Posts filed under ‘Recipes’

Making Salt Caramels

Caramels in the pan

Making Caramels

I sit here stirring and stirring, which is something you have to do for the most truly amazing caramels I’ve ever tasted. These caramels are well worth the hour and a half to make them, the 6-8 hours for them to cool and set, and the hour plus to cut and wrap them in parchment for delivery.

As a health counselor, you would think I would advise against sugary treats. The reality is that everything is okay in moderation. From an Ayurvedic perspective, I actually am a little more balanced if I include a little sugar in my diet. This is not the same for everyone, and I usually limit myself to natural sugars, but this time of year calls for a little something special. It makes me happy to bake and make treats, so I do!

I amended the following recipe to include a tablespoon of sea salt, which is all the rage and gives a little balance to the sweetness of the candy. When they are finished and slightly set, I will sprinkle them with a little rosemary, ginger or Portuguese sea salt for fun.

Last year, I made a half-batch with agave instead of corn syrup. It took about 20 minutes to get to 232 instead of 1 ½ hours. Not sure if that’s because of the smaller batch or the change in ingredients, but they were also delicious.

If you decide to try these, you truly do need to stir almost constantly to keep the candy from browning on the bottom of the pan. You will also need a candy thermometer and a heavy 6- to 8-quart stockpot. I’ve amended the recipe to Colorado Springs’s altitude, so if you are trying this at lower altitudes, you will need to cook it to a higher temperature, about 8 degrees more at sea level. Also, 232 degrees is hot and caramel is sticky, so please, please be very careful with this recipe! Otherwise, enjoy and have a merry holiday.

Shirley’s Wonderful Caramels

Reprinted from Candymaking– an HP book

These taste so good, everyone will ask for this recipe. If you don’t happen to have a 6-quart pan, cut the recipe in half and pour the caramels into a 9” square pan.

  • 2 c. light corn syrup
  • 1 (14oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 ½ c. milk
  • 1 c. whipping cream
  • 1 c. butter
  • 4 c. sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 2 c. nuts (optional)

Butter a 9”x13” baking pan; set aside. In a heavy 6-quart Dutch oven, combine corn syrup, condensed milk, milk, cream, butter and sugar. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until mixture comes to a boil. If sugar crystals are present, wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush.

Clip on a candy thermometer. Cook, stirring constantly, to 232 degrees F, if in Denver/Colorado Springs (240 degrees F at sea level). This part takes approximately 1 ½ hours.

Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and nuts (if using). Pour without scraping the pan into prepared baking pan. Allow to stand at room temperature overnight. Cut into about 1” squares. Wrap in waxed paper.

Makes 117 pieces.

December 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

3 Must-Know Tips for Deep Frying a Turkey

So, I just finished interviewing several local businesses for Table Talk and it was a truly interesting show. I learned, for instance, a few good things to remember if you plan to deep fry a turkey for the marvelous holiday that is upon us. I was involved in deep frying a turkey long ago and it was a little scary being around all that hot oil. Image

Because you heat the oil to 350 degrees, you must be extremely careful. Remember, water boils at 212 degrees at sea level and about 202 degrees in Colorado Springs. When that lands on your bare skin, it causes trouble, so imagine something almost twice as hot. BE CAREFUL!

That, however, is not the first tip. First, make sure your turkey is fully defrosted. That means it needs to be kept in the refrigerator for at least two and possibly three days before you cook it for a 14 pound turkey. It will take more time for a larger bird.

Second, make sure is that your bird is completely dry when you drop it in the oil. Any water or moisture will cause the oil to splatter and could result in some serious pain. Drying it with a super absorbent towel that you can then put in the laundry is best.

Third, turn the propane off for just the time period when you lower the bird into the oil. If you do happen to spill or have an accident, you won’t have a grease fire on top of it all.

Common sense, all of it, but maybe you just don’t want the hassle. You can always contact Robert at The House Chef (719) 9644-0234 or http://www.coloradohousechef.com. He makes a Cajun spiced turkey that is moist, tender, nicely spiced and just plain delicious.

Happy Thanksgiving All!

November 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

First Caprese of the Season

It is official, summer has arrived. I just picked and ate my first beefsteak (read big and juicy, not cherry-sized) tomato of the season this week. Of course, it’s already the end of August, so that means that I’ve got to get busy enjoying tomatoes in every way imaginable.

Salads are clearly a fabulous option because the fresh taste of a garden tomato shines against crisp, watery lettuce with just a light oil and vinegar dressing. However, there are tons of other great ways to enjoy tomatoes:

Toss hot, freshly cooked pasta with chopped tomatoes, basil a little coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese. No cooking required!

Make (or buy) a pie crust. Roll it out to a 14″ circle and place on a cookie sheet. Spread a light layer of flavorful mustard to about 2″ from the edge. Layer fresh tomatoes, feta cheese and a sprinkling of oregano. Fold the edges of the crust over the tomatoes and crimp if it breaks to seal any cracks. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes until crust is brown and filling is bubbly.

These are just a few of my favorites and I’m ready to get started, so I’m off to the kitchen to play. Enjoy!

August 30, 2011 at 10:40 am Leave a comment

National Awards and Saving the Harvest

You may have heard the Agriculture segments that Western Skies presented last year to the Colorado Springs Community. I happened to be a part of that effort and was delighted to get the news that it won a first prize for “News/Public Affairs” from Public Radio News Directors, Inc., a national organization of journalists who give the award “to honor the very best in local public radio.” If you want to listen to the whole broadcast, click here.

It’s always interesting to me to get to mid-summer and see just how much produce we have available to us in southern Colorado. This year I doubled the size of my garden, just to see if I could handle it. If I could, I intended to “put aside” a bunch. To put aside refers to canning, freezing, drying or otherwise saving your harvest for a later date because, let’s face it, there is actually a limit to just how many tomatoes you can stuff in your face in a season, once they start coming.

I have roughly the equivalent of two 15′x20′ plots in my personal garden. In taking on my neighbor’s garden, I doubled that. My neighbor helps from time to time and my ex-neighbor, who started the garden there, asked to come back and help in exchange for veggies since she and her husband were not going to be around enough of the summer to have their own garden.

This being the year of the weed, I’m so glad to have the help. It turns out that my personal garden is probably about all I can handle without quitting my day job. The good thing is that others are helping here and there and reaping the benefits.

Which brings me back to putting aside. I’ve already blanched and frozen the spinach and snap peas. I’m still harvesting kale, chard and broccoli in the garden, but just enough to use and not enough to freeze.

The root veggies are about big enough to start using. Carrots, parsnips, and many root vegetables will keep in the ground through the winter under a thick layer of mulch, so I will only pull those as needed. While beets could be treated the same way, they are so delicious roasted that I will roast and freeze them in their skins.

You can also freeze peas, beans, corn and anything else you see in the frozen section of the grocery store. Freezing vegetables preserves nutrients better and produce tastes fresher this way, so it’s my preferred method for putting aside food. However, if there’s ever a power outage, you could lose everything , so I am going to learn to can this year.

A quick nod to drying and pickling foods: Apples, plums, peaches and cherry tomatoes,  are wonderful cut into 1/4″ thick slices and dried. Cucumbers, of course, are wonderful pickled. Check out this easy refrigerator pickle recipe from Organic Gardening

Audrey’s Pickles

Organic Gardening, Aug/Sept 2010

Makes 2 quarts, approximately 18 servings

1 lb. medium cucumbers

3 cloves garlic

½ t. black peppercorns

½ t. whole mustard seed

1 t. fresh dill weed

1 whole dried bay leaf

2/3 c. brown sugar

6 ½ T. white distilled vinegar

6 ½ T. white-wine vinegar

¾ c. water

Cut the cucumbers into spears or slices and place in a 2-quart glass container or jar with a lid. Add the garlic, peppercorns, mustard seed, dill weed and bay leaf.

In a bowl, stir together the brown sugar, vinegars and water. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and shake the jar well to combine. Cover and chill. For fullest flavor, wait at least 24 hours before serving. These pickles will keep up to 3 months in the refrigerator.

Finally, there is canning. Canning is a little more labor intensive and requires special equipment to keep the food safe, but it’s worth it in the long run because you can really keep things for a long time without refrigeration. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great website with tons of information on safely preserving foods: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/. You can put aside tomatoes and tomato sauce, beans, and pureed winter squash very easily. Fruit is perfect to make into jam or put aside sliced and ready to eat.

Preserving food is a time-honored tradition. It’s so rewarding, in the middle of winter, to be able to pull out a slice of summer. Maybe this is your year to learn a new skill as well!

July 31, 2011 at 8:22 am Leave a comment

Food of the Month: Raspberries

That sweet-tart burst of spring goodness found in raspberries is something I wait for all year. As soon as truly fresh berries appear in the grocery store, I’m there with bells on. Berries are on the pricier side and they are high in pesticide use, so I decided to grow my own, and nothing is easier to grow than raspberry canes.

Purchase raspberries at a garden center such as Rick’s or find a friend with runaways. Some varieties will produce two or more crops in a season. I favor these because I like to eat raspberries for as long as I can and freeze the rest.

Choose a location in full sun where you can get at the row from both sides to make it easier to harvest. Raspberries need a little room to spread since many types fruit on second year canes and that cane dies once spent. You need a space where you can leave them in place for a year and let the new canes move in to replace the spent canes. In the spring, once you see signs of life, you can prune out the dry, brown canes to leave room for the new growth and air flow through the patch.

Raspberries require little once established. To get them going, prepare your bed with 2-3 inches of rich compost, tilled in to 12″ or as deep as you can get it. Plant the canes before they have tons of leaves and keep them well-watered while they are establishing themselves. After two or three weeks, you should be able to start watering less, but make sure to keep them well-watered through their first summer.

After the first year, raspberries will be fairly xeric. Even with a winter as dry as we had, I only watered them two or three times and they have come back with a vengeance this spring. You will want to give them a little extra water once the canes start to bloom and set fruit to increase production.

Nutritionally, all berries are packed with life-affirming goodness. Raspberries are particularly high in vitamin C and manganese. According to the website World’s Healthiest Foods,

“As an antioxidant food containing ellagic acid, raspberries help prevent unwanted damage to cell membranes and other structures in the body by neutralizing free radicals. Ellagic acid is not the only well-researched phytonutrient component of raspberry, however. Raspberry’s flavonoid content is also well documented. Here the key substances are quercetin,   kaempferol, and the cyanidin-based molecules called  cyanidin-3-glucosylrutinoside and cyanidin-3-rutinoside. These flavonoid molecules are also classified as anthocyanins, and they belong to the group of substances that give raspberries their rich red color. Raspberries’ anthocyanins also give these delectable berries unique antioxidant properties, as well as some antimicrobial ones, including the ability to prevent overgrowth of certain bacteria and fungi in the body (for example, the yeastCandida albicans, which is a frequent culprit in vaginal infections and can be a contributing cause in irritable bowel syndrome).

Interesting to see what might be delicious and generally helpful to overall health at the same time.

Enjoy raspberries in salads, cold summer soups and light desserts. Following is one of my favorite recipes. For a cocktail party, make bite-sized meringues drizzled with the sauce.

Meringues with Raspberry-Cardamom Sauce

8 servings

Begin at least a day before you plan to serve the dessert and you can bake the meringues up to a week ahead.  Don’t make them on a humid day as moisture prevents meringues from drying properly and staying crisp.  Use a 3 ½-inch round cookie cutter or a 3 ½ inch round can/glass to trace the bases.

Meringues

1-½ c. sugar

2 T. cornstarch

6 large egg whites, room temperature

¼ t. cream of tartar

Position 1 oven rack in bottom third of oven and the other in top third; preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using 3 ½-inch diameter cookie cutter as template, heavily trace 4 circles on each parchment sheet.  Turn parchment over so that marked side faces down, but shows through.

Whisk sugar and cornstarch in medium bowl to blend.  Using heavy-duty or handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat whites in large bowl until foamy, about 1 minute.  Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.  Add sugar mixture, 1 T. at a time, beating until whites are very stiff and glossy, at least 4 minutes with heavy-duty mixer and 6-8 with handheld.  Scoop enough meringue into pastry bag fitted with medium star tip to fill ¾ full.  Pipe small dot of meringue under parchment in each corner of baking sheets.  Press parchment onto dots.

Starting in center of 1 marked circle, pipe meringue in continuous spiral to fill circle completely.  Pipe 1 meringue circle atop edge of base circle, forming standing rim.  Repeat, piping 2 more circles atop first, forming meringue cup.  Repeat with remaining circles, filling bag as needed.

Bake meringues 3 hours without opening oven door (sides of meringues may settle slightly).  Turn off oven; let meringues stand in closed oven overnight to dry completely.  (If making ahead, store airtight in single layer.)

Sauce

¾ c. seedless raspberry jam

½ c. sugar

1/3 c. water

1 16-oz. package frozen unsweetened raspberries (do not thaw) or 2 packages of fresh raspberries

1 t. ground cardamom

Fresh mint, thinly sliced

Whisk jam, sugar and water in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves an jam melts.  Boil until sauce thickens and is reduced to generous ¾ cup, whisking often, about 7 minutes.  Add berries and cardamom; stir gently.  Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Assembly (If you freeze the vacherins, the meringues will be tender and chewy rather than crisp.)

Place each meringue on a small plate. Spoon raspberry sauce over.  Garnish with mint to serve.

June 1, 2011 at 6:04 am Leave a comment

National Nutrition Month

Realizing that it’s national nutrition month and realizing that people need to be able to stomach nutrition (pun intended), here’s a way to improve your diet without stressing about reading labels and counting calories.

We all know that eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is good for you. Did you know, however, that it’s the colors in produce that signify what types of nutrients they contain? For instance, orange generally means you’ll get a good dose of vitamin A; green is often a signal for vitamin K.

What this means is that you can eat by color and not have to think so hard. The more colors you have on your plate the more nutritious your meal will be.

Here’s a delicious soup recipe that incorporates tons of colors.

Potato Bean Chowder

2 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
½ c. chopped celery
½ c. chopped green bell pepper
¼ c. chopped red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 ¼ c. water
2 c. (½-inch) cubed peeled baking potato
1 c. canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 t. ground cumin
1/8 t. black pepper
4 c. vegetable broth
1 (16-oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (16-oz.) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 ½ T. grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the onion and next 4 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
Add water and next 8 ingredients (water through navy beans), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese

Yield: 9 servings (serving size: about 1 ¼ cups)

March 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment


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