Pickled Carrots

Homemade Pickled Vegetables Recipe
Like a tennis player that’s been training all year for their first match, I walk into the kitchen, full of bravado, throw the culinary ball into the air, serve it across the net and hear the words “FAULT,” followed by the words, “DOUBLE FAULT,” soon after.

Two cookie recipes in as many days – two epic fails.

Disappointment. It’s officially six days into Cookie Baking Season and I feel like a big o’ Failure. I’m a baker above anything else and this should be my time to SHINE, rather than falter. Blame the recipe. Blame the quality of the ingredients. Blame my mindset. I sound like John McEnroe.

My first attempt, an anise-scented honey cookie lightly glazed and decorated with candied orange peel, was an unmitigated disaster. The texture was all wrong – too dense – and the anise too strong, resulting in a cookie reminiscent of those hard Scandinavian licorice lozenges.

The second recipe, baked yesterday, was supposed to be delicate sandwich cookies filled with mint and dipped in milk chocolate. I was hoping for an elevated version of Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (an addiction of mine) crossed with a Girl Scout Thin Mint. What I actually created were misshapen oval disks sandwiching a dollop of minty goo similar to Crest toothpaste. I didn’t even bother with the chocolate dip – in to the trash they went as well.

Rather than squander another pound of butter, I thought I would take a break today, step away from the cookies, and try something else entirely – something that didn’t require baking. I settled on these spice-laden pickled carrots – a better late-night snacking option to a plate of cookies anyway. An array of colorful pickled veggies like these, using a variety of spice combinations, would make a great alternative to the standard holiday crudité platter – no baking required.


Pickled Carrots

  • Servings: 2 quart jars
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This pickling recipe would work with whatever fresh veggies you happened to have on hand – cauliflower, onions, beans, or beets – to name just a few.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled, cut into sticks and lightly blanched
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon salt
  • Hot water

Directions

  1. Divide garlic, thyme, mustard seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks,peppercorns and cloves between two quart jars. Pack blanched carrot sticks tightly into jars.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat until boiling. Pour hot liquid into jars filling ¼” from top. If there isn’t enough vinegar mixture, fill remaining space in jars with hot water.
  3. Close jars and refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.

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Cranberry sauce with dried cherries

Cranberry Sauce with Dried Cherries
Thanksgiving isn’t the time for experiments. The family gathered around our table crave the classics – the flavors from childhood Thanksgivings past. But, I’m never satisfied with the classics – even new classics. I want to play. When I hit upon “The Ultimate” sweet potato casserole recipe, I swear it will be my go-to recipe for all the years to come. Yet, by next November, there are three new recipes I want to try. I’m always experimenting, always trying something new…except for my Cranberry Sauce. What could possibly be special about cranberry sauce? The C-sauce doesn’t play starring role. Frankly, it’s not even a co-star. Cranberry sauce lands somewhere in the chorus, but I couldn’t imagine my Thanksgiving table without it. And it has to be this version. The warming spice and tart cherries pair perfectly with the cranberries – elevating the sauce just so, but not too much. Classic, with a twist. So, from my Thanksgiving table to yours…

Cranberry Sauce with Dried Cherries and Cloves

Original recipe from Bon Appétit

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups cherry cider or tart cherry juice
  • 1 8-ounce package dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
  • ¼ teaspoon (generous) ground cloves

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine cider or juice with dried cherries. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat and let stand for 8 minutes to soften cherries.
  2. Add sugar, cranberries and cloves. Cook over medium high heat until cranberries burst, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours. Can be made a week in advance.

Chili Pepper Honey Jam

Hot Pepper Honey Sauce
It’s Friday night and she has no plans. She received a text from him this afternoon, but she didn’t take the bait. She feels he’s always waiting for her to make the first move, as if he’s unsure, ambivalent. It seems he ONLY texts her on Friday afternoons, as if she doesn’t exist for him during the week, and he only remembers her after he hasn’t solidified other, better plans.

“I am not an afterthought,” she thinks to herself.

Over two decades ago, and on the recommendation of her sister, she read a popular dating book called, “The Rules.” Her best friend at the time gave her a lot of grief for obeying some of the book’s suggestions. A lot of grief. While some of the rules were silly and outdated, two concepts spoke to her – First, believe that you are unique and special and, second, don’t waste time with men who don’t treat you like you’re unique and special. One of the specific rules instructed readers not to accept a Saturday date after Wednesday (when she followed this rule, it drove her friend crazy) – in other words, don’t be an afterthought.

Sure, she delights as much as the next girl in occasional spontaneity, but also believes that if a man is truly interested, he should think about her at some point during the week. She thought about him. Why must he wait until Friday to ask her out? After reading this article in the Huffington Post, she realizes her ideas aren’t so old-fashioned after all. Consistent last minute requests to hang out make us all feel like we are Plan B, even in 2017. And if we continuously make ourselves available, we are encouraging this type of behavior.

The truth is that she’d love to hang out with him this weekend. But she believes she’s more than a Plan B. She hopes he’ll realize this, too. Meanwhile, while he’s figuring it out, she’ll play in her kitchen:

This sweet and spicy  (like a good date!) jam makes a quick appetizer when served over cream cheese and served with crackers or toast. It’s also tasty as a glaze on shrimp, chicken or salmon….or slathered on a toasted bagel and schmear.


Chili Pepper Honey Jam

  • Servings: 2 pint jars
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I developed this recipe to use up some of the dried chilies in my pantry. I used a combination of Arbol, Guajillo and Puya chilies, but you can mix or match depending on what’s available.

Ingredients

  • 6 dried Chile de Arbol
  • 2 dried Guajillo chilies
  • 2 dried Puya chilies
  • 2 Red bell peppers
  • 2/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup honey
  • ½ cup sugar

Directions

  1. Stem and seed dried chilies. In a medium saucepan, combine dried chilies with 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stem and seed bell pepper and chop into large chunks.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine chilies and water with bell pepper. Pulse on and off until ingredients are well chopped.
  3. Pour ingredients back in saucepan and add cider vinegar. Bring to a boil. Stir in honey and sugar and bring back to a boil. Cook down, stirring occasionally, until reduced and the consistency of jam, about 20 minutes.
  4. If you plan on canning, follow proper canning procedures or cool and refrigerate jam if using within the next week.

Cranberry sauce with dried cherries and cloves

Cranberry Cherry Sauce

For all of November, and most of October if I’m honest, I’ve had a terrible bout of writer’s block. It’s not lack of topics, the “what,” that has me flummoxed; there are plenty of topics – big topics, sensitive topics and juicy topics. However, approaching them, the “how,” has confounded me for weeks.

So, as we move into December, I find myself tardy on both this recipe’s relevancy and the announcement of my not-so-recent career resignation after 15 years. I’ve spent the majority of the last two and a half weeks in my bathrobe without any rush to return to the workforce (or post, obviously).

Cranberry Sauce with Dried Cherries and Cloves

Original recipe from Bon Appétit

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups cherry cider or tart cherry juice
  • 1 8-ounce package dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
  • ¼ teaspoon (generous) ground cloves

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine cider or juice with dried cherries. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat and let stand for 8 minutes to soften cherries.
  2. Add sugar, cranberries and cloves. Cook over medium high heat until cranberries burst, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours. Can be made 4 days in advance.

Vanilla Scented Nectarine Preserves

Vanilla Scented Nectarine Preserves

I managed to foil the neighborhood scavengers, thwart (somewhat) a very determined and gluttonous squirrel and even impeded an onslaught of Japanese beetles to safeguard the makings for a double-batch of my vanilla-scented nectarine preserves made from home harvested fruit. Victory (and its spoils) are mine!