Friday Recipe Exchange: Garden Fresh

Oh, boy, recipes two weeks in a row, we might be starting something here.

I spent the afternoon taking care of some fresh veggies that had been sitting on my counter all week. I love this time of year, when the garden provides harvest every morning. But it is difficult to keep up. Today I fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed and froze for soups and sauces this winter. I also did refrigerator jalapeno pickles to use up a few of the many jalapenos.

JeffreyW does some amazing recipes with his peppers, here are two: Candied Jalapenos (here) and Hot ‘n Sweet (here)

Tonight’s menu takes advantage of all the garden-fresh ingredients available now.  I really like this one because it’s a quick skillet taste treat that elevates a weeknight meal.

On the board tonight:

Skillet Lasagna (recipe below)
Patty Squash Sauté (recipe here)
Italian Bread

Skillet Lasagna

  • 6 oz Mafalda (mini-lasagna noodles) or bowtie pasta
  • 1 lb lean ground beef****
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ green pepper chopped
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce (or 1 lb fresh tomatoes, chopped or pureed)
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz grated parmesan


In saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions, cooking to al dente (slightly chewy), drain well.  Meanwhile, in skillet brown beef, onion & pepper. Add spices, garlic, carrot and sauté for 1 minute.  Add sauce, paste, stirring well into meat mixture.  Add pasta, stirring gently to mix.

Mix together ricotta and spinach, spoon evenly into the mixture (do not stir in, you want to create little cheese balls), top with mozzarella, cover and let simmer on low until mozzarella is completely melted.

Serve with parmesan.

Just a note, this menu and recipes are from my Summer into Fall Cookbook.

That’s if for this week. If I get a chance to upload the roasted tomato photos this weekend, I’ll post them here. What’s on your plate this weekend?

Hit to comments to share your recipes.

Otherwise, open thread.

****ETA: Thanks to Ohio Mom for reminding me I was going to say, you can easily omit the beef. I have substituted zucchini and or mushrooms and left the meat out entirely. It’s a great vegetarian dish.

Field Canning: Useful Technique For Camping, Emergencies, Etc.


Today I want to teach you a bit about canning, and about a simple technique that can help preserve food or keep things water/vermin proof when you don’t have normal storage or preservation available.


The Basics of Canning

Canning is a simple concept – you put things in a jar, put a lid on it, and, using a variety of techniques, draw air out of the jar so that a slight vacuum is created inside, which keeps the lid snug and the things inside air-and-contaminant free. Well-processed canned goods can last decades without spoiling.

Normally, this involves a water bath canning setup, for most fruits and veggies, and occasionally calls for a pressure canner for meats and some fruit and veggie products. Note – this is because you can get to a higher effective temperature with a pressure canner and so you can ensure that your meat/tetchy-fruit/veggie contents are safe.

A water bath canner is just a large wide pot in which you boil water and put filled jars into, in order to heat them to boiling temperature and get the residual air in the jars to expand and force itself out through the not-firm seal. The heat affects a sealant on the lid that helps it adhere ever-so-slightly to the clean glass as the escaping gas causes a vacuum in the jar. A pressure canner is just a large pressure cooker; mine is like 13 inches high and 12 around. I left my dedicated water bath canner in Colorado when I went “wagons-East”, but my pressure canner suffices for both purposes, I just leave the lid off except when initially heating the water.

Lids and rings are the two other pieces of the canning puzzle. Both are sanitized before use (I boil them in a saucepan and keep it on a low simmer) and the lids have a design that means that once they seal, they permanently deform when opened so they cannot be used to re-seal a jar in a canning setup.




Field Canning

The idea for field canning came when I was camping and I wondered if there was a better way to deal with half-eaten contents than just putting a lid back on a jar. I did some research once home, and voila – field canning. It is not hygenic-per-se and does not result in safe food – it just seals a jar with a light vacuum seal.

Field canning is useful whenever you have a need to seal a jar and don’t have proper canning equipment. It requires – a semi-full jar of something, some wax paper, some foil, a lighter/match, a non-used lid (i.e., a new or not used to vacuum seal lid extra from the jar), and, ideally, the ring for the jar lid.


From here, it’s quite simple:

  1. Make sure your lid is clean and unused; this technique will not work with an already-used lid.
  2. Take a small piece of foil and make a small “boat”, nothing ornate. This will protect the jar contents from flame and ash.
  3. Take a small piece of wax paper and roll it into a wick. When I put it in the jar, I try and and bend it into a “U” shape to ensure it sits with the burning end sticking.
  4. Put the foil boat into the jar and adjust its edges so that wick/ash won’t fall.
  5. Wipe the jar edge with a clean, very slightly damp paper towel or cloth and make sure the lid and ring are ready.
  6. Light the wick and put it on the foil.
  7. As quickly as you can, carefully stuff the burning wick down a bit and put the lid on the jar and press it down gently but firmly. The flame will sputter and keep burning for what seems like forever; in reality it’s just a couple of seconds.
  8. Screw the ring on snugly to ensure the lid isn’t jostled; depending on your altitude and how much burning there was after you closed the jar, the vacuum seal on the lid may be delicate.


At this point, the jar is sealed with a light vacuum seal and there is little-to-no oxygen inside. The contents are safer from spoilage than they would be just with a closed jar, though they may have a slight smoke flavor from the wax paper.

This is NOT a true form of canning – because the contents are not brought to boiling, you’re not making the food inside safe. This technique is only one for sealing for temporary preservation, where you want no air in the jar, or want the stuff inside staying waterproof (in case of a flood, for example). It can be great when camping because you can open and reseal a large jar repeatedly, only limited by the number of unused lids you have.


An afterthought is that you’d more likely keep the graham crackers in the jar so they don’t get moist than the marshmallows, but they were at hand.


Thus endeth the lesson.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Summer Grilling

strawberries over pound cake

Nobody says the sliced strawberries can’t be served over pound cake. Photo by JeffreyW

I finally finished the first of four cookbooks, so I thought I’d start the recipe threads again. Since I have the menus already formatted, it’s easy enough to copy and paste them into a thread once a week.  I’ve had a few requests to start posting again, if only so everyone has a place to share recipes. Seems like a good idea these days.

On the board tonight: Santa Fe Chicken and Black Bean Salad

Santa Fe Chicken Breasts (recipe below)
Tortilla chips
Black Bean Salad  (recipe here)
Sliced Strawberries

Santa Fe Chicken Breast

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 cup Picante or salsa (Fresh Salsa recipe here)
  • 4 oz sliced Monterey jack cheese

Reusable plastic container

Add chicken, vinegar and cilantro to reusable container and marinate 1 hour or overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade and slice each breast in a butterfly cut (slicing in half horizontally, but leaving attached at one edge, so it folds open like butterfly wings).

Fold open and grill or broil until cooked through (as little as 5 minutes each side, depending on heat and thickness).

Don’t let dry out.  Use a meat thermometer – remove at 165°

On one half of each breast, add 1 oz cheese and 2 tbsp or more of Picante/salsa, fold other half over and heat until cheese is melted.

Serve immediately.


That’s it for this week. What’s cooking in your kitchen? Go ahead and share your favorite recipes and tips.  Otherwise, open thread.

In the Kitchen With John- Tomato Sauce

As I mentioned last night, today was sauce day. As always, this is more for me than you all, as I will look this up next year to refresh my memory before doing it again- you all are just along for the ride. Started last night with a ton of tomatoes I had frozen over the last couple OF months (love you eemom):

They mostly thawed over night and I threw them into big pots to start the cookdown:

Now everybody will tell you different amounts of time to cook them down, I just did it for about 2 hours, constantly stirring because you simply can not let it scorch or you have ruined the entire batch. STIR, STIR, STIR. Once the pulp and everything has cooked down into a bubbly brew, run it through your food mill:

If you are like me, you probably don’t have a dozen 24 qt stock pots, I have just the one and the pot for canning, so I strained them into several smaller pots, washed the big 24 qt stock pot I originally used, then transferred everything back into that. Then I did the canning pot full of tomatoes, and after cooking down and removing all the seeds and peels, everything transferred to the 24 qt stock pot and filled it all the way to the top.

At this point, Tammy and I just took 30 minute shifts stirring as we cooked it down. I cooked it down a solid6-8 inches to let it thicken, because I didn’t want to can tomato juice. This took the bulk of the afternoon, and both of us got our workout in.

QUICK SIDEBAR- Are there any carpenters who want to make me a 24″ wooden spoon. I hate the flimsy ass wooden spoons on amazon, I need something longer than the traditional ones, and I need something small than a 4 foot cajun paddle.

While cooking down the sauce, we prepped the mason jars:

I cut some basil from the garden, washed it, and placed it in each jar. Also, in three of them, Tammy wanted to try a clove of garlic, so three of them got that and the basil.

When the sauce is finally cooked down to where you want it, grab your funnel and ladle it into each jar stopping below the neck:

Wipe off the tops of the jars with a damp cloth, and place a lid and a ring on each one (you should have the lids heated in a hot water bath so you get a good seal), and hand tighten the ring. Then place them in the canner and wait for it to get to a rolling boil, and then process it for 40 minutes. Here is your finished product:

In total, we got 17 quarts of sauce. I thought about running the sauce through the chinois after it went through the food mill, but decided I didn’t care if there were a few seeds- YMMV. I’m not trying to win the damned state fair. And remember, NONE of this is seasoned (other than the basil). That way you can just pull it out and use it and tailor the sauce to your tastes.

As always, the dogs were a giant help:

And because Tammy is a Rosie Whisperer, here is a closeup of Rosie ACTUALLY LOOKING AT THE DAMNED CAMERA:

On The Glory That Is Japanese Mayonnaise


Sorry I’ve not been around a lot recently. I’ve been sucked into some other things and that’s not changed much, but I did want to post and say hi and share something other than politics to think about. I hope to post more often, on a variety of non-political topics.


So, like a good son of a Swiss father with many Swiss and Belgian cousins, I love me some mayonnaise. I mean, I love love love it – I was that college sophomore who lived off campus and occasionally made my own in my blender because the store shelves back then disappointed. I eat it on fries, burger buns, sandwiches, fried fish, subs, and many, many things. Not a fan of mayo-based “salads”, to be honest, but besides that, mayonnaise is regal. Well, except tuna salad. Truly a wonder food.

In all my years of cooking with Asian ingredients, and having first been to Japan 21 years ago, I’ve often seen and encountered Japanese mayonnaise, often the Kewpie brand. I’ve had Japanese mayonnaise in Japan and the US and liked it, but once I found it was the magic ingredient in some yummy noodles I love, I knew I had to try it at home.

That was a couple of years ago – until then I’d never bought it. OMG what a mistake! I cannot believe I’ve missed this divine stuff for so long, wasted years not enjoying it often. If you like mayo, try it. It is, of course, a great mayo for most mayo uses, but I prefer it as a sauce for any number of things. It’s so, so good. It’s a yolkier, creamier, and sweeter mayonnaise than what we’re used to, plus it has a tiny bit of MSG/seaweed extract in it to pump up the umami.

So it’s like a better mayo plus a bit of extra umami kick. I’ve eaten it, plain, as a dipping sauce for often-cold leftovers of many forms of beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, and veggies. It’s also great to make any of your favorite dipping sauces beyond the basic, so adding horseradish, garlic, capers, shallot, onion, any type of hot sauce, vinegar, herbs, spices, mustard, ketchup, bbq sauce, maple syrup (try, don’t judge), lemon or lime juice; I’ve made quite an assortment of dipping sauces for all kinds of meals. I’ve not yet tried this, but allegedly, some chefs use it instead of butter for pan frying some dishes.

Give it a try – it doesn’t have to be Kewpie, but that’s a great brand. It’s shelf-stable until opened. I expect you can buy it at some better “normal” markets, but I’d recommend finding a good Asian market so you can have a little adventure as well. There are so many treasures you can find there, so even if you’re not a mayonnaise fan, go shop there and buy interesting things.  You can ask questions, or pull out the phone and research. It’s amazing what you can discover and experiment with, cheaply.

I’ve often found an enjoyable hour or two wandering around the produce aisle, looking up descriptions, translations, and recipes for what I find. Even if I don’t buy something on that trip, some of those new things percolate in the back of my brain and two months later, “out of the blue”, I’ll be inspired to look up a recipe or two and try them out.

Consider this an open thread for non-political stuff, ideally cooking- or food-related.