Pickled Peaches

I bought 12 peaches. One molded and attracted a hoard of fruit flies that made me nearly gag. I didn’t want to throw them all away (expensive!), so I stuck them in the freezer to bide my time and kill any remaining flies. That was 5 weeks ago. Here’s my plan: pickled peaches from Saveur. Any tips for a first time pickler?

INGREDIENTS

3½ cups sugar
1½ cups white vinegar
14–16 ripe medium peaches, peeled
8 whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
1″ piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Bring a canning pot of water to a boil. Submerge 2 one-quart canning jars and their lids and ring bands in boiling water; sterilize equipment for 10 minutes. Remove from boiling water with tongs, draining jars, and transfer to a clean dish towel.

2. Combine sugar, vinegar, and 1½ cups water in a heavy medium-size pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Working in batches slide peaches into the pickling liquid and cook, turning once or twice, until peaches soften but before they turn fuzzy, 4–5 minutes per batch. Transfer peaches to a bowl as done.

3. Divide cloves, cinnamon, and ginger between the 2 jars. Cut any peaches with brown spots into halves or quarters, discarding pits, and trim away the brown spots. Spoon peaches into the jars, filling the gaps with the halves and quarters and packing the jars as tightly as possible.

4. Return pickling liquid to a boil, then pour boiling liquid into each jar, covering peaches and filling jar to 1/4″ from the rims. Let liquid settle in jars, then add more boiling liquid as necessary. Discard any remaining liquid. Wipe jar rims with a clean dish towel, place lids on jars, and screw on ring bands.

5. Transfer filled jars to a canning rack, submerge in a canning pot of gently boiling water (jars should be covered by at least 1″ of water), and process for 10 minutes. Carefully lift jars from water with jar tongs and place on a dish towel at least 1″ apart to let cool undisturbed for 24 hours. To test that jars have properly sealed, press on center of each lid. Remove your finger; if lid stays down, it’s sealed. Refrigerate any jars of pickled peaches that aren’t sealed; use within 4 weeks.

MAKES 2 QUARTS

No Cook Main Meal: Chicken Caprese Salad

It’s summer. They tell me we’ll hit 100 here in Austin for the next 3 months. For the sake of our electric bill and my sanity, I’m hunting for low-to-no cook dinners. I found this lil’ beauty on The Skinny Chick Can Bake, and made a few changes.

You’ll spend time on the prep side with chopping and dicing, so pour a glass of wine and carry on.

Ingredients:1823189

  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped (or halved grape/ cherry tomatoes )
  • 12 – 16 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • I.5 cups diced celery – this sounds odd but it’s necessary for the crunch and color
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 cup sliced basil (or combo of dried, paste and nearly-dead leaves from your patio plant)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup+ balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste (like guacamole, don’t under-salt)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced, cooked chicken (optional)

Instructions:

1. Chop tomatoes, mozzarella, celery, cucumber and basil. Combine them one bowl. If adding chicken, put it in too.

2. In a smaller bowl, combine garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil. Whisk together and pour over vegetables and chicken. Toss gently.

3. Eat! We ate it straight up with forks, but pita pockets or naan would also work well. I might add avocado or chilled pasta next time. Taste and see what you think. A pinch of sugar?

Copycat Chick-Fil-A Honey Mustard Sauce (with Chicken)

Though the source recipe is focused on the chicken, the best takeaway on this dish was the sauce. Seriously, it was amazing. My first bite took me back to a Superbowl party with a Chick-Fil-A chicken tray. I kept the sauce leftovers and poured it over salad the next day.

Honey Dijon Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup dijon mustard

4 tablespoons spicy mustard – I used brown

salt & pepper

1. Heat a skillet on medium high heat and add olive oil. Pat and press chicken with paper towels so it is very, very dry. Season with salt and pepper generously. Add chicken to skillet and brown on both sides, about 6-8 minutes each, depending on the thickness.

2. In a bowl, combine honey and both mustards. Whisk well. Taste, adjust to heat/sweet preferences.

3. Remove chicken and while it is still hot, brush on mustard.  Serve!

Salmon with Roasted Peppers

Easy summer supers, Take 1. A girl can only eat so much lettuce and call it satisfying, but there’s no way I’m leaving the oven on for longer than necessary. Enter fast salmon with roasted red peppers. Thank you, Turkish and Mediterranean recipes!

Ingredients
4 salmon fillets
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced (red and orange look best)
4 slices of lemon
2 TBS olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 c plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp dried dill
Juice of 1 lemon

Serves 2-4 | Preparation time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 25-30 minutes

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. In a heavy pan, heat the olive oil. Stir in the onions and red peppers and cook until soft (for about 5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and leave to cool.

3. Spread the foil (that is large enough to enclose all the fish) on a baking tray and place dethawed salmon fillets on it. Spread the sautéed onions and red peppers on the fillets evenly. Place a slice or two of lemon on each fillet, season with salt and ground black pepper. Wrap the foil to make into a packet by pulling up the sides and pinching the edges tightly, leaving a little room for the steam to escape. Place the tray in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes.

4. While salmon cooks, whisk yogurt, dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.

5. Once cooked, open up the packet, and serve the salmon hot with the onion, red pepper and lemon garnish. It really looks like the picture! Top with a generous dollop of Greek yogurt sauce. We served it with steamed broccoli and jasmine rice.

5 Things I Learned About Food This Week

In no particular order…

1. Switching to a low-carb diet results in brain fog (stupidity), flu-like symptoms of blarg, fatigue like mono, irritability and spending lots of time thinking about food. Apparently this allll goes away, and with it, pounds! It’s magic, they say! But here in the land of low-carb day 8, I just want to sleep and get my throat to stop hurting.

2. The term ‘alcohol sugar‘ is just a fancy name for ‘artificial sweeteners.’ There’s not even alcohol involved. Examples of sugar alcohol to look for are:

  • Erythritol
  • Glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine)
  • hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
  • isomalt
  • lactitol
  • maltitol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol

3. There’s a guy who wants to make food – and eating – obsolete. Given the vast energy I spend making, planning and feeling bad about food decisions, this appeals to the utilitarian in me. But not to the gastro-bliss fairy who sighs over hot bread and fresh butter. (I’m HUNGRY). For more thoughts on the irony of creating soy-based fake ‘food,’ check out this piece on the ethics of food in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake.

4. The infamous ‘Dirty Dozen’ may not be so bad. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the following have the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy organic versions:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Hot peppers

However,  the Journal of Toxicology folks disagree over the significance of the pesticides, “We concur with EWG President Kenneth Cook who maintains that “We recommend that people eat healthy by eating more fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic,” but our findings do not indicate that substituting organic forms of the “Dirty Dozen” commodities for conventional forms will lead to any measurable consumer health benefit.”

5. Which pulls me full circle back to Michael Pollan’s thoughts: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Impress-Your-Guests Chocolate Bundt Cake

This easy breezy chocolate cake is a total hit. Every time. Everywhere. With everyone.

I first sampled this delectable happiness when a friend made it for bookclub. She, in turn, says, “I got the recipe from my Aunt. She makes it for special occasions. It is probably a cake doctor recipe from 10 years ago. It’s always a hit with chocolate fans!”

IngredientsImage

1- Devil’s food cake mix (make sure it does not already have pudding in the mix)
1- 5.9 oz pkg chocolate pudding (if you can only find the 3.9 oz, that’s fine, just reduce the bake time 5 minutes)
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup regular or light sour cream
12 oz semi-sweet mini morsel chocolate chips (you can use regular chips but the minis distribute a bit more evenly)

Directions
Mix the first five ingredients together. Stir in the chips and mix another minute or so. Pour batter into a greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Cool at least 15 minutes in the pan before inverting and removing the cake from the pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Ooh and ahh. 

Saying the word “bundt” brings to mind this vignette from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPvO53JHnmY 

10 Lessons for Your 30′s

I liked this piece from Mark Manson, “10 Life Lessons to Excel In Your 30′s” — even if the title doesn’t roll off the tongue. I’ve captured the 10 points below, and encourage you to read the full piece.

1. Start Saving for Retirement Now, Not Later

2. Start Taking Care of Your Health Now, Not Later

3. Don’t Spend Time with People Who Don’t Treat You Well

4. Be Good to the People You Care About

5. You Can’t Have Everything; Focus On Doing a Few Things Really Well

6. Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Risks, You Can Still Change

7. You Must Continue to Grow and Develop Yourself

8. Nobody (Still) Knows What They’re Doing, Get Used to It

9. Invest in Your Family; It’s Worth It

10. Be Kind to Yourself, Respect Yourself

 

Fajita Marinade

I recently faced a total food fail while attempting Baked Spaghetti Squash with Cheese. I figured it’d be the perfect healthier mac ‘n cheese. Truth? It was downright terrible. My roux never thickened, I burned my hands pulling out the ‘noodles,’ the whole thing came out a liquidy wet blob lacking flavor. Not to mention that I wasted $14 on cheeses! I tried reinventing the leftovers by making little cheesy noodle ‘pancakes’ in the skillet. Nope. I don’t know what went wrong in those 2 hours but I know it did not go right.

Given that disappointment, my level of cooking effort is greatly diminished of late. Sometimes I just need a break from planning meals.

Aligned with that mindset, here’s an easy marinade that worked really well for chicken fajitas, and I imagine would be great for steak, pork or tempah too. I put 2 chicken breasts in a gallon ziplock and added these ingredients, smooshing them around to blend and then allowing the chicken to marinate for 1 hour in the fridge:

  • 1/4 cup worchestire
  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder
  • 2 TBS cumin
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

We sliced the raw chicken and added it with the ziplock sauce to a cast iron skillet. When the chicken was cooked, we removed it and added diced onions, bell peppers, jalapeno and more chopped cilantro for a quick stir-fry. Because the marinade boiled while the chicken cooked and then boiled again with the veggies, I wasn’t worried about raw chicken bacteria.

Better-for-you Butter Chicken

According to my fiance, this should be called “Righteous butter chicken.”

I love butter chicken and order it every chance I have. Officially known as ‘murgh makhani’ and described as ‘Indian chicken in tomato cream sauce,’ I’m rarely disappointed. This is baby Indian food — almost zero heat, sweet and hard to resist seconds, or thirds.

However, generally I place it in the category of ‘foods best made by others’ since the amount of cream sends my stomach racing into hiding. To avoid lactose overload, I gave this version from Natural Noshing a try. It’s light on dairy but still full on flavor, and can easily be made lactose free. Overall assessment: it’s good. It’s not EPIC or a copycat recipe but it’s solid.

Next time I’ll use vegetable or peanut oil, though. I apparently don’t like the scent of heated coconut oil; it reminds me of being stuck in a car on a hot day with a box of melting crayons and a coloring book. Also, lemon juice is an absolute must for finishing the dish. I’ve made the changes that I will make next time to the recipe below.

TIP: This will take you about 2 hours, start to finish.

Ingredients for the Chicken:
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 cups yogurt (can use dairy-free options)
2 TBS ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp tandoori masala powder
2 tsp kasuri methi or 1 tsp ground dried fenugreek seeds
4 TBS canola oil, coconut oil or other neutral oil

Directions For the Chicken:
1. In a small bowl mix together cumin, garam masala, salt, cayenne pepper, tandoori masala and fenugreek/kasuri methi. Rub on both sides of the chicken and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes.
2. Line a pan with parchment or foil. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil and ginger garlic paste. Dip each chicken breast into the yogurt mixture. Coat well. Lay on prepared pan.
3. Heat oven to broil and cook 10-18 minutes or until cooked through (depending on thickness of chicken), flipping them over halfway through. For 4 meaty breasts, I cooked 15-20 minutes on each side. When cooked through, let chicken rest for 5 minutes. Optional: slice chicken into 1 inch cubes.

Ingredients for the Butter Sauce:
4 TBS coconut oil, canola oil or other neutral oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 TBS ginger-garlic paste
4 cups diced tomatoes (use canned or marinara to save time)
2 TBS flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp garam masala
3 TBS kasuri methi or 1 tsp dried ground fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 TBS sugar or sweetener of choice
1/2 cup coconut milk OR greek yogurt OR  sour cream
4 TBS butter, ghee, or margarine
Juice of 1 lemon

Directions For the Butter Sauce:
1. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan. Cook onions until soft and translucent. Add ginger-garlic paste and stir for about 1 minute.
2. Add tomatoes, flour, cayenne, cumin, garam masala, kasuri methi, salt and sugar. Cook on medium heat until thick. Optional: Puree sauce in a blender and return to the pan. Personally I find blending hot liquids in batches a messy business.
3. Add dairy (yogurt/coconut milk/sour cream) and butter. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Add lemon juice. Taste and adjust. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add a bit more coconut milk.
4. If you opted to cut up the chicken, add it to the pan and simmer for a few more minutes. I sliced up the chicken and poured sauce over it instead.

Serve hot with lentils, rice and buttery garlic naan. Sigh contentedly and enter righteous butter chicken food coma.