Bread and Butter Pickles

If you are lucky enough to belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture – One Woman Farm in Gibsonia), you know what it’s like to be immersed in the bounty of delicious local fruits and veggies. With this latest CSA box, I was wondering what to do with a bunch of cucumbers… make pickles of course!

When it comes to pickles, I tend to prefer the sweet taste of the bread and variety so that’s what I decided to create!

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I had three nice sized cucumbers, about 2 1/2 pounds in total. Good to go.

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Bread and Butter Pickles

2 1/2 to 3 lbs cucumbers
1 to 1 1/2 lbs onion
1/4 cup salt
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup red cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric

Wash the cucumbers and slice into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices depending if you like them thicker or thinner – I go right in the middle:)  Slice the onion into thin 1/16 to 1/8 inch slices and then cut into quarters so you get pieces that are about 1 inch in length.

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Place the cucumbers and onion slices in a bowl and add the salt.  Mix it up so the salt can reach all sides of the slices.  Cover and place in a refrigerator for at least 3 hours.  When I made this batch, I had to go to work and I left them chilling all day, no problem.

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From here, I canned my pickles, but if you plan to cold pack them instead (they’ll only keep stored in the refrigerator for about 1-2 months), you can skip the canning preparation steps.

Head over to the orange marmalade post to read my comprehensive instructions on canning techniques… but here is a quick review.  Wash 4 or 5 pint canning jars.  Heat a large pot of water to boiling that will be able to cover the sealed jars.  Place the empty jars in the boiling water to sterilize them and take them out just before you are ready to fill them.

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When you’re ready to make some pickles, add the vinegar, and remaining ingredients to a 3 to 4 quart pan.  I like to use the 50/50 mixture of red wine vinegar to white vinegar for a slightly bolder taste.

Rinse and drain the cucumber/onion mixture to remove the excess salt.

Add the cucumber/onion mixture to the vinegar solution and heat.  Stir occasionally and remove from the heat just as the mixture starts to boil.

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Ladle the pickle mixture into each of the jars, filling to within 1/2″ from the top of the jar.  Clean the rim using a paper towel. Place on the top and screw the ring on tight.  I find it helps to use a towel to hold onto the hot jar.

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Place the jars into the boiling water and make sure there is at least 1/2″ – 1″ of water covering the jars.  Boil for 10 minutes and remove the jars using jar tongs.  Set your jars on the counter and within 2 to 15 minutes, you should see and hear each lid pull down.  If a lid doesn’t pull down, you should refrigerate that jar and enjoy those pickles first!

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Grill up a nice burger and add some fresh tomato with your homemade bread and butter pickles – nothing better!  Enjoy!

Spring Strawberry Cake

This cake was my birthday icing decoration project.

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It is an adapted amalgamation of recipes from two of my favorite food blogs – Smitten Kitchen and My Name is Yeh!

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I doubled the amounts for Deb’s cake so I could make a second layer but only placed the strawberries in the bottom cake so that they’d serve as a sort of filling. I combined this cake with Molly’s icing (because she has mad, gorgeous skills), and the results were magical.

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It received the seal of approval from aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, and my brother. And they’ll be straight with you if it’s nothing special… we’ve eaten our fair share of desserts. They kept asking if there was some secret ingredient to make it so moist and have the perfect texture and sweetness. This is just one of those cases where simple flavors are amazingly delicious:)

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Strawberry Vanilla Cake

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar + 2 Tablespoons (for sprinkling the strawberries at the end)
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two 9 inch cake pans by lining with parchment paper and then buttering.

In electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in egg and beat again. Mix in milk and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined and smooth.

Distribute batter amongst two pans, placing slightly less in the one of them. In this pan with slightly less batter, arrange strawberries, cut side down, as closely as possible in a single later. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cakes for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack.

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Vanilla cream cheese buttercream frosting

from My Name is Yeh!

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
4 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Cream all ingredients together.

To assemble the cake, place the strawberry layer on the plate. Spread a thin layer of the icing and place the other cake layer on top. Spread on a thin crumb coat and then refrigerate for about an hour until it firms up. Fill a large piping bag fitted with a petal decorating tip. Starting at the bottom and working your way up, pipe around the outside of the cake with the wider end of tip up against the cake. Do the same thing on the top of the cake, and voila!

Cowboy Cookies

These cookies have a little bit of everything… kind of like a chocolate chip cookie on steroids.

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Their name is a mystery, but they are certainly chock full of everything you want… all packed into one amazing cookie! They have crunch from the corn flakes, chewiness from the oats, sweetness from the dried fruit, and obviously plenty of chocolate.

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My dad originally saw this recipe on our local PBS station cooking show with Chris Fennimore.  His methodology for these cookies was to use ingredients based on what you have on hand that day.  So we added in our favorites and the results were delicious! Feel free to substitute any other dried fruit or cereals you have laying around the kitchen. You can’t go wrong with these cowboy cookies.

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Cowboy Cookies

2 sticks of butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons brandy
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups oats
3 cups corn flakes
4 oz (1/2 cup) dates, chopped
1 cup raisins
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cream butter with both sugars until smooth and creamy.

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Add eggs, vanilla, and brandy and mix till smooth.

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Add flour, baking powder, and baking soda and mix. It is going to get thick, so you will want to stir in the oatmeal, corn flakes, dates, raisins and chocolate chips.

Form into 1 1/2 inch balls and bake on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 350F.

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Strawberry Jam

Spring is in the air, and I’m more than ready for warm weather produce. Say hello to these beautiful, juicy strawberries:)

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After eating my fill of a BIG box from Costco, I needed to transform these lovlies into something delicious before they went bad. JAM was the answer!

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I decided to make two versions –  a small batch with less sugar and lemon zest and the other regularly sweetened plus lemon juice.  The one with the zest had a slight lemony kick, and the second is your classic strawberry jam.

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Here are some of the tools and equipment you’ll need if you plan on canning the jam:

  • 8 – 10, 8oz canning jars and lids
  • 2 big pots
  • ladle
  • funnel
  • candy thermometer
  • canning tongs

Strawberry Jam Version 1: Lemon Zest + reduced sugar

2 cups sugar
1 lemon – zest and juice (about 1/4 cup)
3 cups strawberries -halved

Strawberry Jam Version 2: Classic

7 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
5 cups strawberries

Cook the lemon and sugar for about 10 minutes.

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Then, add the strawberries and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring every 30 to 60 seconds.

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Place a candy thermometer into the mixture, making sure it does not touch the bottom of the pan. The one I use has an adjustable clip on the side so it can attach to the side of the pot and stay in the mixture as it cooks.

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Stir the mixture every 30 to 60 seconds and cook until the temperate reaches 230 degrees F and jam is thick when placed on a cold plate. (FYI: The temperature will sit at about 210F for a long time and then slowly increase, so don’t get discouraged! Make sure you keep your eye on the thermometer because the temperature will rise faster as it approaches the final temperature.)

While the berries are cooking, prepare your canning pot by filling a second large pot with water, leaving enough room for the jars so the water does not overflow when they are added. This pot should be large enough to hold 8 to 10 canning jars with about 1 inch of water above the tops of the jars. Place a small rack or even a piece of cloth at the bottom of the pot so the jars don’t come into direct contact with the bottom of the pot while canning. To sterilize the jars, place the clean, open jars (no lids) into the water along with a ladle and funnel that you’ll be using to fill the jars. Boil the jars for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lids. Let them sit until you’re ready to can.

About 15 minutes or so before the jam is done cooking, use your canning tongs to remove the jars and lids from the canning pot and place them upside down on a clean dish towel. Turn the heat back on the canning pot so that the water is boiling when the jam is ready.

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Once the jam reaches 230F, remove the pot from the heat. Fill each of the canning jars with the jam to about 1/4″ from the top. Wipe the top edge of the jar with a damp paper towel to remove any jam that may have dripped. Place the lid on the jar (gasket side down) and screw on the band – medium tight.

With your canning tongs, place the jars standing up onto the grate or towel in the boiling water in the canning pot. Make sure the jars have about 1″ of water covering the lids. Boil for 10 minutes. Then, remove each jar and place back on your counter to cool. In about 5 to 20 minutes, each of the lids will snap inwards, indicating that the jars are sealed and the vacuum has formed.  Write the date on top and enjoy!

Almond Butter Trail Mix Cookies (Gluten free)

After a few adaptations and some serious taste testing with friends, I’m pretty sure this is the perfect healthy, gluten free cookie.

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Oat flour is such a wonderful substitute for wheat flour, so you won’t miss it at all. These guys have received the seal of approval from gluten and non-gluten eaters alike.

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I’ve made them 3 times in the past two weeks for one of my dearest friends who happens to be gluten intolerant. As soon as we’ve demolished every single cookie, it’s only right that I go back to the kitchen and whip up another batch. They’re really that good.Sarahs almond butter trail 0006

Wonderful at any time of the day, you can crumble some onto yogurt or into almond milk for breakfast or enjoy as a little snack or dessert.

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They are busting open with hearty oats, healthy fats from nuts, and a little bit of chocolate to keep us all happy. I hope you enjoy:)

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Almond butter trail mix cookies
recipe inspired by OhLadycakes

1/2 cup almond butter
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
6 Tablespoons honey (agave or maple syrup would also work)
1/3 cup almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups oat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup oats
2 Tablespoons cacao nibs
1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.)
1/4 cup dried cranberries/cherries
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond butter, coconut oil, honey, and almond milk. Once combined, add the oat flour, baking soda, and salt until a thick dough forms. Now, add in your extras – oats, cocoa nibs, nuts, dried fruit, and chopped dark chocolate – and mix until evenly distributed. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate your dough for at least an hour.

Drop the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 325F for 15-18 minutes. I usually yield about 12 cookies. Once they are lightly browned but still a little soft on the inside, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store cookies in an airtight container. They keep even longer in the fridge!