes naturally from sweet apples!!

This does NOT taste like a diet pie and, actually, it isn't a diet pie.  
It's an honest to goodness real pie that just happens to be made without sugar.

This is our most requested recipe.
You're going to be surprised!

Makes one (10 inch) pie

Pie crust for a 2 crust (10 inch) pie  (purchased or home made)
12 (4 inch) red or yellow delicious apples (peeled, cored and coarsely chopped - about 10 cups)
1/4 cup dark raisins
1/4 cup walnuts (halves and pieces)
3/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon instant or quick cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoons vanilla

Position oven rack so pie will bake in lower third.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line pie pan with bottom crust.  Fill with apples, raisins and nuts.

In a small sauce pan, heat juice, butter, tapioca and vanilla until butter melts.  Pour over apples in crust.  

Top with second crust.  
Crimp edges.  
Cut a steam hole in the center of the pie.

Bake in preheated oven 50 minutes or until crust is browned on the bottom and apples are tender.  

Cool completely before cutting so the juice thickens.  
Cutting too soon results in a watery pie.

PS.... How about a scoop of ice cream to gild the lily????

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Radical Cooking - The Secret to Peeling Hard Cooked Eggs Without Making a Mess

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Beyond the take out box....
Better, fresher, quicker, cheaper and healthier.

Hard cooked eggs (you should never say "hard boiled") are beautiful things.  Light and delicious, they can be transformed into gorgeous egg salad, feisty deviled eggs or that sophisticated first course - Neufs Mayonnaise....  eggs caressed with a mayonnaise sauce. 

But peeling hard cooked eggs is a dismal chore.  More often than not, the eggs wind up tattered and torn.  Ugly at best.

Kitchen lore says an egg needs to be stale to peel well.

Now I ask you, who wants to eat a stale egg????
Isn't it more wonderful (and flavorful) to eat a fresh egg?
Fresh eggs taste sooooo much, well, fresher!!!!

Over the years, I've tried every trick that came along but nothing really worked.... until just the other day I came across an egg peeling tip in a 1930's era cook book..... put a little vegetable oil into the cooking water.

Desperate, I gave it a try and guess what?  It worked like a charm.

I put 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pot of the dozen eggs I was cooking and cooked them as usual.
After they were cooked, I poured off the boiling water and replaced it with cool water to stop the cooking.

I added another tablespoon of oil to the cool water and cracked the shells gently against the sides of the pot.  I let the eggs sit in the cool water about 5 minutes.... until they were cool enough for me to handle.

Then, the fun began.  Like a miracle, the shells slipped off..... they slipped off my farm FRESH  eggs!!!
Oh, I had a couple that were a little stubborn so I put them back into the water to soak a little longer and moved on to another egg.  But all in all, me peeling was a HUGE success!!!

I still have to try this technique a few more times to feel 100% confident in recommending it but it was such a HUGE success right away that I couldn't resist sharing it!!!

Fresh, hard cooked eggs that peel easily.... now that's a radical idea!!! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Food for Thought - Get Angry and Transform Your Life

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist

Angry?   Put that energy to good use!

Anger is an important and much maligned emotion! 

When you're angry, you're not satisfied with the way things are - in fact, conditions have gotten so bad that you just won't take it any more.

Anger is rising energy.  It builds and grows and swells until it erupts. But anger, if you will let it, will move, release and fill you with the readiness to make a change.

Many well-meaning people will tell you not to be angry.... to just get
 over something or forgive and forget but none of those suggestions puts anger to good use.  Anger was intended to be used as a positive source of motivating energy.

Anger is considered the most important emotion in the eastern  philosophies because it frees the self from feeling stuck. 

The next time you're angry, ask yourself what your anger is calling you to do then use that energy to put your foot down, set a boundary or take a huge step up.

Embrace anger!  It's a powerful tool that, when used properly, brings on positive change.

Anger is the energy to transform your life and the lives of others. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to Eat More and Weigh Less (without filling up on salads and rabbit food)

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist
Cheesecake Farms

Dragging around?
No medical reason?
It's a GI thing!
Breakfast bars have a high GI.
Make your own using
low GI grains and flours. 

While you may be eating good nutritious food, it's possible that you're eating too many foods with a high glycemic index.

The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that tracks how rapidly carbohydrates in food are released into the blood stream and put into storage by the body.

The body likes to store foods with a high GI (70 or more).
Conversely, the body likes to immediately use foods with a low GI (less than 55).

So, when your diet is high in foods with a GI of 70 or more, the foods are quickly moved out of the blood stream and converted into body fat for storage.  It's no wonder you're tired all the time.  When there's no carbs in your blood stream, you're like a car without fuel - you've run out of gas.

When you're out of gas, what do you do?  You fill up.  Candy bars, snack cakes, coffee, soda, chips - anything to give you a quick lift but, sadly, when you fill up on foods with a high GI, you get a quick lift but the cycle begins again.  The high GI foods are sent into storage so you're hungry and need another lift.

Foods with a low GI (less than 55) remain in the blood stream longer and the body like to use them for current energy needs.  Simply by eating foods with a low GI, you'll have energy now and it will stay with you to keep you on a even keel.

High GI foods are not bad foods.  They are just foods and, in fact, many are very nutritious.  It's just a question of making better choices for your bodily needs.

If you're tired all the time and there's no medical reason, it's probably the GI of the foods you eat.

Eat foods with a lower GI and you'll be amazed at how much energy you'll have!


Low GI Power Porridge
packs power into
your day
Power Porridge

Oatmeal is nutritious, has fiber and helps to lower cholesterol but its GI is 53 - pretty close to the 55 mark.

Add milk and sugar and you've eating a high GI breakfast well above 55.

But by adding 2 low GI cereals to the oatmeal, buckwheat (GI 45) and rye (GI 34), you've lowered the over all GI of the oatmeal to a mere GI of 44 per serving.

Best of all, it tastes great (like fancy oatmeal) and has the added nutrition of the two other grains.

Your taste will never know the difference - but your body will.


Serves 2 to 4

1/4 cup cream of buckwheat cereal
1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal (not steel cut, instant or quick cooking)
1/4 cup cream of rye cereal
2 1/2 cups water

Home made jam is great
but has a high GI so
use sparingly on low GI
breads and muffins
Mix everything together in a small pot.  Bring to a boil on high. 

Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes (uncovered) or until it's the consistency you like.  Serve with power toppings.

Power Toppings:
(Choose any or all and make sure some of them are raw.)

Fresh raw apple
Raw cranberries
Raw walnuts, pecans, sun flower seeds, and/or pumpkin seeds
Raw or toasted wheat germ
Milk (any type - cow, soy, coconut, rice or almond)
Yogurt, kiefer or buttermilk (plain)
Sweetener - Maple syrup, brown sugar, agave, honey
Bee pollen

Karla's Tips:
Go easy on the brown sugar, honey and maple syrup which will boost the GI.
Artificial sweetener is not recommended.   It zaps energy.

Short on time in the AM?
Measure out several batches and store (uncooked) in a canning jar, plastic bag or other container.
When you're ready for breakfast, use 1/2 cup of the mix and 1 1/4 cups water for each serving you need.

No time to sit down and eat in the morning?
Take your cereal to go.

Need a GI listing of foods?
They're readily available on line (Google glycemic index charts), at the library, local book stores and at health food stores.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Make a Frozen Watermelon Martini

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Here's a serving of fruit you can drink.... YUM!

Frozen Watermelon Martinis
Makes 2 1/2 pints (5 cups)

1 (3-4 pound) piece watermelon (any variety)
3/4 cup sugar (other sweeteners not recommended)
Juice of 1 fresh lime (about 2 tablespoons - bottled OK)
Gin or vodka (to taste)

Remove rind and seeds from melon.  Puree using the blender. (It may leak out the food processor.) You should have about 4 cups puree.  A little more or less is OK.

Put 1 cup puree into a microwave safe bowl.  Stir in sugar.  Cover lightly.  Microwave until sugar dissolves.  Cool.

Stir cooled sugar mixture and lime juice into remaining puree.  Pour into ice cube trays.  Freeze till firm - about 8 hours. Longer is OK. 

When frozen, remove cubes from trays and pulse a few times in the food processor to make it slushy then let the slush whirl for a minute or so until it comes together into a nice, sorbet like consistency. 

Make sure there are no large chunks of ice. It takes a little longer than you think but not so much longer that it melts.   Serve immediately or pack into a freezer container and freeze for later use.

At serving time, spoon the frozen sorbet mixture into large Martini glasses and top with a jigger of gin or vodka.  
Garnish with a spring of mint or a paper umbrella. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Gardening Made Easy - Recycle AC Water for Your Plants

From the Gardens of Cheesecake Farms

If you have a run off spout from your air conditioner, you've got water for your plants - and it's free!  Just stick a bucket under the drain spout!! 

Got a run off spout that's high off the ground?
Put a rain barrel underneath and you'll collect water without ever having to dump a bucket.  

A central air conditioner system squeezes a whopping 5 to 6 gallons of water out of summer's humid air to keep your house cool and comfortable.   That's plenty to keep the garden, planters and hanging baskets watered.

But here's the best part... the hotter and more humid it is outside, the more water you can collect so, if your community goes on watering restrictions, you'll still have water for your plants.

This is run off water is for plants, only.  
Never drink it or give it to pets.

Free water from the air conditioner..... that's recycling at it's best!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cooking Made Easy - Quick and Easy, No Can Pickles

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Got more cucumbers than you can eat?
How about making pickles?

Now don't roll your eyes at me.  
Here's some nifty, oh so easy, no-can pickles that whip up faster than you can say Martha Stewart.   
I've scaled down the recipes into small, modern family sized batches, too.

Ready to impress your gourmet pals?

Let's get into the kitchen!

Un-Canny Quick Sweet Pickles
Real pickle taste without canning.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups pickles

1 pound pickling cucumbers
1 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

Wash cucumbers well under tepid running water.  Drain.  Cut about 1/4 inch off each end of each cucumber removing both the stem and blossom ends.  Discard.  Cut cucumbers into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Put into a heat safe bowl. Cover slices with boiling water.  Let sit at room temperature 2 hours.

Drain cucumbers.  Do not rinse.  Pack slices into a canning jar or other heat safe container with a tight fitting lid.

Combine remaining ingredients in a pot.  Cover.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, to dissolve sugar.  Pour boiling liquid over cucumber slices.  Cool slightly and cap.  Refrigerate at least over night before eating to allow flavors to develop.  Keeps several weeks in the refrigerator.  Do not store at room temperature.  

No Salt - No Canning Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Miss the great taste of pickles on your burgers and sandwiches because you're on a low salt diet?
These are just what the doctor ordered!

Makes 1 quart

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 large sprig fresh dill - left on stem (about 1/4 cup) or 1 tablespoon dried dill
2 cups prepared cucumbers (see Karla's Tip below)
1 1/2 cups tap water
1 cup apple cider vinegar

Put herbs into a one quart canning jar.  Add cucumbers.

Put water and vinegar into a small pot and bring to a boil.  Pour boiling liquid over cucumbers.  Cap jar.  Cool at room temperature for 1 hour.  Refrigerate (unopened) at least 3 weeks before using.  Store in refrigerator up to 3 months.  Do not store at room temperature.

Karla's Tip
This recipe was developed using salad type, waxed, grocery store cucumbers.  They were peeled to remove the wax and cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds.  

Home grown and pickling cucumbers that are not waxed do not require peeling. If you are not sure if your cucumbers are waxed, assume they are and peel them.

Easy Freezer Pickles
This funny little recipe goes together in no time flat.  The pickles are not as crisp as those made by canning but they taste good and are an easy way to preserve the harvest.  Come the winter, you'll surprise everyone with home made taste.

You'll notice that there are no spices in this recipe.  That's because you'll probably be freezing the pickles in plastic containers and the smell of pickling spices (especially garlic) will seep through plastic making everything in your freezer taste like pickles.

These pickles are lovely without any added spices but if you want, you can stir in a bit of your favorite when they're thawed.

Makes about 3 cups

2 pounds pickling cucumbers
1 tablespoon Kosher or pickling salt
1 onion (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter)
1/2 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar

Wash cucumbers well under tepid running water.  Drain.  Cut about 1/4 inch off each end of each cucumber removing both the stem and blossom ends.  Discard.  Cut cucumbers into 1/4 inch thick slices.  You should have 5 cups.  A little more or less is OK.  Put into a large bowl and sprinkle with salt.

Peel onion and slice into rings 1/4 inch thick.  Separate rings.  Add to cucumbers and toss to mix.  Let mixture sit at room temperature (lightly covered) 3 hours.

After 3 hours.  Drain mixture well.  Do not rinse.  Pack into freezer safe and heat safe containers to 3/4 inch from the top of the container.

Put vinegar and sugar into a small pot.  Cover.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, to melt sugar.  Pour boiling mixture over cucumber and onions to 1/2 inch from top of the container to allow for expansion during freezing. Cap container.  Cool slightly and freeze.  Thaw in refrigerator.  Thawed pickles keep about 1 week in the refrigerator.  Drain pickles before serving.

Karla's Tip
Since plastic containers come in all sizes and shapes, so you may need more liquid to cover your cucumbers and onions.  Make additional batches of sugar and vinegar as needed.  


Cucumber facts

Cucumbers have been eaten for thousands of years and are believed to have originated in India.  The English word cucumber originated from Indian word "kachumbar".

Cucumber belongs to the same family as pumpkins, zucchinis and squash.

In cooking, cucumbers are prepared as a vegetable but like tomatoes and squash they develop from a flower so they're technically a fruit.

There are hundreds of varieties of cucumbers but basically only two types - eating (or slicing) and pickling.

Eating cucumbers are larger, smooth and have more moisture.  They are usually waxed to preserve their moisture.    

Pickling cucumbers are short and stocky with bumpy skin.  They have less moisture than the eating type and are never waxed.

Most cucumbers are eaten green (unripe).  
Ripe cucumbers (yellow or yellow and white) are bitter.  
There are some varieties of actual yellow cucumbers which are meant to be eaten yellow and are not bitter.
Cucumbers are pickled for flavor and to preserve them.


Healthful Facts
Cucumbers are low in saturated fat,  cholesterol and sodium.  Raw, they are a good source of enzymes, vitamin A, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. 

Cucumbers help digest protein and have healing properties for kidney, urinary tract, liver and pancreas.  Raw cucumbers, when applied to the skin, can help reduce heat and inflammation.  Their potassium content helps keep blood pressure in check and is a nutritional plus for diabetics.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Food for Thought - Is Gluten Holding You Back?

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist

No energy?
Tired? - Ache-y?
Don't feel refreshed even after a "good night's sleep"?
Hungry all the time? - Pounds creeping up? - Can't stick to a diet?

Here's something to chew on:  
If you've been to the doctor and there's really nothing wrong with you, you might be in gluten over load.

Gluten is the protein part of certain grains like wheat, barley and rye.  
Some people have a huge sensitivity to gluten and develop a very serious condition known as Celiac disease. This is not about them.

This is about increasing your general well being by tweaking your diet to curb and/or eliminating gluten containing foods..... and it all started with world class athletes.

Athletes are always looking for an edge so food is used as a performance fuel.

By switching to a gluten free diet, athletes were able to absorb more oxygen from each breath which made their performance better, faster, and stronger.  More oxygen made for clear heads and better focus, too.

A gluten free diet also helped eliminate a lot of the inflammation athletes generally encounter so their joints moved easier.  And, since they were getting more oxygen and were able to move more easily, pounds stopped creeping up.

Sound like you want to give this a try?
It's not hard, in fact it's pretty easy.

Just become aware of the foods that contain gluten and trim them out of your diet.

Wheat, barley and rye are the biggies..... but you won't feel deprived because there's a great big, wonderful world of good eating out there!!

There are tons of pre-packaged, gluten free foods to choose from  - everything from bread, bagels and sandwich wraps to cakes, pies and pasta.  They are simply made from grains that don't contain gluten like rice flour, corn meal, millet and quinoa. 

Love to cook?  
There are more gluten free recipes out there than you can prepare in a life time.
Switching your own favorite recipes to gluten free is as easy as using cornstarch to thicken your gravies and pies instead of all purpose (wheat) flour.   

Eat out a lot?
Choose rice and potatoes as your starch instead of pasta, bread and muffins.
Have grilled meats and fish made without breading.
Put nuts and seeds on your salads instead of croutons.   

It's just a matter of making different choices... and there are so many wonderful foods to choose from.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Panache in a Flash - Karla's Quick and Easy Chilled Red Pepper Soup

It might be too hot to cook but it's never too hot to eat.

In less time than it takes to make dinner reservations at your favorite air conditioned bistro, you can put gorgeous, yummy, home made, extravagant, gourmet soup on the table.... and no cooking required!! 

Chilled Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Pale pink and gorgeous.  Panache in a flash.
Looks (and tastes) like you cooked all day.

Makes a wonderful starter for a grilled steak dinner.
Lovely for lunch with a crisp green salad and some crusty bread.
Perfect to pack for picnics, polo or the races.  (That's horse races, of course, after all this is Virginia...)

Makes 4 (half cup) servings
Use a stationary or immersion blender
(Food processor not recommended) 

1 (12 oz.) jar roasted red peppers (water or brine packed - not vinegar packed - drained)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (room temperature)
3/4 cup light cream or 1 (12-14 oz) can evaporated milk (undiluted)

Using the blender, puree everything together (in batches if necessary) until very smooth.   Chill.   (How simple was that????)

Karla's Tips: 
Roasted red peppers are sometimes called "fire roasted" red peppers. 
Whatever they're called, they're mild and have a slight smoky taste. 
If you must (and you happen to have a bumper crop of red peppers in your garden) you can roast your own pepper (or two) and use them in place of the peppers that come in a jar. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Sustainable Kitchen - Using Up Fruit and Berries That Are Too Good to Throw Out

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Got fruit or berries too mushy to eat but too good to throw out?

In less time than you think (and with lots less work) you can magically transform them into yummy home made preserves - and no canning is required.

Upscale caterers call these "Fresh Preserves" and they charge premium prices for this easy way to recycle fruit and berries just past their prime.

There is no real recipe... you can mix and match your preserves according to what you have on hand.

Fresh Preserves

The ingredient amounts are approximate.  You can vary the proportions to suit your taste. 

Yummy on your breakfast toast but don't stop there... use these preserves to top ice cream, cake, or yogurt.  Fill tart shells, biscuits or lady fingers with preserves and dollop with whipped cream.   You'll think of 1000 uses!!!

Makes about 1 cup preserves
Pan size not important but a 12 inch, non reactive skillet works best.

3 cups very ripe fruit, berries or a combination
1/3 sugar (see Karla's Tip #1)
1 teaspoon butter (see Karla's Tip #2)

Put the fruit into a large skillet.  Coarsely mash (use a hand held potato masher or fork).  Sprinkle sugar over top.  Let sit at room temperature 10 minutes to let the juices run.  

After 10 minutes, cover skillet (No cover?  Use foil) and bring to a boil on medium high.

Stir to prevent scorching

Remove cover. Stir in the butter. Continue cooking the mixture, stirring constantly.  The mixture should gently bubble as it cooks.  Adjust the heat as necessary.  If the heat is too high, the mixture will scorch.

Continue cooking until mixture has reduced by half - about 5 minutes or so.  

Serve hot or cool.   
Store up to 1 week in the fridge.  
Finished preserves

Karla's Tips

1.   You can add sugar to taste.  The amount of sugar is not important but the color of the finished preserves with a low sugar content will not be as bright.  When adding sugar to taste, bear in mind that the amount of sweetness will be concentrated in the finished preserves.   We do not recommend artificial sweeteners.

2.  The tiny amount of butter keeps down the foam so you don't have to skim the preserves.  You can leave it out but it makes such a wonderful addition.  Skimming is tedious and you never get all the foam out anyway.
Margarine is not recommended.

3.  This recipe is not intended for canning but it does freeze extremely well so you can stock your freezer with summer's bounty to enjoy all winter long.

4.  Do not make more than about 3 cups fruit at one time in one skillet.  More fruit will require longer cooking that takes away from the fresh taste of the fruit.  Preserves cooked too long take on a overly sweet... just sugar... taste.

5.  Works well with all kinds of fruit and peaches, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or a combination.  Peel the fruit, if necessary.  Fruit should be very ripe...almost over ripe.  Use fruit that is past it's prime for eating but too good to throw out.

6.  A non reactive skillet is one that does not combine with the food that's being prepared.  We use a cast aluminum skillet lined with stainless steel.  Do not use a cast iron skillet or your preserves will taste metallic.