Pickles Without the Heat

Some of us adore pickles and some dislike them.  If you are a pickle fan read on.  If not, read anyway as these are far better than the tired flabby canned pickles found at the grocery store.  A good gardening friend gave me this recipe.  It is really easy and rather fun to construct.  Even better is that you can pickle most any veggies. I have tried zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, green peppers, cabbage and red peppers.  Of course, cucumbers are in there too!  Debating beets….hummm. Plus there is no heating up the kitchen with canning equipment which has real appeal in this endless heat wave. sausage and beans, beets 006.JPG

You do need a couple grape leaves.  You might be able to find a neighbor with a grape vine.  I am sure you could use wild grape leaves from a state park or along a country road.   They really add to the authenticity of it so snag a few from somewhere.

Also needed are 3 dill heads (the flowers of a dill plant).  This might be more problematic but if you know a real gardener, aka someone like me, you can beg the dill heads as frankly they are not used much for cooking and I was happy to give some to the friend who gave me this recipe.  Grow your own dill for next summer; it is so easy to do and it does reseed and come back year after year.  Dill is lovely in potato salad and in other salads like my stuffed tomatoes, see that blog post… pickle jar

Refrigerator Pickles

2 cups white vinegar

¼ cup salt, I used kosher salt in mine

4 cups water (I used 3)

¾ cup sugar

3 garlic cloves cut up

3 dill heads

2 grape leaves

Bring the first four ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan and let cool fully.  Put the other three ingredients in the bottom of a gallon jar.  Cut up your veggies and pile in the jar.  Top with the vinegar mixture. Put on the lid. Put in the fridge and let marinate for 3 days before trying it.

I have pickled cucumbers, short zucchini spears, broken up cauliflower heads, thin slices of white turnip, peppers, broccoli spears, and celery chunks.

My grandson Aiden who is almost five clamors for the pickle jar to come out when he eats meals here.  I say, eat your food and you can have some pickles! He gobbles up his food and waits expectantly for me to fish out a pickle or two.

I like how fresh they are and how crunchy the pieces still are. Plus they have no additives or preservatives.  You can keep adding veggies as you use them up.  I think the tough part is fishing them out of the jar.  The other day I lost a fork in there but luckily it didn’t go to the bottom of the jar; a cuke round stopped its descent! Now, go pickle fresh veggies and have some fun with it….

Originally posted by me late last summer 2014.

Pork Stir Fry: Delightfully Healthy

When time is short, the weather is hot and you are hungry for a real meal I find a stir fry can be a great choice.  It allows me to use whatever is in the fridge and pantry to create a fresh wholesome meal. For a starch my go to choice is often rice noodles, they come in skinny to very wide size and are so easy to prepare.  They take on the flavor of the rest of the dish which can be handy; no flavor conflicts here!

This version I am sharing today is a pork stir fry with those delightful medium to wide rice noodles you can get these days in most grocery stores.  I soak them in very hot water for ten minutes and drain well before stirring them into the completed dish.  Foolproof.

Notes: the veggie amounts are very fluid; use more if you like a lot of something or skip if you hate.  And sub in other things if you dislike any of the veggies I used; other choices are broccoli, onion, or snap peas. Best made in a wok; I have a small one I use all the time.  I guess you can use a fry pan; keep it hot and stir constantly.

Pork Stir Fry with Rice Noodles

Ingredients:

rice noodles, any thickness; a handful; around a cup

3/4 lb of boneless pork cut into bite sized bits

½ tsp. dry ginger

1-2 tbsp. cooking oil (I like mild olive oil)

2 carrots; sliced on the diagonal

2 celery stalks sliced on diagonal

1 cup sliced zucchini; about ¼ inch thick

1 cup bok choy; I used bokchoy greens from my garden

1 cup thinly sliced cabbage

1 big garlic clove minced

About a tbsp of slivered fresh ginger

1 tsp. corn starch dissolved in 1/3 cup water

1/2 tsp. soy sauce (be sure it is gf)

Directions: Put the noodles in a bowl half full of very hot water; I heat it in the microwave until almost boiling. I break them in half before putting in water; up to you if you like long strands. Let stand ten minutes.  Meanwhile, cut the pork up into thin slices or chunks; nothing that can’t fit easily into someone’s mouth, sprinkle it with the dried ginger.  You can also sprinkle it with meat tenderizer if you like; I would put that on before the ginger.

Heat mini wok, add oil.  Add pork and stir it after a minute; start flipping over; brown all over lightly; 3-4 minutes.  Remove to a plate.  Add celery and carrot, stir a minute or two then add cabbage, stir a minute, add the zucchini and garlic; stir 2 minutes then add the bok choy, stir 1-2 minutes.  Add the pork back and the fresh ginger slivers.  Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  You want the veggies to be a touch crisp but mostly cooked.  Pour in the cornstarch water slurry and 1/2 tsp. soy sauce.  Stir well and add the drained noodles; keep stirring as it cooks for one  to two minutes; add more water if not enough sauce to your liking. This last minute is critical to make the sauce clear; you need to cook the cornstarch. Taste and add more soy sauce if you want, also, season with salt and fresh black pepper to your liking.

I often use fruit juice for some or all of the water.  Pineapple is my favorite but orange juice works well for some of the fluid; adds a lot of flavor. Should serve 3 people.

This is a naturally gluten free dish.  If you dislike the rice noodles service it over rice. Enjoy!

Sweet Corn Hack

Sweet corn season is here.  In many places really good sweet corn can be had, like farms markets, road side stands and even Wegmans!  I don’t know about you but when I only am making one or two ears it seems silly to fire up a tall pot of water.  I do steam the corn which only takes an inch or so of hot water but still…too much to do.

Two summers ago, on a hot day, I realized there was a quick and easy way to make an ear…or two without that big hot pan of water and steam. I just take a large frying pan, put a quarter inch of water in it, sprinkle of salt and let it heat until bubbling.  I then lay in my ear or two which I have husked and removed all the silk.  Then the pan is topped with a lid or an empty pizza pan if your frying pan is too big for your lids.  Cook it the usual time; depends on how fresh the corn is.  The fresher your corn ears, the less cooking time you need.  The steam in the pan will cook it really fast.  Maybe 6 to 8 minutes.

 

And the bonus is that if it runs out of water your ear will get a bit of carmelization going which only adds to the flavor.  In fact I hope it gets browned a bit; sometimes I rotate the ear to brown it on another side.  Remove with tongs when your corn reaches the done stage you like.  Sometimes I take a quick bite to test for eating readiness!

Serve your ear(s) with salt and butter and enjoy fresh corn without heating the kitchen up much.  Oh and I have some lovely prong thingies my sister gave me for pushing into the corn so my fingers stay cool as I munch corn.  Great idea. Get them! Mine are plain like these; they do make corny looking versions but I prefer these simple looking ones.corn prongs

Mongolian Beef Stir Fry: Awesome!

Don’t know why but I’ve been totally craving Chinese food lately.  Quick stir fry meals served over rice, with rice noodles.  With lots of veggies.  With beef, chicken, tuna.  You name I crave it!  And I make it ‘cause there isn’t any gluten free Chinese restaurant within easy reach of my house. So when I saw this recipe for Mongolian stir fried beef I knew I wanted to re-create it.  I confess I made changes.  Yeap; I did.  Honestly, I almost always change recipes some.  Just the way I roll. This time I added lots of veggies and took out the deep frying aspect.  Oh, and I took most of the brown sugar out.  ¾ of a cup of brown sugar is close to insane in a stir fry. Just trying to keep things healthy folks.  lemon blooms and beef with broccoli 009

And it worked.  Yummy meal over rice and no guilt because low in fat, sugar and full of healthy vegetables.  Sure there is beef in there but not that much and it is lean rather than fatty meat. I used beef sirloin but the original recipe off of food.com used flank steak.  Use whatever cut of beef you like, if it is too chewy it will give you a chewy result; this is not a low braise but a fast stir fry.  I used plain sesame oil (not toasted!) but canola or mild olive oil both work well in rapid stir fries.

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So stop whining about there being no P.F. Changs around here.  You can do this, it’s not that difficult.  You do need a wok if you want to do it half decently. And yes, a gas range works hugely better for woking. I have a big one but my favorite kitchen pan is my baby wok.  Makes up to four servings in it easily and fits on burner a heck of a lot better than my big old wok from years gone by.  You can use a big one but honestly, my baby wok does 99 percent of my stir frying.  If you need to double this recipe, well then maybe you need a full sized wok.  But for 4 or less; small is best! lemon blooms and beef with broccoli 011

You may wonder why I need to make this recipe myself and call it gluten free when there is no naturally occurring gluten in it.  Well, a lot of soy sauces have gluten in them.  And a lot of Chinese restaurants do not prevent cross contamination.  If you have celiac even a tiny amount of gluten is a serious problem.  So I really can’t chance eating food from a Chinese take out place or most restaurants unless I am sure they understand this issue fully and can make truly safe food for me. Annoying for sure as sometimes I do miss eating Chinese take out…. For now though, I am more than satisfied by the authentic flavor of my new fav stir fry dish!

Angie’s Mongolian Beef with Veggies
Serves 3-4

¾ lb of beef round sliced into ¼ inch thick by 1 inch pieces

3-4 tbsp. corn starch

1 tsp. ginger

1 tbsp. oil for stir frying

1 large onion sliced top to bottom into long segments

2 cups or so of raw broccoli florets; make them like 1 inch wide and I cut the lower parts of the stems into 1/8 inch slices

2 carrots, cut on the bias to make long ovals. 1/8 inch thick

2 celery stalks cut on the bias to make long half moon slices; 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick

1 tbsp canola or sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. fresh ginger minced or grated frozen ginger

1 heaping tbsp. brown sugar

1-2 tbsp. gf soy sauce or tamari sauce

3-4 green onions cut into slivers, optional

Directions

Sprinkle the ginger powder over the cornstarch on a sheet of wax paper, stir around. Roll the beef pieces around to coat them well.

Let stand while you cut up the veggies, up to ten minutes.

Heat the cooking oil in a wok to almost smoking hot.  Add the beef.  Cook a couple of minutes on the first side, stir up and cook a couple more minutes.  The heat should be fairly high to cook things fast. You want the meat to get crusty but not hugely overdone.  Remove to a plate; cover to keep warm.

Add another tbsp. of oil to the same pan.  Throw in the cut up onion and carrots.  Stir a minute. Add the celery slices.  Stir another minute. Add the broccoli stems, stir and then throw the rest of the broccoli on top. Add 2-3 tbsp. of water and let steam a minute or two uncovered.  Add the garlic and fresh ginger.  Cook a minute. Return the beef to the pan, dump the brown sugar on top, add the soy sauce.  Add the green onions if you want some, I went without this time but I plan to add them next time I made this yummy meal. Stir a minute or two.  Add more water to create sauce if there isn’t enough.

Serve over brown rice or white rice.

Note, these stir fry times and amounts are flexible.  If you don’t want one of the veggies leave it out or sub in something else.  If you want more soy sauce or more sugar; add more and taste to see how you like it.  I like things a tiny bit crunchy; taste and see if you need to cook another minute or two before you turn off the burner. I find stir frying rather freeform and fun.  It can use what you have available in your fridge and pantry.  I also would like to try this dish made with chicken.  Enjoy!

Original recipe inspiration from food.com.

Pickle Pickle Who’s Got the Pickles?

Some of us adore pickles and some dislike them.  If you are a pickle fan read on.  If not, read anyway as these are far better than the tired flabby canned pickles found at the grocery store.  A good gardening friend gave me this recipe.  It is really easy and rather fun to construct.  Even better is that you can pickle most any veggies. I have tried zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, green peppers and red peppers.  Of course, cucumbers are in there too!

You do need a couple grape leaves.  You might be able to find a neighbor with a grape vine.  I am betting you could use wild grape leaves from a state park or along a country road.   They really add to the authenticity of it so snag a few from somewhere.

Also needed are 3 dill heads (the flowers of a dill plant).  This might be more problematic but if you know a real gardener, aka someone like me, you can beg the dill heads as frankly they are not used much for cooking and I was happy to give some to the friend who gave me this recipe.  Grow your own dill for next summer; it is so easy to do and it does reseed and come back year after year.  Dill is lovely in potato salad and in other salads like my stuffed tomatoes which I plan to blog about later this week!

Refrigerator Pickles

2 cups white vinegar

¼ cup salt, I used kosher salt in mine

4 cups water (I used 3)

¾ cup sugar

3 garlic cloves cut up

3 dill heads

2 grape leaves

Bring the first four ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan and let cool fully.  Put the other three ingredients in the bottom of a gallon jar.  Cut up your veggies and pile in the jar.  Top with the vinegar mixture. Put on the lid. Put in the fridge and let marinate for 3 days before trying it.

I have done pickling cucumbers, short zucchini spears, broken up cauliflower heads, thin slices of white turnip and peppers.  I want to try broccoli next!  Maybe celery?

My grandson Aiden who is almost four clamors for the pickle jar to come out when he eats meals here.  I say, eat your food and you can have some pickles! He gobbles up his food and waits expectantly for me to fish out a pickle or two.

I like how fresh they are and how crunchy the pieces still are. Plus they have no additives or preservatives.  You can keep adding veggies as you use them up.  I think the tough part is fishing them out of the jar.  The other day I lost a fork in there but luckily it didn’t go to the bottom of the jar; a cuke round stopped its descent! Now, go pickle fresh veggies and have some fun with it….

Originally posted by me late last summer 2014.

Pretty Tasty Pickles You Can Make in a Big Jar

Some of us adore pickles and some dislike them.  If you are a pickle fan read on.  If not, read anyway as these are far better than the tired flabby canned pickles found at the grocery store.  A good gardening friend gave me this recipe.  It is really easy and rather fun to construct.  Even better is that you can pickle most any veggies. I have tried zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, green peppers and red peppers.  Of course, cucumbers are in there too!

You do need a couple grape leaves.  You might be able to find a neighbor with a grape vine.  I am betting you could use wild grape leaves from a state park or along a country road.   They really add to the authenticity of it so snag a few from somewhere.

Also needed are 3 dill heads (the flowers of a dill plant).  This might be more problematic but if you know a real gardener, aka someone like me, you can beg the dill heads as frankly they are not used much for cooking and I was happy to give some to the friend who gave me this recipe.  Grow your own dill for next summer; it is so easy to do and it does reseed and come back year after year.  Dill is lovely in potato salad and in other salads like my stuffed tomatoes which I plan to blog about later this week!

Refrigerator Pickles

2 cups white vinegar

¼ cup salt;  I used kosher salt in mine

4 cups water (I used 3 as my jar was slightly smaller than a gallon)

¾ cup sugar

————–

3 garlic cloves cut up

3 dill heads

2 grape leaves

Bring the first four ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan and let cool fully.  Put the other three ingredients in the bottom of a gallon jar.  Cut up your veggies and pile in the jar.  Top with the vinegar mixture. Put on the lid. Put in the fridge and let marinate for 3 days before trying it.

I have used pickling cucumbers, regular cukes, short zucchini spears, broken up cauliflower heads, thin slices of white turnip and pepper strips.  pickle jar  I want to try broccoli next!  Maybe celery?

My grandson who is three and a half clamors for the pickle jar to come out when he eats meals here.  I say, eat your lunch and you can have some pickles! He gobbles up his food and waits expectantly for me to fish out a pickle or two.

I like how fresh they are and how crunchy the pieces still are. Plus they have no additives or preservatives.  Naturally gluten free is important to those of us with celiac or wheat allergies.

You can keep adding veggies as you use them up.  I think the tough part is fishing them out of the jar.  The other day I lost a fork in there but luckily it didn’t go to the bottom of the jar; a cuke round stopped its descent! Now, go pickle fresh veggies and have some fun with it….

Originally posted late in July 2014 but I figured you were ready to make some pickles this summer so I posted it again!

I Be Feeling Sick Chicken Soup!

When you feel ill, like with the flu, a cold, an icky stomach bug, or if you get glutened, you want to eat something warm and soothing.  Something healthy that will stay down and feel happy in your tummy.  Something like homemade chicken soup.  That is where I was at when I made this Oriental chicken soup.  I was gutened by something the day before and still felt not well enough to eat regular food.  So I whipped up a small batch of fresh soup with homemade chicken broth I had leftover from this past weekend. This soup took less than 30 minutes, some of that actively chopping and some just allowing it to cook. Just the ticket when you are under the weather and have no pre-made soup to reheat: whip this up and you are set for several delicious meals.

I suppose you can make this soup with canned broth; be sure it is gluten free if you have celiac disease like I do.  Homemade is going to make it more flavorful but sometimes you just don’t have time to make fresh broth.  And if you don’t like sesame oil leave it out.  The pea pods, onion, ginger, garlic, parsley and celery leaves are very healthy additions and they each add great flavor. Ginger is particularly good if your tummy feels poorly. I often keep a bit of it frozen in a freezer ziplock baggie so it is there for a quick grate into a dish. I like the pad thai noodles; made of rice so they are easier on the tummy than egg noodles.

Don’t freak out if you only have one carrot or don’t want as much of any ingredient; make it your way.  I sometimes fail to measure as I make soup so some of these ingredients are a bit fluid.  As a young adult I would ask my mom to give me her recipes and got very frustrated by her un-measuring way of cooking.  These days I estimate or eyeball some ingredients.  Use your good judgment and what you have on hand in your pantry/fridge.

If you don’t want meat in it; leave it out. If I am really ill I do that; easier to digest without that protein. You could buy a rotisserie chicken but if you are gf; check the labeling; not many stores make gf rotisserie chicken. I used leftover roasted chicken breast from a family supper. Roasted chicken has a lot of flavor compared to steamed or poached.

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Angie’s I Be Sick Chicken Soup

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced

2 carrots, washed but unpeeled, sliced into rounds

2 celery stalks diced including the leaves; separate them from stalks

1 garlic clove, peel and mince

About 2-3 tsp coarsely grated fresh or frozen ginger

1 quart of chicken broth

1 tsp. sesame oil

A handful of pad thai rice noodles

½ cup pea pods

½ to 1 tsp. sea salt

1 to 1½ cups diced chicken breast

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan; I used a two quart one.  Add the diced onion and carrots.  Cook the soup, stirring frequently; about 2-3 minutes.  Add the celery stalks and the minced garlic clove, cook approximately 3 more minutes.  Add the broth which you have heated.  Stir and add the fresh ginger and sesame oil.

Heat 1.5 cups of water in a microwave safe container and add the rice noodles.  I like to break them up somewhat or they are a mess to slurp down. Up to you! Let them stand ten minutes while the soup cooks.

Cook the broth and veggies 8 minutes, add the celery leaves and pea pods which you coarsely chopped.  Cook 3 more minutes.  Add sea salt to taste and the chicken breast.  Stir and heat a minute or two.  Taste and adjust the salt. Add fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Pour in bowls.  I topped mine with some pea pod micro greens I grew in a pot at my kitchen windowsill.  Perfect meal when you want to sooth an iffy tummy.