Sunday, September 29, 2013

Caramel Corn




What is it about chilly fall mornings that makes me want to make caramel.  Fall and caramel go together like peas and carrots.  Actually, peas and carrots together are gross.  Fall and carmel go together like peanut butter and chocolate?

Sometimes making caramel seems scary, but this caramel is as easy as making the popcorn on the stove.  You just boil up some sugar for a couple minutes, pour it over the popcorn and let the oven do all the heavy lifting.

I promise, homemade caramel corn is so much more amazing than anything you can buy in the store.



Caramel Corn

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Karo syrup
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups unpopped popcorn
  1. Pop your popcorn and place into large greased pan (or 2 9x13 cake pans if you don't have a huge roaster pan)
  2. In a large saucepan, heat brown sugar, butter, and Karo syrup.  Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.
  4. Pour the caramel evenly over the popcorn (if using 2 pans, divide between the two pans)
  5. Toss to coat.  
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes
  7. While baking, stir the caramel very 5 minutes to ensure it does not burn 
  8. Turn out of the pan and break apart.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Tutorial: How to make Popcorn on the Stovetop


When I was growing up, almost every time we came to visit, my grandpa would pop up a whole boatload of popcorn for a snack.  We loved it because it was microwave popcorn with a ton of butter and salt, something we didn't get at home.  Now as a grown up, I'm not a huge fan of the microwave popcorn but don't want to spend any money and storage space on an air popper.  Not when it is actually super easy (and cheap) to pop my popcorn on the stove.



The first step is to find a medium to large heavy bottom pan with a lid.  Heavy bottom being the key words here.  Cast iron Dutch ovens work nicely.  Canning pots do not.  My friend Mandy and I leaned this the hard way and ate burned popcorn one night.  Pour in 3-4 tablespoons oil of your choice.  Preferably one with a high smoke point.  Turn stove on medium high and toss in 1 kernel of popcorn.


Wait for that kernel to pop.  When it has popped, the pan is ready.  Pour in the rest of the kernels.  How many can fit in the pot?  You can put in as many kernels as will fill the bottom of the pan on one layer.


If your oil is hot enough the kernels will start popping right away.  You should put a ld on your pan.  In trying to take this photo, I had popcorn leaping all over my kitchen.

The popping shouldn't take more than about 5 minutes.  Every minute or so, give the pan a good shake to keep the kernels from scorching.


See.  Quick, easy, and cheap.  A big bag of air pop popcorn is only a couple bucks and lasts a long long time.  And now you can decide what kind of toppings you want.  Later this week, I will share my favorite, which is caramel.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Test Kitchen Tuesday: Failed camp muffins



"It's not going to work like this."  he told me.

"You're always naysaying everything I create," I hollered back, throwing in a little Tenacious D for extra sass.

Turn out, he was right.

But he sat with me while I proceeded to warp our favorite pot on a mission to prove him wrong.  He even held the pan and built me a little cupcake holder and helped me light the stove.


I married a good man.

To make camp muffins, follow this video tutorial.  That is what we ended up doing on the trail and they turned out lovely as evidenced below.



"Are you going to post this on F*** Up Friday?"

"It's called Test Kitchen Tuesday, and yes, yes, I am."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tutorial-Canning tomatoes


Once you have blanched your tomatoes, now is the time to can them.


Canning doesn't require a lot of equipment but it is somewhat specialized.  The good news is it is all fairly inexpensive and most grocery/super stores carry everything you need.

Equipment:

Canning Pot-your pot needs to be big enough that it can hold your jars covered by a couple inches of water.  For some, their large stockpot will work and that is what I use when I can small jelly jars.  For my bigger jars (pint and quart) I have a larger pot just for canning.  It is a very thin pot so it really isn't good for much besides boiling water.  However, once you have one, they last forever.  Mine pictured above is the one my mom canned in the whole time I was growing up.

Jars-It doesn't matter what brand you get, you just want to be sure they are fit for canning.  Again, you can get these at any grocery store, many garage sales, or raid your mom/grandma's cabinets (that is where I got most of mine).  What size you use depends on what you are canning and how many people you feed.  I like to can tomatoes in pint jars because there are only two of us.  I can pickles in 1/2 pint jars so that I can give them away.  My mom favors quart jars because you don't need as many.  All up to you.

Flats-the flat seals on top of the jar during the water bath process  Make sure you buy wide mouth vs. regular size depending on what kind of jar you have.  Don't use flats that have been sitting around for eons, they might not seal and we just did all this work only to have 10 pints of tomatoes in the fridge.

Rings-they go over the flats and around the jars.  If you buy your jars, they come with rings.  If you garage sale your jars, they might not.  Again, if you have to buy rings, match them to your jars.  Here is how I keep my rings organized (if you can call it that).

Funnel-Again, cheap, pick one up at the grocery store.  Mine was gifted to me but otherwise I might have splurged on this one because I am trying to get away from plastic.

Canning Tongs-They look funky, but they are designed to easily pick up your hot jars.  Regular ones just don't do the same work.

Regular Tongs-Easier to use for things like picking up your flats and rings than the canning tongs.

Grippy Thing-not pictured, but one of these is nice to tighten the rings on the jars before they hop back in the water bath.


To sanitize you jars, fill your canning pot with warm water and place your jars and rings inside.  I always like to put in 1-2 extra rings in case I drop one on the floor after they have been sanitized.  Also, be sure that your rings match whatever sized mouths on the jars.  Make sure the jars are covered by at least 2 inches of water.  Bring water to a full boil and boil for 10 minutes.

While you are waiting for your jars to sanitize, fill a small bowl with very warm water and put your flats in the water.  Once you put the flats in the water, you cannot reuse them so don't put in more than you need.

Once the jars have been sanitized, using your canning tongs, pull a jar out of the boiling water and fill with blanched, chopped up tomatoes leaving about 1/2 of space at the top.  The funnel makes this endeavor easier.  Using a butter knife, jab into the tomatoes several time to remove the air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp cloth.

Using your regular tongs, remove a flat from the water and place on top if the jar.  This bit is a tad tricky.  Do not touch the bottom of the flat with your fingers.  Once the flat is in place, grab a ring out of your boiling water (again with the regular tongs, remember boiling water) and place it on the jar.  Using your grippy thing, tighten the ring on the jar.

Repeat above steps until you have run out of tomatoes.  If you have a partial jar, you can fill the remainder with water or you can just freeze it.  The jar cannot be 1/2 full of air.



Place canned tomatoes back into the water bath and boil for 40 minutes.  If you water has stopped boiling while you were processing the jars, you cannot start your 40 minutes until the water is back to a solid boil.

After 40 minutes, remove jars from water and allow to sit overnight.  Remove rings and store.  Any jars that did not seal should be stored int he refrigerator and used within a week or so.



Friday, September 20, 2013

Interesting Things



Here are some interesting things I bookmarked this week:

I love this post by Joy The Baker about reading a recipe.

Do I really need pickling salt?  I always wondered.

Edible Geography's article on banning sausages during World War 1.

Brewer's yeast colonizing your gut=drunk on bread

Friday, September 13, 2013

Trail Food Tip: Write Your Recipe On The Bag


A quick backpacking tip: write your recipe in Sharpie on the outside of the baggie that stores your ingredients.  That way you don't have to rely on your memory in the woods and you don't have to pack any paper.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tutorial: Blanching Tomatoes


Is your garden bursting with tomatoes?  Mine seemed to get a slow start, but now every day I am bringing in 5-7 tomatoes from my 15 plants.  I like to can my tomatoes, my mom says freezing is easier.  Whichever way you like to preserve your tomatoes, you have to blanch them and peel off the skin.  It's an easy process, but takes a little time.


First, get a big pot of water boiling, the largest you have.   While you are waiting for your water to boil, clean your kitchen sink and fill it full of fresh cold water (tap water is fine).  Once the water is boiling, put as many tomatoes as will fit comfortably in the boiling water.  After a minute or so, they should split.


Once they split, pull them out of the hot water and toss them into your sink of cold water.  If they don't split after a few minutes in the boiling water, pull them out anyway and toss them into the cold water.


 After they have been in the cold water a few minutes, you can peel the tomatoes and cut them up.  Run a paring knife along the split in the skin and the skin should peel off easily.  If your tomato did not split, gently pierce the skin with your knife and peel the skin off.

Depending on what kind of tomatoes you want, you can leave them whole or chop them up at this point.  We usually use our canned tomatoes in sauces, so I just coarsely chop them.  The tomatoes are then ready to be canned or placed in freezer bags and frozen.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

So you made and ugly cake...


Who hasn't?  I used to get so frustrated when my cakes would turn out uneven.  I cursed my oven, endlessly researched bake even strips (because of course a gadget will all my problems).  But then, I realized something...frosting covers a multitude of sins...well frosting and a little clever repositioning of the cake.


First off, if you have a dome in the middle of your cake, it's going to have to come off.  This is by far the most challenging bit.  It just takes practice to be able to cut off the dome and keep everything flat.  I am actually terrible at it.  I will fix the problem with some frosting later on.  Anyway, I digress...

I find it easiest to do this when my cakes are cold.  I like to wrap them in plastic and refrigerate or freeze overnight.  Frozen cake is still cuttable.  Fresh cake is often a crumbly mess.  Even if you are running short on time, whip 'em in the freezer for a few minutes.

Typically my a top edge.  I lay my bread knife (or the longest serrated knife you have) parallel agains that top edge and then gently saw off the top keeping your knife even.   Lift off the dome.


You may have to turn the cake a few times and take a couple passes with the knife to make sure you have gotten the cake even all the way across.


Next, we add some frosting.  For the middle layer of frosting, especially if you are using the same frosting as the outside of your cake, it is not super important that it is perfectly even, but you want it pretty even because your cake sitting on top of that frosting will lean if you have too much gooped up on one side.  

That said, if you have poor knife skills like me and your bottom layer slopes, now is the time to add a little more frosting on one side to try and even it up.

You want to repeat the above steps to even up your next layer before you add it on top.  But then, here is the trick, put the cut side down on top of the frosting.  You already know the bottom of your pan is totally flat and it will give you a smooth flat surface to frost.

Lastly, frost the tops and sides.  I find it best when frosting the top to get down on the same level as the cake to make sure everything is even and I don't need a little more frosting here or there ( kind of like when you pour into a measuring cup).  I actually find it easiest to put my turntable and cake up on a cake plate to work on it instead of hunching over the counter.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mayonnaise Cake




My nephew like riding his bike, Thomas the Train, and chocolate "pake".  So, when one loves chocolate cake as much as he does, it is imperative that your birthday cake is chocolate cake.



This cake is a supremely moist, rich, chocolate cake where the eggs and oil are packaged together as mayonnaise.  No creaming, no whipping.  You make each layer in one bowl, no muss, no fuss.  It is one of our family's favorites, my grandma used to make it all the time when we were growing up.

Mayonnaise Cake

From: Bette Roland

makes 1- 8 inch round or square cake

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup real mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
  • 1 cup boiling water


Dump ingredients into bowl in the order listed above (or they will clump).  Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.  Pour into a greased 8 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

This recipe does not double very well.  For a double layer cake (like the cake above), make the batter in two batches.   Frost as desired.  I used my go-to chocolate frosting.

Decorate as desired.  And when you're three, your desire is lots of frosting "snakes" and sprinkles.




Sunday, September 1, 2013

Virtual Coffee Date


If we were meeting for coffee today, I would tell you to check out this post about egg proteins and sugar.  It's science and awesome.  And this article about the new baby rhino at the Lincoln Park zoo.  My friend works there and says that baby is oh so cute.

If we were having coffee today, mine would be an iced coffee because even though it's September, it's still a bit too warm and muggy for something warm.  I am sooo looking forward to fall weather, but I will miss the summer.

If we were having coffee today, I would tell you how excited/nervous I am for our upcoming backpacking trip.  We are taking energy bars, granola and making chicken and dumplings.  Our friend Rob has mastered making muffins on a camp stove thanks to this tutorial.  ( I did not...more on that later).  Thanks to him, we are going to eat WELL on this trip (he also has a gorgonzola pasta and chicken curry planned).

If we were having coffee today, I would tell you how I have been in the kitchen canning pickles and tomatoes this weekend, but my garden is still producing like crazy so I will be in the kitchen canning more this week.  I really want to try this peach chutney.  It looks crazy delicious.

Have a fun long weekend.


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