Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When life gives you grapes…make Homemade Grape Jelly!

Make grape jelly! Concord grapes are in the market now (from St. James Missouri) and they are so delicious! I purchased a few packages, brought them home hoping my family would snack on them. We did, but we sure did not throw them down as fast as the standard seedless varieties we buy.  So I decided to make some grape jelly. I already had a canning kit full of helpful gadgets that just makes the canning process a bit more fun.  I enlisted the help of my son and we got to work gathering the necessary supplies.

Really all that is needed is a bunch of grapes, sugar, pectin and water.  I washed the gorgeous globes, took them off the stems and placed them in a pot with a bit of water. I let the grapes simmer to break down and release the juices, about 5 minutes.

Next, we strained off the juice from the pulp, skin and seeds (Note to self: next time, use a bigger colander to strain off the juice- would have been faster and a lot less messy!). Once we had the Concord grape juice measured out, we added the right amount of pectin, heated to a boil and quickly added the sugar, stirring constantly over heat for one more minute.

The thickened mixture was poured into sterilized warm Mason jars (I used a funnel to make filling easy) and clean, warm Mason jar caps (we used the cool magnet-on-a-stick gadget to retrieve these jar lids out of the hot water).  The filled jars go into a hot water bath for a couple of minutes then on the countertop to cool and set.

The results are divine and so worth the bit of work…my kids were amazed at the brilliant hue of purple, so pretty almost a not-real color. And the taste…well, better than any commercial Concord grape jelly we have ever tasted!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Eat What Mom Made- Sauted Edamame with Onion and Bacon

“Eat-what-mom-made” is what my kids call edamame, a.k.a. fresh soybeans, a favorite in our house. This week I had the opportunity to meet Monica, an edamame farmer from Charleston, Missouri (Mamma’s Edamame).  She mentioned this year has been a particularly good year for her soybean crops.  I could not wait to try them!

I steamed the edamame in the pods for l minute. In a skillet, I drizzled some olive oil to sauté chopped garlic (Bellews Creek) onion (Yellow Wood Farms).  I had some leftover cooked bacon (Todd Geisert) in the freezer that I crumbled and added (everything tastes better with bacon!). I cooked some whole wheat pasta  (Hodgson Mills) and added to the skillet. Once the edamame cooled a bit, I popped each bean out of the pods into the skillet. Topped with shredded Methuselah (Heartland Creamery), a Parmesan or Romano type of cheese and a little bit of pepper. Time to eat what mom made!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I picked a half peck of peppers…now what? Simple Pasta with Summer Vegetables and Stuffed Bell Peppers with Quinoa

I was shopping at the market and locally grown bell peppers were on sale for $2.99 for a half peck. The lady behind me in the check out line asked, “What do you plan to do with all of those?” I had to be quick on my feet with a response, but truthfully I thought I’d buy them first, then figure out what to do with them later.

I brought the 25 multicolored bell beauties home with me.  I rinsed about half of them, deseeded, sliced and froze for later use.  The texture does not hold up when freezing, but they still taste great when added to chili, fajitas, casseroles, etc.  

I cut up one for immediate consumption- as a vehicle to my mouth for some zucchini hummus that I experimented making (that recipe will have to be shared at another time). Three more were used in a simple but tasty pasta:

Saute onion (Yellow Wood Farm), and garlic (my backyard garden) in olive oil until softened. Add the chopped bell peppers (Thies Farm) and cook a bit more; add salt, pepper. Serve over cooked Mangia Italiano spaghetti (St. Louis) and top with some shaved Methuselah cheese (Heartland Cremery) and chopped locally grown tomatoes (Zimmermann).

This recipe is simple enough and fine as is, without extra seasoning.  But I happened to have a “little something special” from my dear friend that lived in Rome, Italy. When she came to visit, she brought with her white and black truffle pate as a hostess gift (like I said, she is a dear friend!). No, this Italian truffle pate not a local item but what a treat! Just a spoonful added such a nice boost of flavor. Hope she can visit again soon.

I picked a peck of peppers now what (part 2): 
The rest of the peppers went into making Stuffed Bell Peppers with Quinoa. I like making quinoa because it cooks fast and is super healthy. To bring out the flavor, I like to toast the dry quinoa in a skillet then cook in vegetable or chicken broth (rather than water). 

Saute garlic and chopped onions (Yellow Wood Farm) in olive oil until tender. Meanwhile toast quinoa in dry skillet then add to boiling broth until cooked; 

Cook the corn on cob, remove from cob when cooked (or shortcut: use frozen corn); cook any type of dried beans you have on hand (this was the last of my local kidney beans- must acquire more!!) or use rinsed canned beans. Halve bell pepper and discard seeds. Mix the corn, cooked quinoa, garlic, onion and beans with salt, pepper and spoon into halved peppers. 

Top with shredded cheese of choice (I had a local Havarti on hand).  Bake at 350 until cheese melts.

After mixing all of the ingredients together, I realized there was a LOT of extra quinoa filling so I decided to bring as a side salad for the next day’s “kids are at school, mom’s by the pool” get together. Rather than stuffing into a bell pepper and serving warm, I added chopped bell pepper (yep, still had some of my ½ peck left!) and cubed cheese. I also added a yellow heirloom tomato that I had. My gal pals loved it! 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Butternut Squash, Sausage, Sage & Pasta

This recipe called for penne pasta but given that I am a substitution queen, I used locally made Mangia Italia fresh red pepper and whole wheat radiatore pasta that I had on hand. The recipe also calls for ground sausage but I chose to use chicken smoked sausage which added a nice flavor. The seasonings are sage (I dried from a fresh bouquet that I got in my CSA last year), garlic (also local), salt, pepper, and a touch of crushed red pepper. The star of the show: this year’s local butternut squash. Winter squash is really easy to prepare if you prick with a fork and microwave for about 7 minutes to get soft. SUCH a worthwhile veg- I have to keep reminding my family. The butternut squash sautéed in olive oil, sage, garlic…the sausage browned, the pasta cooked until al dente…mixed together and dinner is on!

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