Open Jars: Turkey Taco Salad

pickled jalapenos

I have long been a fan of homemade turkey tacos, particularly ones based on this recipe (thanks Molly!). A couple of nights ago, I cooked up a batch of the taco meat to spill over big bowls of greens (though folding these crumbles up in freshly warmed corn tortillas is my idea of heaven) and managed to get not just one, but two jars of home canned food into the mix.

browned turkey for tacos

The taco-spiced meat calls for a pound of turkey, spiked with minced garlic, cumin, a pinch of cayenne, lime and some jalapenos. I look at this recipe as a perfect way to use up some of those unfancy jalapeno peppers that I canned last fall. Because the pickling process takes some of the sting out of peppers, I simply mince up two or three, seeds and all, and add it to the mix. Frequently, I skip the cayenne and just rely on the heat of the jalapenos to flavor the turkey (we’re something of a heat sensitive household around here).

pickled carrots and daikon

As I assembled the salads, I started longing for something tangy to go along with the turkey, greens and sauteed vegetables. Thinking back over what remains in my pantry, I remembered that a single jar of those pickled carrots and daikon I made last February (good grief, is time flying) remained. They weren’t quite as crunchy as they’d been when first canned, but their flavor was spot on for the salad and they added the perfect amount of zing.

assembled salad

I realize that this isn’t groundbreaking cooking, but I thought you guys would appreciate seeing some of the basic ways that I incorporate what I can into my everyday eating. Oh, and if you determine to eat this as tacos (as is truly intended), I highly recommend making a batch of this Cumin Cabbage Slaw to go with it. They match up really well.

Comments { 7 }

Ginger Syrup + Sparkling Water = Homemade Ginger Ale

ginger sugar pot

Earlier this week, I got walloped by one of those 36 hour stomach bugs. I spent a day bundling to ward off feverish chills and nursing a very tender belly. I couldn’t handle anything more than a few Saltines and a sip or two of liquid every hour.

half cup minced ginger

During my childhood, ginger ale was my mother’s prescription for any stomach trouble. We weren’t allowed to have it until the worst of the troubles were over (there’s no point in putting something in if you’re not yet capable of holding on to it) but goodness, was that first sip of sweet, bubbly soda divine.

ground ginger

Not wanting to head out into foul weather (and yikes, has our weather been terrible lately. Earlier tonight, we had a crazy confluence of snow and thunder) but needing a dose of that familiar remedy, I simply used what I had. I combined 1 cup of cane sugar, 1 cup of filtered water, 1 cup of chopped ginger and 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger to create a super concentrated ginger syrup.

steeping ginger in simple syrup

After half an hour of gentle simmering and an hour of unheated steeping, I ran the syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a pint jar. Then it was just a manner of spooning a small amount into a glass and topping it off with a pour of sparkling water (I adore my Sodastream for just this sort of thing). After a day of slowly sipping this homemade gingery ale, I felt much better. By the end of yesterday, I was even able to graduate from crackers to poached eggs over brown rice.

If you decide to make your own ginger syrup, don’t feel like you have to replicate my proportions. As you can see, my approach was just to combine equal parts fresh ginger, sugar and water. I added the powdered ginger mostly because I wanted to ensure a super gingery kick, however it’s entirely optional.

I still have half a jar of this gingery balm tucked into the fridge, and I’m continue to combine it with fizzy water or drizzle it into hot tea. There’s just nothing like ginger this time of year.

Comments { 51 }

Dark Days: Good Old Chicken Soup

dark days soup

This soup was several days in the making. While working from home last Friday, I poured two pounds of chicken feet from Sweet Stem Farms into a pot with a chopped onion, a couple of bay leaves (from a tree I had for a time) and nearly five quarts of filtered water. This simmered most of the day, cooking down into a three concentrated quarts of broth. The thing I love about making broth from chicken feet is that they express a great deal of gelatin into the finished product, making it really rich without adding a lot of fat.

I let the broth chill out in fridge until this afternoon. I cooked up onions (Winter Harvest), carrots (Rineer Family Farms), cabbage (Winter Harvest), garlic (Fair Food Farmstand) and kale (Winter Harvest from a couple of weeks ago – it was a bit sad and wilted). Once it was browned and softened, I added the broth back in. Once it came to a boil, I dropped in some raw chopped chicken that had been in the freezer for a while, originally purchased from Sweet Stem Farms.

I didn’t actually eat the soup tonight, as I was hosting a group of friends from my church for a fondue dinner (a couple committee members and I offered it as an item in our annual auction last spring). Scott had two bowls tonight and pronounced it delicious (the few spoonfuls I snagged were pretty darn tasty). Best of all, there’s a half gallon in the fridge, just waiting to be eaten for dinner tomorrow night.

Comments { 6 }

Cocoa Hazelnut Granola

cocoa hazelnut granola

I’ve been making granola like crazy lately, as I finalize the recipes for that section of the cookbook. Just when I was sure I was done and could put the oats away, another recipe possibility started growing. You see, I’ve had Nutella on the brain in the last few days (I blame Lara’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies). And when you combine an obsessive devotion to granola with thoughts of Nutella, its an impossible task to try and avoid seeing what their love child would look like.

roasted hazelnuts

In my kitchen, the result of that unlikely union is a chocolate-kissed cereal that has a touch of sweetness and a crunch that is habit-forming. The jar of it is sitting next to me as I type these words and my writing progress is far slower than normal, because I can’t stop my hand from dipping into it every minute or so.

cocoa hazelnut granola

A word of warning. This is not the chocolate cereals of our collective youth. If you eat it with milk, you will not go into glucose shock from drinking the liquid that remains in the bowl. In fact, had someone presented to this to me as a child, I would have taken a bite and then been mightily disappointed by the subtly of the sweetening. However, as an adult, it’s that nuance that I find so appealing (along with the small hints of salt that come through thanks to the 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt).

cocoa hazelnut granola

All that said, if you did want to turn this concoction into something a bit more dessert-like, you could toss the partially cooled cereal with small shards of dark chocolate. That would be good. Oh, another thing. Hazelnuts are one of the more expensive nuts out there. If you can’t swing their price, you could substitute almonds. However, you only need about a 1/3 of a pound for this recipe, so if you have someplace that sells them in bulk, it’s worth spending $3-4 to buy just that amount. They are transcendentally good.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 38 }

Open Jars: The Oregonian’s FOODday Turns Sweet Jams into Savory Dishes

looking towards the dining room

If you follow the Food in Jars Facebook page, you may have already spotted this on Tuesday when I posted it over there. However, being that this Thursday post is all about ways to use up those preserves, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share this article again.

You see, when I was out in Portland in December, Deena and I got together in a beautiful borrowed kitchen (it belongs to friends of my parents) and cooked up a bunch of amazingly delicious food so it could be made pretty and photographed. Each recipe was designed to feature a sweet preserve in a savory application. Deena wrote up everything we made in that afternoon of cooking and the result is this terrific piece that ran in the Oregonian on Tuesday, in their FOODday section.

Included in her article are recipes for a jam-based vinaigrette, marmalade shrimp, apricot chicken wings (so good!), an all-purpose savory jam glaze, and blue cheese savories (but you’ve seen those already). Truly, everything was delicious (although since I’m allergic to shrimp, I’m just taking the emphatic enthusiasm of others in the case of that dish). It was also such a thrill to be included in a piece that ran in my hometown newspaper. My parents got emails and calls all day Tuesday from friends and old neighbors. Very fun!

Also, in an act of delightful synchronicity, author of Put ‘em Up! Sherri Brooks Vinton, recently had a piece run on Foodista about using up her preserves. Everybody’s doing it!

Comments { 7 }

Canning 101: Keeping Track and Taking Stock

spice racks

Believe it or not, we’re more than half way through January (I don’t know if I’m equipped to have the rest of the year go as fast as the last few weeks have passed). The holiday giving season is behind us and it’s been a few months since the height of the canning season. Things should be a littler quieter than they were in November and December, making it the perfect time to take stock of where things stand in your larder of home canned goods.

I know that for lots of you, this was only the first or second year that you tried your hand at preserving some food for the winter season, so how were you to know how much you’d wind up wanting to have in stock? It’s perfectly okay that this period be about learning, but a large part of that education process is keeping good track.

I’ll admit right here that I’m not always the best about writing down everything I’ve canned (although at least I have this blog to help me keep track, at least in part). But every year around this time, I try to take stock, determine what I still have, what’s starting to run out and plan accordingly.

Your tracking system can be as simple as a notebook, in which you list the things you’ve made and then you mark them off as you eat or gift them. I’ve seen some highly sophisticated spreadsheets in my time as well. The most important thing to do is develop a system that works for you and keep it up to date. This way, you’ll make sure to use up what you have and have some information to guide you as you head into next season (for instance, who else has a glut of jam, but is already starting to run low on tomatoes?).

So, where does everyone stand right now? Let’s hear about what’s running low and what you’re struggling to use up, as well as the tracking systems you use to help you keep track.

Comments { 54 }