Christmas Baking

The last few weeks have been pretty busy between school, exams, work, and getting ready for Christmas.  I don’t have a lot of shopping to do exactly, but am in charge of practically all the christmas baking for our family and am organizing some stuff at work as well.

 

Christmas Baking List

Sugar Cookies – done!

Gingersnaps – done!

Banana bread – done!

Pumpkin cake – done!

Fudge – done!

Peanut butter balls – not done, need icing sugar

Peppermint patties – not done, need crisco

Peanut Butter Cups – not done

Chocolate Toffee – not done, need butter

 

Lots to do in the next few weeks.  I’ve been working on a curried roasted potato recipe but don’t have any potatoes left to try again and it’s not quite right yet.  Tonight I’m making lamb and chickpea curry because that’s basically all I can make with the ingredients I have at home.

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Calzones…aka Pizza Pops

When I was at my parents for Thanksgiving, I had a spur of the moment idea to make Calzones.  They’d be ideal to bring to work and school.  Portable, microwaveable, freezable and much healthier then storebought Pizza Pops, which is what they most closely resemble.  The recipe is supposed to make 10.  The first time we made them, I got 9.   Then my mom made some 2 days later and got 24 (!) out of the recipe.  This weekend I got 14, and that was a good number.  There are an infinite variet of fillings to use, you could go traditional pizza toppings or do broccoli and cheese or bbq chicken or anything you can imagine.  My mom made a beef taco filling, which was pretty tasty too.

Calzones

1 1/2 cups soymilk (or regular milk I guess)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp shortening (vegan margarine or butter works well)
3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp bread machine yeast

1. Measure ingredients into baking pan in the order
recommended by the manufacturer. Insert pan into the
oven chamber. Select Dough Cycle.
2. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and cover with a clean towel, let rest for 10-15 minutes.  Divide dough into 2.5 oz portions (should get 14) and roll into 6″ circles.

3. Prepare your fillings (which I would’ve done while the dough was mixing for 90 minutes) and place on one half of each circle.  Add cheese or sauce and fold in half, sealing the edge with a fork.  Cover and let rise in a warm place till doubled in size.

4. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until calzones sound hollow when tapped.  Let cool on a wire rack and freeze.  Reheat in a microwave for about 90 seconds.  Be careful not to overfill them, as cheese and sauce WILL go all over your baking sheet.

Applesauce

Now I know what you’re all thinking.  Really?  Applesauce?  How boring!  How bland and uninteresting!  We want excitement!  Well…applesauce is about the most exciting thing I’ve done in awhile, besides the pumpkin puree, which I already talked about.  Applesauce can be exciting.  And easy.  Honest!

First, buy apples.  I used Royal Gala and Macintosh for mine, I prefer the batch that is royal gala only.  It’s sweeter.  I also used my slowcooker for this, because I’m lazy.

Applesauce

6lbs apples, cored and quartered (leave the peel on!)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup water

sugar to taste

1. Put cored and quartered apples into the slowcooker (better be a big one!).  Add the water and lemon juice.  Cover and cook on high 3-4 hours.  Once apples are soft and mushy, puree with an immersion blender.  You could use a regular blender or food processor as well if you like, but an immersion blender is more fun.  Add sugar to taste.

I was lazy this year and froze my applesauce instead of canning it.  You could process jars of applesauce in a hot water bath for 15 minutes before storing in a cool, dry place if you really wanted to, but I decided to freeze it in jars instead.  You could also freeze it in ziploc bags if you wanted.  Unsweetened applesauce is great for baking, you can replace up to 1/2 of the oil or margarine called for in a recipe with applesauce.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

This summer I set quite the goal for myself and I’ve followed through on pretty much everything I wanted to try and some stuff I didn’t know I wanted to try!  I do think I’m done canning and freezing stuff for this winter tho, mostly because I’m getting swamped with school work and trying to make sure I have “me” time.  I’ve got a lot of food put away and I honestly doubt I’ll eat it all before next summer, although I hope I get close so I can make some room for next years canning because otherwise I need to move to have more cupboard space.

The key to making good pumpkin puree is to buy Sugar or Pie Pumpkins.  They’re quite a bit smaller then jack-o-lantern pumpkins, usually about 3-5 lbs is a good size.  You want them this size for a few reasons, the first one is that fitting a 20-30lb pumpkin in your oven is going to be a challenge, and we don’t want a challenge.  Another important reason is because the bigger the pumpkin, the more stringy and tough the pumpkin flesh. 

I’ve realized while writing this, that this isn’t so much of a recipe as it is a process but I’m ok with that, it really is easy.  Preheat your oven to 350 C.  The most difficult part is the first bit.  You need to cut your pumpkin into halves or quarters and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.  You can save the seeds for roasting, but I got frustrated with trying to separate them from the stringy stuff and gave up after about 20 minutes.  Patience I do not have. 

Once you have some nice cleaned pumpkin halves or quarters, place them cut side down in a roasting dish or 9×13″ pan and put about 1″ of water in the bottom.  Roast in the oven until the pumpkin is discoloured and you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork.  Let pumpkin cool till you can handle it, then scoop the pumpkin meat into a bowl.

Once you have all your pumpkin meat in a bowl, process it in your food processor (or high powered blender…or regular blender in very small batches) till smooth.  The smoother the better, it will end up looking a lot more like bought canned pumpkin if it’s smooth.  Your pumpkin will be a lot more yellow-orange then canned pumpkin, so don’t think it’s wrong if it looks different!  Once all your pumpkin is nice and smooth, you want to line a collander with cheesecloth and put all your puree in there.  Place the collander in a larger bown to catch the liquid and let it sit, in the fridge, for at least 24 hours. 

Keeping it in the fridge is VERY IMPORTANT so nasty bacterias don’t grow on your pumpkin!  Letting it sit is also rather important, especially if you want your pumpkin to act like canned pumpkin from the store later on.  Normally the pumpkin you buy in cans is “solid pack” pumpkin.  A lot of the moisture has been removed from it, making it more solid.  You’ll probably get quite a bit of pumpkin juice out of your pumpkin, but the overall volume doesn’t decrease that much. 

Once your pumpkin has drained, portion it into ziploc freezer bags, about 2 cups per bag is good and store in the freezer.  Letting them freeze flat works best for easy storage.  Pumpkin will keep about 6-8 months in the freezer, maybe up to a year.  I had 6 Pie pumpkins that I purchased from a local farmer.  I paid about $18 for them and got approximately 20 cups of pumpkin puree from them.  It’s much, much cheaper and most of the prep is waiting! 

I ❤ pumpkin.

Veggie Egg Anytime Wrap

For the last 2 months, this wrap has become a very popular lunch or supper option when I don’t feel like cooking but still want something quick, easy, and healthy.  It’s super tasty, incredibly flexible, and ready in about 5-10 minutes.

Veggie Egg Anytime Wrap

1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 zucchini, diced small

1/4 onion, chopped fine

handful of kale, finely sliced

1/4 red pepper, diced small

2-3 eggs, beaten

1 whole wheat tortilla

1-2 tbsp of herb and garlic cream cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.   Add onions, red peppers, zucchini, and kale.  Season to taste.  Cook till onions are translucent and other veggies are soft.

2. Pour eggs over top, spread out on the bottom of the pan.  Cover and cook on medium until eggs are set, 3-5 minutes.  While the eggs are cooking, spread the cream cheese on the wrap.  Once the eggs are done, place on top of the wrap, fold and serve.

Variations: 

Use different veggies:  Mushrooms, pre-cooked and shredded potato or sweet potato, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, jalapeno, etc

Seasonings:  Dill, rosemary, basil, cyanne pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic

Sauces/spreads (instead of the cream cheese): Salsa, hummus, bbq sauce, ranch dressing.

Other toppings: Cheese (very good with brie melted on top)

Best Relish Ever

This weekend is full of the fall canning I won’t have time for in a few weeks.  It was originally scheduled for September long weekend and wasn’t supposed to be as busy as it’s ended up.  The list for this weekend was supposed to be Spaghetti Sauce (recipe here), Cabbage Borscht (recipe to come), and Dill Pickles (my grandma’s recipe).  The first hurdle we had to jump was that my mom couldn’t FIND my grandma’s pickle recipe.  The second hurdle, which I’m still jumping, is that my mom bought ingredients to also make Salsa and Relish, both of which we made last year and I don’t need any more of.

Now, the thing you must know before I continue is that I don’t like cucumbers.  I don’t like the smell, I don’t like the texture, I don’t really like anything about them.  This dislike extends to pickles and relish.  The only pickles or relish that I eat are my mom’s homemade pickles and relish.  (My mom did a LOT of canning when I was growing up.)  The relish recipe I’m about to share with you is the only relish I enjoy.  We couldn’t find my grandma’s pickle recipe tho, so we found one that my mom thinks was similar and we’ll see how they turn out.

Relish

1 1/2 dozen large cucumbers

4-6 Onions

1 green pepper

2 red peppers

1/2 cup pickling salt

6 cups water

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup flour

1.5 tbsp mustard powder

1 tsp turmeric

2/3 cup pickling vinegar

1. Shred cucumbers, onions, and peppers in a food processor (large shred).  Put in a large bowl and add pickling salt and water.  Let sit for 4 hours.

2. Drain veggies and place in pot.  Add enough pickling vinegar to just cover the veggies.  Add 2 cups of sugar and cook till vegetables are translucent.

3. Make a thin paste of the flour, mustard powder, turmeric and 2/3 cup vinegar.  Add to pot and stir till thickened.

4. Add 3-4 drops of green food colouring (optional, it’s very yellow without it) and put into hot pint jars.  Place new, sterilized seal lid and ring.  It’s safe to let it sit at room temperature unless it doesn’t seal.

Yield – 7-8 pint jars depending on the size of your cucumbers.

Ash-e Jow (Persian Barley Soup) Recipe

I was all kinds of motivated this weekend and made a new kind of soup.  I did use the lamb called for in the recipe, mostly because I still have most of the lamb I bought last december in my freezer and need to find new ways to use it.  This has really gotten me to try different ethnic food simply because I didn’t grow up with lamb and don’t just want to eat the chops and leave the rest because I don’t know what to do with it.  It’s pretty awesome.  This soup was made in the slow cooker instead of on the stove top.  It’s hearty, but light at the same time.  It doesn’t have much for seasoning or spices, which really allows you to taste the ingredients.  It’s really, really good.  You can leave out the lamb completely for a completely vegan soup, or you can substitute chicken, beef or pork instead of the lamb. 

Ash-e Jow

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 lamb shank (I used a half leg roast, bone in)

2 onions, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 tsp turmeric

3 quarts stock or water

1 – 15oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 – 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 mixed lentils (can use any lentils you want)

1 cup pot or pearl barley

1 lb spinach (fresh or frozen)

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (I forgot this…oops)

1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet, brown the lamb shank on all sides.  Put lamb in slow cooker.  Add onions, carrots and turmeric to the skillet, cook till onions are soft (5-7 minutes) and put into the slow cooker.  Add water, let cook on high for up to 3 hours. (my slow cooker cooks very hot)

2. Add the beans and lentils, simmer another 30-45 minutes.  Add the barley and simmer about another 30 minutes.  Take out the lamb shank, remove the meat from the bone and dice.  Add lamb back into the soup along with the spinach and salt/pepper.  Cook till spinach is wilted, stir in sour cream or yogurt (optional) and server. 

Variations:

substitute half the barley for brown rice

change up the types of beans

use pork, beef or chicken instead of lamb (bone in if possible, makes a better stock)

I forgot to add the sour cream, might have been better with it, I’ll have to try adding some to the next bowl I have.   This recipe filled my 6.5 quart slow cooker and gave me 3 quart jars, 4 pint jars and a large ziplock square container of soup.  Unfortunately one of the quart jars and 2 pint jars didn’t seal properly and I will need to throw them out.

Recipe adapted from here.