11

Super Savory Sun Pickles & The Time I Accidentally Almost Killed My Husband

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I love pickles! I admit that I could eat a whole jar, by myself. And while I have no complaint about the store bought variety, I was intrigued with the proposition that I could make my very own, after all, I am the Fabulous Food Fairy!

Well, unfortunately, this first attempt at making pickles has now become my most infamous kitchen DISASTER!

It all started two summers ago, when I decided that I would make my very own pickles. I was inspired by my neighbor, Brenda, who was making her own. How hard could this be, right? WRONG! My first mistake was not following the golden rule of canning–use a tried and true recipe from a reliable source. As a cook, I am not terribly precise. I use a little of this, and a little of that, and many recipes don’t ever taste the same way twice. Well, tragically I attempted to apply this same logic to pickles.

I bought a powdered mix, but that looked sooo BORING…I wanted flavor, so I also bought a jar of pickling spices to add some real color and flavor. When it came time to actually make the pickles, I added a little of this, a little of that, tweaked the amount of one ingredient, and improvised with another. The brine smelled strong, but many pickle juices do. I thought nothing of it. I then processed my jars, and packed them away neatly. I have to say, they looked beautiful! The pickles were bright green, and the spices looked so pretty dancing around in the jars. I was impressed with my first foray into pickle making.

Then it all came crashing down. The pickles were ready for tasting. My husband went first. He opened the jar, and pulled one slice out.  He hesitated and smelled it. Backing away, he started to balk because of the strong smell. I called him a wuss and urged him to try it. The horror was apparent on his face instantly. He gagged, lurched to spit it in the sink, and then proceeded to try to wash his tongue. WHAT A DRAMA LLAMA, I thought. He has a flair for exaggeration, so I figured the only way to truly assess the finished product was to try it myself.

I hesitated and smelled it. I too started to balk because of the strong smell. He called me a wuss and waited eagerly for me to experience the “flavor”. OH! It was beyond horrible! I gagged, lurched to spit it in the sink, and then tried to wash my tongue. The flavor conjured up bad memories of wisdom teeth, dry sockets, and clove packing, mixed with vinegar, and overly strong garlic, with a mystery sweetness, and dill that made you shiver. It was the most horrifically offensive taste that I am sure has left scarring on my taste buds.

Sadly, we dumped every pretty jar of terrible pickles, and my pickle making days ended in a burning defeat, and a whole lot of teasing from my family 😦

So, you can imagine Brandon’s enthusiasm last summer, when I announced that I was getting back on the horse, so to speak, and making pickles, again. I got a look… and a declaration that he would not try them. Whatever.

This time I was armed with a successful recipe from my friend, Brenda, and it only had 6 ingredients. I promised to follow the rules, color in the lines, and not improvise.

What resulted was AWESOME! It was so awesome that I had to share it, to spare you all the same traumatizing defeat that I incurred at the hands of my own creative pickling ideas.

Try it, involve the kids, but don’t get creative with this one. Please follow the rules 🙂

Ingredients:

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6 1/2 cups water
3 1/4 cups white vinegar
2/3 (or less) cups of pickling salt — yes it matters, it has to be canning or pickling salt!
1 sprig of dill per jar
1 clove garlic per jar
12-15 Kirby pickles
5-6 quart jars sanitized with new lids

Preparation:

1. Place 1 clove of garlic and 1 sprig of dill in the bottom of the clean jars.

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2. Slice pickles and place in jars, or pack them whole.

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3. Boil water, vinegar, and salt until the salt is dissolved.

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5. Wipe off the rim of the jars, and put lid and band on tight.

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6. Set jars in the sun, undisturbed, for 48 hours. At this point, they should be sealed. The pop-top on the lids should be sucked down, indicating a strong seal.

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7. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

This is a really fun activity to do with the kids, in fact, it has become a summer tradition with my kids as well as my nieces and nephews 🙂

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6

Family Friendly Lettuce Wraps

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One of the reasons I love Spring Break is that I get to feel like a stay-at-home mom, and join my good friends in their daytime activities. On today’s agenda was a killer kettle bell class that my girlfriends have been agonizing through for the past few weeks. This class, with its drill sergeant instructor, has been a source of curiosity for me, so of course I jumped on the opportunity to try it.

Wow! It lived up to my expectations, and while I am certain that I will not be able to use my arms, legs, abs, or ANY OTHER MUSCLE in my body tomorrow, I loved it. No pain, no gain, right?

Well, since it is my mission not to gain weight, I best be taking the same kick ass attitude towards my diet. So, in order to preserve the benefits of my exercise, tonight we are having lettuce wraps for dinner. The added bonus is that my kids LOVE them!! I’m not kidding, my middle has chosen lettuce wraps over pizza before. Happy wife = Happy life! Here is a meal that will help me achieve my dream of skinny thighs while making my kids happy with a nutritious meal. Everyone wins, and gets to be happy…even if one of us will not be able to walk up the steps for a few days.

Family Friendly Lettuce Wraps

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The Chicken:

1 1/2 -2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast strips
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 cloves garlic – minced
1 teaspoon of powdered ginger
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of honey

Blend all of the ingredients except the chicken in a medium bowl. Add chicken, coating each piece in the marinade, and allowing it to sit for about 1 hour.

Cook chicken strips until they are fully cooked. They can be broiled on a baking sheet lined with foil, about 7 minutes a side depending on the strength of your broiler. You may also grill them on the grill, using skewers, or in a grill pan on the stove top.

Once the chicken is cooked, allow it to cool a bit, then shred or slice in to smaller pieces. Set aside.

The Noodles:

1 5.5 oz package of rice noodles

1 Tbsp. of coconut oil

2 Tbsp. of soy sauce

Cook noodles according to the package instructions and drain. Toss noodles with oil and soy sauce. Set aside.

The Rest:

2 heads of Boston Bibb lettuce

1 cup of shredded carrots

1 cup of alfalfa or bean sprouts

Optional: Chopped green onions, thin sliced red peppers, cucumber ribbons, and chopped peanuts or cashews.

Carefully separate the leaves of lettuce from the head, wash, and dry. Clean and prepare any other fix-ins.

The Dressing:

For an easy weeknight meal, you can purchase pre-made sauces. My family loves Wegmans Sesame Garlic Sauce and Wegmans Thai Peanut Sauce. We drizzle both on our wraps. But, if you are looking to make your own, see below.

Thai Peanut Sauce-
1/4 cup of peanut butter
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp of sesame oil
1 small pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan stir to combine over medium heat until smooth, warm, and blended.

Sesame Garlic Dressing-

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger root

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. of sesame oil

Combine all ingredients, mixing well.

The Presentation:

On a large platter, arrange lettuce, carrots, sprouts, chicken, & any other fix-ins. This will allow each person to choose based on their own likes. Place the platter in the center of the table with tongs or spoons. You can serve the noodles in a separate bowl or on the platter if there is room. Place dressings in small bowls with spoons for drizzling. Finally, put chopped peanuts or cashews in small separate bowls. Each person needs a small plate on which to assemble their own wraps as they go. Now you are good to go for a fun, nutritious meal!

***Variation: If this seems a bit complicated, or messy, tear lettuce leaves on a plate and top with chicken, noodles, and vegetables. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and drizzle with dressing for a Thai Chicken Salad. This dish can be tailored to suit your own tastes, so feel free to add or delete ingredients to suit your likes.

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