I’ve been in a kitchen rut.
I cut down on the “what to make for dinner” dilemma by meal planning (so resistant to doing, so glad I did), but I was getting bored. Last week my friend Lilly hosted a winter recipe jam that got me excited about food again.
I almost said cooking, but really it’s the food. I started reading this book last night and it made a clear distinction between enjoying cooking and enjoying food. I like both, but I’m coming back to the food—the eating, the sharing, the memories, the stories.
For the recipe jam, I pulled a jar of pickled peppers from my cupboard and asked, “What would you do with these?”
The answers came in:
sprinkle on pizza
serve with sausage
toss with greens
add to white chili
use on nachos . . .
None of it was earthshakingly new. I was just in too stuck in what we usually do. I think first of fresh peppers for nachos. I turn to dried for chili. My kids are back on forth on spicy. The little one won’t eat a fried egg sandwich without Tabasco sauce. They’ll both eat our homemade chili. Except on the days they won’t. “Too spicy.” So too often I skip it.
I opened a jar to have with pork dumpling burgers (dumpling filling pressed into burgers). The suggestion to use the hot peppers on pizza with sausage reminded me of stuffed jalapenos (and that I had an overabundance of cream cheese in my fridge.) A few nights later, I sprinkled the rest of the jar over a corn-meal crusted pizza with spicy sausage, cream cheese, and a Mexican blend cheese.
Definitely not rut material.
Hot Pepper & Sausage Cream Cheese Pizza
3/4 c. warm water
1 tsp yeast
hefty pinch of sugar
1 1/4 c. flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
- Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and add the sugar.
- Put both flour and the salt in a large bowl and combine.
- When the yeast has bubbled up, add it along with the olive oil to the flour.
- Stir to combine. Then knead lightly.
- Coat the dough in oil. Place back in the bowl and cover with a towel. Set in a warm space to rise. My dough didn’t double, but it expanded.
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Sprinkle a pizza stone or pan with coarse corn meal. Stretch the dough into a round (or several small rounds).
- Bake for about 15 minutes until dough starts to set.
1 8-oz package of cream cheese softened
cooked spicy sausage
1 4-oz jar pickled hot peppers (or chopped fresh jalapenos)
shredded cheddar, Mexican blend or similar cheese
fresh salsa or pico de gallo
- Spread the cream cheese on the partially baked crust.
- Sprinkle the sausage and peppers evenly over the pizza.
- Top with the shredded cheese.
- Bake until the cheese is melted and the edges of the crust are just turning golden.
- Serve with fresh salsa.
I had an eight-hour canning extravaganza on Saturday, which felt utterly productive.
I knew I was in for dilly beans and raspberry jam and raspberry chocolate liqueur sauce, but when I showed up at my friend Kath’s house she had a colander full of cucumbers too. Always game, I asked, “Dill or bread & butter?”
Since the dill pickles we like need to sit for at least 12 hours (and I wasn’t planning on staying quite that long), we decided on bread & butter. But there were all those jalapenos. Our first batch of spicy bread & butter pickles was born.
When making these pickles, the cucumber, onion, and peppers sit in a salt brine for two hours before you cook and can them, so we started the process and then went to pick raspberries. We came in got our jars heating, had lunch, and got canning.
We had a not quite full small jar to wrap up our batch of pickles, so after it cooled a bit, we stuck it in the fridge. We usually end our canning days with ice cream, but instead we ended with pickles. They were cold and sweet and spicy all at once. We ate the whole jar standing up and agreed this was a keeper. I liked them so much, I made another batch on Sunday by myself.
In eight hours, we squeezed in
- a batch of hot bread and butter pickles
- a double batch of dilly beans
- a double batch of raspberry jam
- a double batch of raspberry chocolate liqueur sauce (so good on ice cream)*
- a single batch of raspberry-mint-lavender jam (my big girl kept suggesting raspberry mint, so we tried it).
Hot Bread & Butter Pickles
(adapted from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)
10 cups cucumbers sliced into rounds
2 cups onion sliced (I prefer thick slices)
2 cups sliced jalapenos (we kept the seeds in)
½ cup pickling salt or Kosher salt
3 cups white vinegar
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp celery seeds
2 Tbsp mustard seeds (we use mix of yellow and brown)
2 tsp pickling spice
- Mix the pickles, onions, and peppers with salt and cover with cold water. Let sit for 2 hours.
- Prepare 6 pint jars for canning: wash jars and bands in hot soapy water, rinse, and put into a filled canning pot. This recipe should make 5 pints, but I’ve learned to always put an extra jar the same size or smaller in the canner, just in case. Put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl. Get your canning station set up: layout a towel on the table or counter. Get your ladle, funnel, tongs, slotted spoon, and a wet paper towel or clean rag ready.
- Go pick raspberries, have lunch, read to your kids, or whatever you like until the two hours is up.
- Start heating the canning pot.
- Mix the vinegar and spices together in a large pot. Bring to a boil. While that’s heating, dump the vegetables into a colander and rinse under cold running water.
- As soon as the vinegar mixture begins to boil, add the vegetables. Again bring just to a boil. Turn off the heat.
- Remove jars from the canning pot. Ladle water from the canning pot over the flat lids.
- Spoon the veggies into the hot jars, packing fairly tightly. Ladle the vinegar brine into the jars, leaving ½ inch headspace.
- Wipe the rims of the jars clean. Place a lid on each jar and screw on the band.
- Put the filled jars back in the canning pot. Cover and bring the water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil process for 10 minutes (adjust for altitude if necessary).
- Then turn off the heat and removed the cover. Let jars sit for 5 minutes. Remove onto a clean towel. Wait for the delightful ping of the jars sealing. If one doesn’t seal, stick it in the fridge to enjoy now.
* If raspberry chocolate liqueur sauce sounds good, look for Sundae in a Jar in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. We replace the strawberries with raspberries.