July 31, 2013

Happiness in a Jar

There are certain things in this world that make me instantly happy.  Canning is one of them.  There's something about taking fresh ingredients that are in season and preserving them for years to come.    Last summer I picked up the book Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan and it has quickly become my canning bible.  I love her funky twists on old classics.  My latest venture is her pickled green beans, also known as Dilly Beans.  It's a simple recipe that can be done in about an hour's time.  

After a trip to the Chattanooga Market, I was able to find a local farmer to buy 3 lbs of fresh picked green beans.  Once back home I got my water bath going and sterilized 6 wide mouth pint jars.  I also filled a small saucepan with water to simmer the lids.  In a third pot, I started the brine by boiling 5 cups of distilled vinegar, 5 cups water and 1/2 cup pickling salt.

Next, I washed and rinsed the beans as well as cut off all the ends.

While my jars finished sterilizing, I got my assembly line of seasonings going that consisted of dill seed (not weed!), cayenne pepper and peeled garlic cloves.

 Now it was time to start the stuffing, so to speak. 

In each jar, add as many green beans that will possibly fit, being careful to make sure you have at least 1/2 inch of headspace at the top.  It may be necessary to cut some of your beans in half in order to fit properly.  Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon dill seed and 1 garlic clove to each jar.

Pour the brine over each of the jars leaving 1/2" headspace.  Using a wooden chopstick, carefully dislodge any air bubbles.  You may need to add a little more brine at this point since the bubbles will most likely take up more space then you realize. 

Push down the beans as they rise to the top and carefully place their respective lids and bands.

Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. 

Beans before and after the water bath

Lastly, revel in the goodness you just created and make sure to let the beans cure for at least 2 weeks before eating.

Bon Appetite!!

February 19, 2013

Saving Cash by Re-Using My Stash

Hello.  My name is Bri, and I have a candle addiction.  If I see one anywhere for a good deal, I will buy it.  I’ve even been guilty of taking money out of my grocery budget to buy one.  I don’t buy the cheap ones from Walmart either.  I only go for the good stuff.  The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? 

 Over the weekend, I tried to work on my addiction by re-using what I already had.  Have you ever noticed that when a candle burns it’s final flame you still have a decent amount of wax left?  I’m pretty stingy in the fact that I like to get my moneys worth out of everything I buy so I decided to make a project out of melting some new ones.  Over the past couple of months, I’ve been saving my candles after they’ve gone kaput and I finally had enough to make this worth it.
Since I live in the south now, it only seemed fittin' that I head on down to my local Hobby Lobby and see what that place is about.  Turns out it's pretty awesome.  It's a fun mix of JoAnn Fabrics and Michaels with a little bit of Home Goods mixed in.  With a 40% off coupon, I was able to buy some candle wicks for $1.86.  That place is lucky I'm on a budget because I could have done some serious damage. 

Next, I needed to figure out what I was going to burn these suckers in.  Keepin' with the southern vibe, I opted for mason jars since they are made out of glass that can withstand high temperatures.

Now it's time to melt the wax, but before you start this, there's a few things to take into consideration.  First, what are the scents you will be melting?  I had 3 of the same Evergreen scent that I melted into one new candle.  Another was created with all masculine scents and my last one was various floral scents.  Also, you need to keep in mind that before you can add layers, you'll need to completely cool the layer before it.  Unless you want to mix them all together to make a fun new scent, then by all means, go nuts and pour away. 

Now then, there's two ways you can go with this.  If the candle is already in a jar or container, place them on a cookie sheet and melt in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or however long it takes to completely melt them down.

The other way is to start a double boiler with a glass bowl that you wouldn't care if food ever goes in again.  Take a sauce pan and fill it with water.  Place the glass bowl on the top and simmer over medium to medium-high heat.  Make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl.

Put in your first candle and wait for it to melt completely, removing any labels and old wicks in the process.

While you're waiting for the wax to melt, you'll want to make this process easier on yourself by taking a hot glue gun and affixing the wicks to the base of the jar. 

Next, you'll need to rig up something to make the wicks stand up straight while the wax is waiting to cool.  I enlisted the hubbys help on this one and we came up with taking a clothes pin or binder clip and tying some kitchen twine to it.  Attach the other end of the twine to your cabinets and pull so it's taut. 

From there, it's pretty simple.  Start pouring the wax into the jars layer by layer allowing them to cool completely before pouring the next.  Trim the wicks to 1/2" and cover with a lid.  Lastly, admire the beauty you just created. 

January 17, 2013

Nothin' Like 40's and Muffins

This past weekend our very good friends Luanne and James came down to visit us from back home.

Their timing was perfect.  We had been having weather in the upper 40's, but the day they got here it was in the 60's.  From there, the temps kept climbing and didn't stop until it hit 74.  Temps that warm in January are foreign to this Minnesota girl so we were groovin' on it.  We spent the entire weekend outside seeing what good ole' Chatt Town had to offer and it was a blast.  We made friends with our local longhorns..

We had fried chicken and 40's at Champy's

Then burned off the calories by taking a hike around Point Park on Lookout Mountain.

And then we made some really bad decisions...

By the time the weekend was over, I was ready for the sofa and some comfort food.  I had some bananas that were on their way out so the decision was made to make my favorite yogurt muffins.  When I was a little girl, these are the muffins that my mom and I would make together whenever we were in the mood to bake something.  They are quick, simple, versatile and delicious.  Oh, and they're pretty healthy too considering there is no oil or butter anywhere in the recipe.  You start off by sifting together 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder (make sure it's fresh), 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp baking soda.

Next, gently stir in 2/3 cup vanilla yogurt and 2/3 cup milk.

Mix until just combined and then pick your fruit.  You can make these with cranberries, blueberries, apples or whatever fruit you have that needs to be used up.  Today my choice is bananas.  

Mash em' up good and mix them into the batter.  

Lightly grease a muffin tin and fill 3/4 full.

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 18 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test.

Remove the muffins from the tin to cool on a rack.


They are that simple and soooo yummy.  They are moist in the middle that you don't even need butter to spread on them.

Yogurt Muffins

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour 
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
2/3 cup skim milk
1/2 cup fruit (cranberries, chopped apple, blueberries, smashed bananas) 

In large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  Gently stir in yogurt and milk, blending just until moist.
 Gently stir in fruit.  Fill a lightly greased muffin tin to 3/4 full.  Lightly sprinkle muffin tops with cinnamon sugar before baking. 
Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes.  Makes approximately 12 muffins. 

January 01, 2013

Fish Tacos

Recently, my husband took a page from his wifes book and decided to do a blog post about the fish tacos we made the night before.  They were so good that I had to share the recipe here.  Take it away honey!

Blackened Crappie Fish Tacos

This is one of my all-time favorite good eats and one that requires zero guilt for enjoying. Crappie is a wonderful dish and ever since leaving Minnesota for the warmer climates and flowing water of the Tennessee River, I've traded in walleye for the ever popular crappie. Don't get it twisted, walleye's the BOMB but so is cold water crappie and these slabbers are stacking up in brush piles by the dozen. Even a diehard bass angler such as myself finds it a worthy stop for a quick few minutes. I'm out there anyway, may as well catch Bri and I some free dinner.

There's nothing wrong with the traditional up-north style crappie eating where we roll 'em in Shore Lunch and give 'em a good frying before opening up a can of beans and a bag of Old Dutch potato chips. Now being in the south and picking up on the home-style way of eating, there's also something special about deep frying these tasty filets smothered in beer batter, alongside some fresh made coleslaw, greens with pepper infused vinegar, jalapeno hush puppies and maybe even some rice and beans. Let's not forget a generous portion of Bri's homemade spicy chow chow all up on there! Son!!

With my upcoming tournament season right around the corner, I've been looking for better ways to eat by parlaying that with a healthy workout regimen. As I said before, I love taste but find taste is not something that I have to go without just to eat right and stay healthy. Learning to sub spice for sodium is a terrific way to enjoy true flavor and live right at the same time. Also finding ways to work around deep frying is beneficial too, but by all means you still got to live a little so everything in moderation.

Back to the tacos, after all that's why you're still reading. These are truly delicious, relatively healthy and a different all around way for you and your family to enjoy.

Here's what you'll need:

Blackened Crappie

1 lb. Fresh Crappie Filets
3 teaspoons Spanish Paprika
2 teaspoons Onion Powder
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Ground Thyme
3 teaspoons Basil
1 Full Ground Dried Cayenne Pepper

Jalapeno Tarter

1 cup Mayo
1 tablespoon Pickle Relish (Bri's Homemade Relish if you're fortunate enough)
1 tablespoon Minced Onion
1 Diced Jalapeno fresh or pickled
1 teaspoon Tobasco Sauce or Tobasco Pepper Vinegar
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
Pepper to taste

Corn Relish

1 Diced Roma Tomato
1 Diced Roasted Red Pepper
1 cup Frozen Corn or Grilled Corn
1 Fresh Diced Jalapeno
1/2 cup Diced Cilantro
Black Pepper to taste

You'll also want to choose between corn tortillas and flour tortillas. Corn are much healthier and are more authentic as well as less expensive, but no matter your taste, either will work. Just make sure they're the standard soft taco size. You'll also want 1 head of cabbage.

Preparation is simple! First Prepare your tarter and corn relish and place in fridge to unify. Pretty simple to understand, just mix those above ingredients together, it's self explanatory. If you're not following perhaps you should stick to simply carry-out.

The tacos are next and you'll want to put a little butter and/or olive oil and bring it to medium high heat. Roll crappie filets in a gallon ziplock with all above spices and shake until they're well covered. Place filets in oiled skillet and let cook until filets turn from a translucent raw look to a white and flaky look, flip every minute. Once cooked through, place in a cooking dish and put in oven at 400 degrees. At the same time, place your corn tortillas (only if their corn) in the same oven on a cookie sheet and flip after one side starts turning to a light brown. After tortillas are cooked to your liking pull both the tortillas and the filets out of the oven. This should only take several minutes with a preheated oven. Take a spatula or a wooden spoon and break up the crappie filets making a big ole' dish of torn up blackened fish.

Take your warmed tortillas and spread a little jalapeno tarter around, add a heaping spoon full of blackened crappie, top with corn relish and fresh chopped cabbage. Add a little Cholula Hot Sauce and/or cheese if you're like my wife, as well as a little squeeze of fresh lime or lemon. ENJOY!

New Beginnings

It's been a while since my last post and while I really don't have a excuse for why I've been absent for so long, I have had some big changes happening in my life.  The biggest one being that in September my husband and I packed up the dogs along with all of our stuff and moved south.  Tennessee to be exact.  With Josh taking the next big step in his career for the upcoming season, it only made sense to make the move and be closer to all the action.  I.Love.It.Here.  We found the perfect house to rent, I finally found a great job and we live in the place we've been dreaming about for the last five years.  Oh, and the kitchen is huge!  I have a cabinet to fit every dish, every appliance, every utinsil. I couldn't have imagined everything going as well as it has.  In the coming weeks, I'll be posting new recipes that I had been experimenting with during my period of unemployment. 

While the cooking around here has been a 'plenty, I've also been doing my fair share of knitting.  The cowl that I'm currently working on is the Cabernet Infinity Scarf.  I love the combination of cables and lace.  And it doesn't hurt that it's the color of a dreamsicle. 

I can't wait for it to be finished so I can wear it.  While the winters down here don't get nearly as cold as 'ol Minne, there is definately a nip to the air so this cowl paired with a light jacket is perfect. 

Along with the cowl, I've also been working on designing my own pillow pattern.  Not a huge project, but the perfect size for my first attempt.  Here's a sneak peek.

It's the perfect mix of compact yet challenging.  I'm going to do my best to have it done in the next few weeks, but I'm not entirely sure that's possible.  There are some birthdays and the impending birth of my new niece or nephew coming up so this one keeps getting pushed to the backburner.  Psh.  Knitting problems..