Caturday – Tweak and Turbo Snuggling

I love how much these two love each other!

Was actually on the phone with a friend when they started cuddling like this, had to get off the call to photograph it! Cell phone pics, so please excuse the quality – I figure it’s a good dose of cute, anyway!







Mixed Vegetable Pickles

Every fall, my husband and I take our big roadtrip to Chicago, for our favorite annual convention. It’s something we very much look forward to every year – a great event, loads of friends, and an anniversary – we first fell in love at the event! There is pretty much nothing that would stop us from going, and the entire thing is wrapped up in tradition for us.

Every year, we plot out our trip weeks in advance, and look forward to it in the way that children look forward to Christmas. All year, we save our spare change in a jar, and a few days before the trip, we cash it in – this becomes our “cheese budget”. We DO have to pass through Wisconsin, afterall – and this has the double duty of motivating us to not just leave change everywhere! We wake up FAR earlier than we plan to on the morning we leave, because we can’t sleep – we just want to get on the road! We have our traditional stops along the way, etc etc.

Anyway, the year before last, we bought something else along with the cheese – a jar of mixed dill vegetable pickles. We plowed through most of the jar in no time, only saving the last bit so that we could figure out how to pickle it. Then we bought a house, moved, and got hit by a tornado. That jar survived all of that, sitting in the back of the fridge just waiting to be replicated.

While my source material is probably not edible anymore, I was able to use a combination of memory, listed ingredients, and appearance of the bottom of the jar contents to create a very similar recipe from it. I went a bit nuts with it – the recipe below is only half of what I made, that first batch! There was a fair amount of prep work involved, but it paid off – these are pretty much exactly what we remember from that jar we bought – and cost probably 1/10th of what we paid for it at that little tourist stop!

A few notes about pickling:

1. The amount of brine you’re going to need will vary widely depend on the shape and size of your vegetable slices, the size of jar you use, and how well you pack them into the jar. Have a lot of extra vinegar on hand, and either make more brine than you think you’ll need, or be prepared to make more as you go. As a general idea of scale, the recipe below made about 6 pint jars plus 3 quart jars of pickles, packed VERY tightly. Your mileage will likely vary!

2. Pickling salt is usually available with the canning supplies in any grocery store. You’ll want to use this, rather than regular table salt – the anti-caking additives in table salt can make your pickle brine go murky and ugly.

3. While you can use previously-used jars for canning (when WELL washed and sterilized!), you need new lids for each new batch. Safety first!

Homemade Mixed Vegetable Pickles

2 heads cauliflower
2 lbs broccoli
1 stalk/package celery
1-2 lbs baby carrots
1-2 onions

Brine:

8 cups vinegar
8 cups water
1 cup pickling salt

Per pint jar (2x for quart jars):

1/2 – 1 tsp dill seed
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 tsp mustard seed
Jalapeno slices (optional)

Canning Equipment:

Clean, sterilized canning jars & rings
New, never-used, sterilized canning lids
Canning funnel
LARGE pot to process them in
Jar lifter (nice to have, not necessary if you can handle pain!)

Wash all vegetables. Cut cauliflower and broccoli into bite sized florets, slice celery into 1- 1.5″ long pieces. Mix all vegetables together in a large bowl or pot, trying to more or less evenly distribute each variety.

Fill your LARGE pot with at least 6″ of water, put on medium or high heat to bring it to a boil as you prepare your brine.

In another pot (NOT the canning pot!), combine vinegar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the salt. As the brine heats up, measure your “per jar” ingredients into your sterilized jars. Arrange your prepared vegetables into the jars, packing them tightly – seriously, try to cram as many pieces into each jar as you can!

Once brine comes to a boil, use a canning funnel to pour brine into prepared jars, leaving about 1/2″ head space. Wipe off the top edges of the jar with a clean, wet towel, top each with a new, sterilized lid, and carefully screw on a clean lid ring. I like to use a kitchen towel for this, the jars are HOT! Carefully place your jars of pickles into the boiling water pot, allow to process for 15 minutes. CAREFULLY remove them, allow to cool overnight.

The next morning, check to make sure that all of the jars achieved a proper seal – try to push down in the middle of each lid. If it “pops”, it did not seal. Any jars that didn’t seal should be put in the fridge and used in the next few weeks.

Leave the jars alone for at least a few days, to allow the flavors to permeate the pickles. Store in a cool, dark area (ideally) for up to 1 year, chill well before eating.

Enjoy!

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Chicken Shahi Korma Recipe

Whew! It’s been an incredibly busy few weeks, preparing for the release of “Twisted: A Minneapolis Tornado Memoir”. With things calmed down a little, I finally have time to get back to recipe developing, cooking, and blogging. I promise, today’s recipe is worth the wait!

Chicken Shahi Korma is my absolute favorite thing to order at our favorite Indian restaurant locally – Taste of India. I mean, to the point where I’ve never actually ordered a different entree there – I fell in love with it, and don’t tend to stray!

While we’re always in the mood for some Shahi Korma, we’re usually far less likely to be in the mood to deal with traffic, noise, and… well, people.

I’ve been meaning to unleash my only useful “Aspie Superpower” – recipe replication – on this for a while.
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“Scotch Egg” Meatloaf Recipe

Low carb. Potentially “Paleo-friendly”. Gluten Free. Yep – a recipe that fits all those categories can be THIS tasty!

When I was a kid, my mother used to make meatloaves formed around hardboiled eggs. Loved these “dinosaur eggs” then, and was inspired to come up with my own version a few years ago. The veggies in this version provide a ton of flavor to the meat, and make for a colorful, healthy dish.

To make this recipe “paleo”, just use a paleo-friendly sauce (even just pureed tomatoes!), and omit the cheese.

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“Game Day” Fruity Glazed Popcorn Recipe

Glazed popcorn was the first recipe I ever had published, back when I was in grade 5 (Classroom cook book)! I used to make this for bake sales in my front yard, as gifts, and whatever. I guess it was only appropriate that glazed popcorn was also the first recipe I posted on this blog, way back in September 2008!

While a single batch of this popcorn is a ton of fun – and super tasty – on its own, doubling the batch while using 2 different colors? Awesome.

For this batch, I used grape and lemon Jello flavors – to replicate “Minnesota Vikings” colors! While the lemon was vibrant enough on its own, I find that the darker colors need a little more “oomph”. I highly recommend adding a few drops of gel food coloring. To achieve this depth of color, I used a few drops of Americolor’s “Regal Purple”. Perfect!

Between the flavors / colors of Jello available, & the huge variety of gel food colors available, you can totally customize the flavors and colors to match any sports team out there.

Not so into sports? Consider using your wedding colors for bridal shower favors … or light colors for baby showers! Orange popcorn can be combined with ANY flavor – dyed black – for Halloween popcorn, and festive holiday popcorn could be made with cherry and lime Jello! The possibilities are endless!

This is an insanely easy recipe to make, and only takes about 10 minutes per flavor.

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Cutest Wedding Cake Ever – Bubble Bobble

As you may have guessed by now… I LOVES me a geeky bride!

Michelle, the bride who ordered the cake I’m posting about today, is pretty much a perfect representation of what kind of bride I love to work with: Identified geeky in the first email (which was also well written, polite, and had great grammar and spelling – FTW!), didn’t take anything too seriously – no bridezilla moments at all! -, gave me ultimate reign over the final design, and wanted her wedding cake themed around an old school NES / Taito game!

Oh yeah. She also held her real wedding in Vegas, getting married by an impersonator. Not any tired old Elvis impersonator (which, in my mind, would still be kind of awesome to do!).. no. She got married by a “Bishop” impersonator from the Princess Bride. Yes, her “mawwige” was “wut bwings us togedder”! Awesome!

Check out the cake: (more…)