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Archive for September, 2016

cranberry-applesauce

Isn’t it a pretty color?

I don’t remember when I first made this pretty side dish, but it became an instant hit. Sweet and tart, and it makes the kitchen smell so good while it is cooking. It wasn’t long before I was bringing it to Thanksgiving every year, and I make it occasionally in the off-season and have more than once made a huge batch and canned it.

It is a bit labor intensive; there’s lots of standing over the stove and stirring. I tried roasting it in the oven once (which is how I make my regular applesauce when I’m making a big batch for canning) and the results were not nearly as good.

I almost always double, and sometimes triple or quadruple this batch. Because fresh cranberries are often only available in October and/or November, I grab several bags and throw them in the freezer to have on hand all year.

Some people prefer this warm; I will eat it warm, but prefer it cold from the frig.

Cranberry Applesauce

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsps. water
  • 4 cups chopped apples
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel (I rarely have this, and often just dash in some lemon juice)

In a large saucepan, heat sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Stir in apples, cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring several times. Stir in cranberries; cook and stir for about 8 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop. Cover and cook 5 minutes more or until apples are tender, stirring several times.

Add cinnamon, ginger and lemon peel. Cook and stir about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; mash until texture reaches desired consistency.

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smoked whole chicken

Smoked, brined chicken. Isn’t it a lovely color?

The first time I brined a chicken, it was an act of desperation. I had purchased a couple whole chickens at a good price, and we have a great roasted chicken recipe. But with more than one, there was no way we needed to cook both, so one went into the deep freeze. (I’ve mentioned I love my deep freeze.)

One thing I have never – never – had luck with is thawing a whole chicken. (Here are the USDA’s guidelines for safe thawing.) Everything I’ve read says a 3.5 pound chicken should thaw in your refrigerator in a day. I tried that. It was most definitely still frozen, even after two days or three. I got frustrated with cool water methods. (What a waste of water!)

So I decided to brine the chicken in the frig for 48 hours. I figured unlike most cool water methods, where you keep the chicken in its plastic bag so the water doesn’t touch it, the brine is allowed to penetrate all the cavities in the chicken, allowing warmth to seep in everywhere.

What do you know, it worked! Not only did my chicken thaw completely in far less time than all my other attempts, it was the tastiest, juiciest, most tender bird I’d ever roasted. This is what I posted to Facebook:

“If you’ve never brined a chicken before roasting/grilling it, DO IT! I did it Saturday out of desperation since the chicken did not get taken out of the freezer. We roasted it today in the usual way, and it was wonderful!”

I’ve since tried brining for only 24 hours, and if I recall correctly, my bird was completely thawed then, too. Hooray! I get a thawed bird AND tastier chicken? That’s a win! I brined my Christmas turkey, and that, too, got raves.

A few years ago, my husband took up smoking meats as a hobby. What a tasty hobby! We’ve enjoyed several experiments over the years, and I’m sure I’ll share a few of them with you, but one of our daughter’s favorites is Dad’s smoked chicken. “It doesn’t even need ranch dressing!” That’s a high compliment in our house!

Brine for Chicken

  • 1 gallon cold water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or brown sugar)
  • Added flavorings (try rosemary and sage, or whatever suits you!)

Dissolve salt and sugar in water in a large ziptop or other food-safe plastic bag. Add flavorings as desired. Place your chicken in the bag, making sure all cavities are filled with water. Seal bag tightly and place in a deep bowl in the frig overnight.

Drain brine. Pat chicken dry and cook as usual. (Roast, grill, smoke, you name it!) Enjoy!

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Meal Plan #1

Now that I have enough recipes posted to the blog, I intend to try to post my meal plans as I finish them up. This is for those of you who just need something to give you ideas. I will try to connect my recipes as I get them posted.

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Anyone who dinks around on Facebook and Pinterest knows that a simple “hack” to make life easier isn’t always as simple as it seems. But I have one you can do with just a twist-tie, and I learned it from my beloved grandfather.

Grandpa with camera

Grandpa Ed with his beloved camera.

Grandpa Ed was a gardener and a dedicated tinkerer. He earned his living fixing air conditioners, furnaces, and other odds and ends. Tinkering extended into every part of his life. He tinkered in the garden, trying new varieties of onions, peppers and other veggies. He tinkered with his camera, earning himself the nickname “Grandpa Flash.” He tinkered in the kitchen, making his own fruit leather, using a bread machine, and tweaking recipes. He tinkered with computers, learning new programs, creating greeting cards, and even writing his and Grandma’s life stories and desktop publishing them with photos.

After he passed away, I somehow inherited his bread machine and his food dehydrator. When they arrived in my home, they had a tiny touch of Grandpa Ed’s brilliant tinkering attached to them. When I went to plug one in for the first time, I found the cord wrapped around the appliance and secured by a twist-tie. Didn’t look like much until I untwisted the tie. After unwinding the cord, I found the twist-tie attached to the plug end of the cord by a simple twist, leaving the ends free to secure the rest of the cord.

plug hack

Keep your twist tie handy by attaching it to your cord.

This touch of genius means you never have to go searching for a new twistie, nor do you have to deal with loose cords flying around in your cabinets every time you pull out an appliance.

plug hack2

Use the tie to secure the plug end to the rest of the cord after wrapping around the appliance.

While I no longer have either of Grandpa’s appliances (sometimes regret getting rid of the bread machine) several of my small appliances, from my blender to my food processor, sport a twist-tie on their plug end.

Today, I added a new tie to a new-to-me appliance. And I thought of Grandpa Ed.

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