Crew Picnic Pepper Relish

Happy Halloween! 🙂

Tonight we’re having some friends over to help pass out candy (they barely get trick-or-treaters at their house), play a game or two, & have some pizza. We are having a very rainy day today up here and I’m a little thankful that I don’t have a little one to take around door-to-door tonight. 🙂

Today’s recipe is a bit on the side of “Throwback Thursday” as it takes me back to fond memories from high school. Back then, I was very active in not only the music department, but the drama department. I loved to participate on the stage, but as I got older I started to get more hands-on with stage production. The group of people I met while on stage crew are still many of my friends to date, even though it’s been 10 years since I graduated high school (whoa.).

dianne

Diiiiannnne!

As a high school teacher now, I completely understand what our fearless leader & brave supervisor-adult Dianne meant when she said we were giving her grey hair. I could write, and write, and write about all the hilarity that ensued during those hours I spent after school. But, some stories are best kept amongst “the few, the proud, the crew”. 😉 One of our many traditions was the “crew barbecue” (or as our fearless leader, Dianne called it, the crew picnic). We’d all come in on a Saturday (we’d normally just meet after school) and work on sets, painting, etc., all while having a grand old time goofing around and pulling shenanigans. For lunch, we would fire up a grill and grill out some hambugers. Dianne would bring this pepper relish that she made herself during the summer.

hamburgers

Grilling at a crew barbecue

While I’m not sure if I was the only kid that ate it, what I do know is that for at least three of crew barbecues (we had one for every show, even when it was snowing), I would end up coming home with a jar of pepper relish and proceed to eat with sandwiches, crackers, hambugers, hotdogs, you name it.

I’ve seen Dianne several times since I’ve graduated high school and I’ve actually even met up with her twice since I’ve moved to northern Michigan…it’s a small world after all, and she has a family cabin about a half hour away from us and come up here every once in a while. We have plenty more to catch up on other than stage crew and pepper relish (she had a lot of fun touring our house and giving her two cents on what the original floorplan probably was – I tell ya she is one smart woman).

This past summer, with the exhorbitant amount of peppers in my fridge (about 4-5 different varieties and 30+ to count) I needed to do something with them. And I had a major taste for some pepper relish. So, I got to work doing some research to see what I could come up with on my own…and I came up with something pretty close. It’s a perfect balance of sweet and savory, with a bit of a bite, because I used some jalapenos & serranos.

Pepper Relish

Inspired by BonAppetit, Diana Rattray, and of course, Dianne

  • 20 peppers – you can adjust the ratios to your pepper preference*
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt

* I used 5 jalapenos, 6 green/purple peppers, and 9 sweet peppers (some were the small, sweet peppers)

  1. Heat a medium pot over medium-high heat. Wash all of your peppers, chop them up, and add them to the pot. Chop your onion and add it in as well.
  2. Cook down the peppers until they are nice and soft – about an hour. Do not let them burn; turn down the heat as necessary. Let cool when finished (they will cook down).
  3. Use a food processor to chop the pepper mixture down to a relish-sized texture. One all the mixture has been processed, put it back into the pot and add the vinegar, sugar and salt.
  4. Boil the peppers for 15 minutes until everything is evenly distributed.
  5. Store in a glass jar. This made a pint and a half for me.

20131031-121008.jpg

So far I’ve managed to eat this on pulled pork, sloppy joes, and turkey sandwiches. I just can’t get enough! It is awesome. I’m not sure how long this will keep in the fridge, but I’m pretty sure that it will last me for a little while. If you make more than one batch, the processing time is either 10 or 15 minutes – honestly, I don’t remember what I read in the planning stages.

All I can currently think about is how this would also be fantastic with cream cheese and crackers. Mmmm.

I hope you all enjoy your evening tonight, be it with your young’ins, just passing out candy, watching scary movies (not my thing much to my husband’s dismay), playing games, or just relaxing 🙂

 

CSA ’13 – Week 18

Here we are…the final week of the CSA season. Needless to say, I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. Even on the nights when I stayed up later than I wanted to, processing salsa, it’s been worth it. It was very appropriate that this week was the last, as our area of Michigan saw it’s first snowflakes of the season (Mother Nature decided it would be comedic to even have about 4″ of snow on the ground east of us, where I teach). It was also my last week of football season – I’m very proud of my ‘kids’, who bundled up well and did the best that they could in weather that was windy & felt like 30*.

This means that Friday night, I have no plans. And it feels good! 🙂

20131028-060426.jpg

  • cherry tomatoes
  • kabocha squash!
  • tomatoes
  • assorted peppers
  • lettuce
  • swiss chard
  • acorn squash

I honestly did not know the name of that squash until I sat down to write this post. I typed in ‘ugly squash’ into my Chrome browser. No joke. But seriously, I was a little afraid to touch it – it looks like it has warts! Though I’m sure it’s pretty tasty… 😉

All in all, I really enjoyed our CSA this year. Considering that I’ve gotten my feet wet with preserving and canning, I really enjoyed all the tomatoes. I got to revisit some recipes and try new twists on old favorites. But best of all, we got fantastic produce from a really terrific local farm. I can’t speak enough of how awesome it is to buy local & support local agriculture. If you have the opportunity to do so where you live, do it. You won’t be disappointed!

Mushroom Marsala with Onion and Thyme

Some of my favorite meals to cook are Italian dishes. Maybe it’s because I’m Italian? Maybe it’s because it’s a significant part of the cuisine that I grew up on. Maybe because I just like to cook it? Either way…I love to cook Italian dishes, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

If you’re like me, then you should wander over to the Proud Italian Cook. She’s got a lot of great recipes that not only taste amazing, but look absolutely delicious. She makes Italian cooking very user-friendly. When I came across this recipe, I immediately bookmarked it in my reader – and couldn’t wait to make it. It’s a vegetarian twist on one of my favorites – chicken marsala.

Mushroom Marsala with Onion & Thyme

adapted from The Proud Italian Cook

  • 12-16 oz mushrooms, quartered
  • 12 oz rigatoni
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cup marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • fresh thyme
  • olive oil, salt & pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400*. Start the water on the stove to boil your pasta. Once the water is boiling, add your pasta!
  2. Once the oven is to temperature, place the mushrooms & onion onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes til everything is caramelized.
  3. While the vegetables caramelize and the pasta boils, heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Warm the olive oil & butter, then add the garlic. Once the garlic is nice and golden, add the wine, and thyme (‘needles’ from 2-3 springs).
  4. Let the wine reduce for several minutes, then whisk in the milk. Reduce the heat and let the sauce slowly thicken. (it will take a little while)
  5. When the sauce has thickened, add the caramelized mushrooms & onions. Add your cooked pasta & stir to coat.

20131025-091913.jpg

As you can see, I made a few edits to the original recipe – why? Because I didn’t read the recipe thoroughly enough. Always read your recipe thoroughly enough! I completely didn’t see the memo about mascarpone cheese. As far as the cipollini onions go, I wanted to use some onion that I had on hand. I did also use more pasta than what was asked for, because I wanted some leftovers for Mike to take to work. The sauce made this possible.

Hands down, I loved this dish. I served it with a green salad & it was a delicious, filling meal. The leftovers are GONE, too, which means it really was a hit. 🙂 A perfect ‘comfort food’ meal on a chilly fall evening.

CSA ’13 – Week 17

This week I came down with some sort of upper respiratory thing. It started out as a cold, and has slowly moved down to my lungs. I’ve spent all day on my couch trying to get some true R & R and I’m (hopefully) on the mend, just in time for one more football game…which is forecasted to be very cold and wet…

…such is the life of a secondary band director in Michigan!

This week’s box had a few surprised that I was excited to receive, especially with the rapid change in the weather:

As usual, Bandit is helping me unload the bounty!

As usual, Bandit is helping me unload the bounty!

  • Dinosaur kale
  • Red Russian Kale
  • lots of sweet peppers!
  • more bell papers
  • eggplant
  • tomatoes, still! 🙂
  • 2 winter squash
  • lettuce
  • a small celery

The bell peppers were chopped & frozen for soups & crock pot meals this winter (as well as when Mike wants any green peppers for pizza/egg dishes). The tomatoes made another batch of tomato puree for my freezer since I used up two batches already in making sauce for our murder mystery dinner. The celery, eggplant, and red kale went into three separate dinners this week.

Provided I’m feeling better tomorrow, I’ve got a game plan for all the sweet peppers that are taking up major real estate in my refrigerator – have I ever mentioned that I want a new refrigerator? 😉

Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Alright, here we go. Highs in the 50s and chilly nights. A head cold. I cannot leave my house in the morning without a jacket (or else I’ll freeze during marching band rehearsal). Summer is over…

…but on the bright side, it’s time once again for soup, stews & chili. Yum.

Oh, and football on Sundays 🙂 I love my Cleveland Browns, but that’s a post for another day…

I came across this recipe over at In Her Chucks. It’s a great blog – I really enjoy reading it (hint: check it out!). This dish is a great meal for a chili fall evening; I especially am glad that it uses bell peppers. That is one thing I have a lot of right now…green bell peppers! Which, truthfully, I’m not a fan of on their own. But, I will eat them in chili. I promise.

And yes, it involves using pumpkin in another way other than bakery, pie, and lattes 😉

Turkey Pumpkin Chili – adapted from In Her Chucks

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (of your choice), chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • about 1 lb of pumpkin or squash; pureed or smooshed up pretty well
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the aromatics and peppers, stirring often until they are cooked.
  2. Add the turkey & cook until brown.
  3. Add the tomatoes, pumpkin/squash, water, and spices. Bring to a boil
  4. Reduce heat to low and add the kidney beans. Cover & simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Serve like any other chili – in our house, that means with crackers, cheddar cheese, raw onion or scallions, and spaghetti!

If you don’t have canned or fresh pumpkin laying around, you can use a winter squash or maybe even butternut squash. I though this would be a good way, though, to use pumpkin that may have arrived in your CSA, or that you simply see at the store next time you go grocery shopping. It’s not too hard to make your own pumpkin puree, so I’ve found! I’ll be using this technique to attack the winter squash & pumpkins that are looking decorative in my dining room since I’m out of pantry space.

Happy Fall, everyone! 🙂

CSA ’13, Week 16

I don’t know about you, but this Monday kicked my butt!

Last week was a long one. And BUSY! I had the first of two homecomings to direct at…truthfully I only know what day it is because it’s marching season. Two more games to go and then I get my Friday nights back! I love marching band, and I love my job, but I’m ready to be indoors in the mornings 😉

This week’s CSA gave us a new surprise or two that we didn’t have last year:

20131014-185229.jpg

  • Tomatoes
  • Brussels sprouts!!!
  • purple peppers
  • greenpeppers
  • red cabbage
  • jalapeno peppers
  • two heads of lettuce
  • acorn squash

This weekend we had some friends over for an Italian-themed murder mystery dinner. All of us had a lot of fun and I made homemade pasta the first time. We were worried that we wouldn’t have enough…and ended up with a ton of pasta! Leftovers have gone into some chicken soup, as well as a casserole that I think deserves a post in the near future!

Now amidst all the lesson planning & school work to be done, I need to figure out what to do with that red cabbage. Any ideas?

 

CSA Week 15

It’s safe to say that we are definitely into autumn now. The leaves up here are starting to really change color (though we’re nowhere near peak yet) and it’s been raining since just before my band marched onto the field for halftime on Friday night.

When reading a few of the blogs I follow, one author noted that they only have about 2-3 more weeks to go until the end of the CSA. I quickly checked my calendar…we have 3 more weeks to go, the last pick-up day being October 22. Wow…the season sure flew by fast! Thankfully though we are nowhere near temperatures for s-n-o-w and I am really feeling for those who live out west who have 48 inches of that awful stuff already!

My goal this week is to do more legitimate cooking, instead of preserving and ordering take-out. You’d think a month into school I’d be into some sort of routine, but I’m still not. ::sigh:: We at least got another nice, colorful haul from the farm this week!

Week 15

Week 15

  • more bell peppers
  • white onion
  • a winter squash!
  • jalapenos
  • sweet peppers
  • eggplant (we’ve had a lot of eggplant this year…)
  • lettuce
  • a nice variety of tomatoes
  • beet greens (hmmm….)

I’m actually kind of glad to see some lettuce again, and that the tomato supply is still in some abundance. Lots of salads this week for lunches! My tomato plants I believe will be officially ‘done’ this week – I have a pan of cherry tomatoes roasting in the oven as I type, and I just finished yet another quart of tomato sauce.

Any recommendations out there for usage of beet greens?

CSA Week 14

Alright…I gotta admit it. Blogging got put on the back burner this week. Along with cooking anything remotely interesting (either that, or it was simply a repeat recipe). And then, I went camping with the girls for a night and ate potato chips and beer for dinner (still smacking my forehead, should’ve had a V8 style)

So forgive the lacklusterness of my blog, please? 🙂

Week 14 in the CSA has brought around a new set of fun things to work with:photo (22)

  • lots of sweet, red peppers
  • purple & green peppers
  • tomatillos
  • plums
  • thyme
  • pie pumpkin!
  • eggplant
  • white onion
  • cherry tomatoes
  • big tomatoes

I was especially excited about the tomatillos! I remember I made something with them last summer – what it was, I can’t remember – but this weekend I did cook up a batch of tomatillo salsa. It will be perfect with the fajitas that I’m making for dinner tonight. I’m hoping that the farm will still have them in the coming week’s share; if this salsa is as good as I think it is, I’m going to want to make a larger batch! 🙂

We also had some ‘Stanley’ plums. The farm doesn’t put fruit in our shares very often so this was a nice surprise. I’m not the biggest fan of them, but I did try them, which is a pretty big deal for me since I’m pretty picky when it comes to fruit.

Tonight, when I’m not doing something related to work, I am hoping to figure out what to do with a ginormous zucchini that I received from one of my students (it’s about as big as one we received as a ‘gift’ last year. I’m thinking a batch of zucchini bread may be in order…hmm..any of you have any suggestions?

Baked Broccoli Mac ‘n Cheese

With fall and cooler temperatures comes one big request in our dinner rotation: comfort food. I was raised on Kraft macaroni & cheese, so I don’t mind eating it at all. My husband, though, prefers the real thing 2:1, so I need to make it from scratch every once in a while (in his defense, he will oblige to eat it my way; Kraft macaroni & cheese with hot dogs).

Gina over at Skinnytaste does a fantastic job (as I’m sure many of you know) with lightening up recipes & still making them taste good. She truly doesn’t disappoint with this one, either. I used broccoli from my CSA, which really added something fresh to this dish. Being that we want to eat more vegetables, but have our mac ‘n cheese and eat it too…this was a great remedy and compromise.

Baked Broccoli Mac ‘n Cheese

adapted from Skinnytaste

  • 12 oz ‘healthy’ elbow pasta (Ronzoli Smart Taste, whole wheat, etc.)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth (low sodium, or veggie broth works too!)
  • 1 8-oz bag reduced-fat sharp cheddar
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz fresh broccoli florets
  • grated parmesan, bread crumbs, & paprika, for topping
  1. In a large pot, cook the pasta & broccoli together until the pasta is al dente (I love this. It saves you a pot!). Meanwhile, spray a casserole dish with some cooking spray & preheat the oven to 375.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion & cook on low for about 2 minutes or so.
  3. Add the flour & combine with the butter until a nice roux forms and the mixture is a nice gold color. Add the milk and broth, and whisk; turn the heat up to medium-high until it starts to boil.
  4. Stir consistently until the sauce becomes nice and thick – but do not let it boil over! Add salt & pepper, then stir & remove from heat.
  5. Add the cheese & mix well until the cheese is melted & the mixture is even thicker. Add more salt & pepper if needed. Add the macaroni & broccoli, and mix well.
  6. Pour the mac & cheese into the baking dish, and sprinkle parmesan and breadcrumps on top. Then, add a dash of paprika, too.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, til the top gets a little golden brown.
20130820-100622.jpg

Baked healthy deliciousness.

I really liked out this turned out. I know that I didn’t miss the full-fat version very much; this dish had great flavor and I didn’t feel very guilty about eating it. It’s always nice to feel a little indulgent when you’re trying to watch what you eat – especially when all you want is some comfort food.

CSA Week 13

Well, we’re officially into fall now and the veggies just keep on coming! It’s Saturday night (as I write this) and I have 5 pints of diced tomatoes in the water bath canner. My garden is still pretty happy and we haven’t had a major frost yet, so I’ll enjoy the beautiful fall harvest as much as I can 🙂

Meanwhile in CSA land, we had another neat haul to bring home:

921a

I love the color of my laundry room…

  • green & purple peppers
  • banana peppers
  • jalapeno peppers
  • eggplant
  • dinosaur kale
  • lacinato kale
  • more tomatoes!!!
  • fresh sage
  • purple kohlrabi

We also had a neat addition to this week’s CSA – fruit! We received a few Michigan peaches:

921b

Lucky for Mike, I am not a peach fan – so he had these all to himself! (he had already eaten one by the time I had taken a picture).

I’ll be chopping & freezing the bell peppers tomorrow. The kale will also be making a great salad with some locally made peanut sauce (on my list to buy tomorrow). I’m starting to get really good at prepping lunches again (thank goodness)! This time of year is a very busy one for me because of marching season. The next Friday night I’ll have ‘off will be November 1st. Needless to say, I’ve got to start being proactive again with dinners & leftovers, and dust off the ol’ crockpot again.

Question for Ya: What’s your favorite crockpot meal? I need some new ideas. Bonus points for if it is meatless!