Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Aunt Nancy's Spinach Balls - a holiday MUST!

I am from Wisconsin.  I have a large large family.  I grew up with 29 of my 31 first-cousins within a 2-minute to 2-hour drive of my home and we spent the majority of holidays and birthdays together.  This means any one of my 9 Aunts would be making something very Midwest and very delicious, like 3-tier red, white and blue jello-mold (love you Aunt Jane, I'll be tapping you for this recipe really soon!), scalloped potatoes, mini meatballs and wieners, bugles with onion dip, green beans with funions, etc... but my most favorite of all was, and still is, Aunt Nancy's spinach balls.  (One year she even sent me all the dry ingredients to my dorm room so I could make them in college - love that!)

And so, I have made these EVERY THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS for the past 12-years in Missoula.  My friends now expect them.  This year I am making them with gluten free bread crumbs so a few folks that I am especially thankful for will be able to enjoy them.

Here's the basic recipe...

2-pkg chopped spinach, thawed and drained really well (buy frozen but have made w/ fresh, just rinse, pat dry and chop well)
3/4 C. salted butter, very soft (that's 1.5 sticks)
2 C. seasoned bread crumbs (I am going to crush gluten free crackers to make these)
1-medium onion minced, shredded, or finely chopped w/ food processor
1 C. grated parmesan (grated worked better than shredded for texture)
Poultry Seasoning  (I can't remember how much right now, like a 1 Tbl or so... )
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat over to 375.  Line cookie sheets w/ parchment.  Mix all the ingredients together like a meat loaf. It will be sticky.  Roll into 1" balls and place on parchment.  (I really pack 'em on here but not touching.)
Bake for 20-mins, or until fully cooked through and bottoms are golden brown.  ALTERNATELY, bake for 10 mins and then fridge or freeze until you want to finish then off, then bake for 10-20-more to finish.

Serve warm... even the kids will devour them.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Apple Cider Sauerkraut and the Packers

You can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but you can't take the Wisconsin out of the girl... add to that my German heritage and it's all about Kraut, Brats and the Pack this time of year... especially as our yard gives us apples, cabbage and onions for this lovely recipe.

Apple Cider Sauerkraut
6-medium onions (I use half yellow, half red)
2-small/med heads cabbage (I use one white and one red)
8-apples (I use a mix, but tart are really good here!)
2 T butter
1.5-T salt
1-T mustard seed (optional)
1/2-T ground pepper
2/3-C Apple Cider Vinegar
2-C Apple Cider

  • melt butter in large stock pot over medium-high heat, add thinly sliced onions when foaming subsides.  Cook, stirring regularly, until creamy and golden brown and well caramelized. (about 20-mins)
  • add apples, cabbage, salt, pepper, mustard seed, cider and vinegar, stir to mix well, cover and simmer over medium heat for 1-hour.
  • cabbage and apples should be soft at this point and onions nearly disintegrated.
  • keep simmering for another 20-30 mins if you want it softer OR just keep warm and ready to serve OR can it OR tuck your sausages of choice in for a simmer bath for about 20-mins, then pull the sausages out and finish on the grill.
  • serve kraut and brats w/ good, dark bread, great medley of mustards, and a potato of choice
When I am canning this for winter I usually double or triple the recipe to get about 12-pints for the cellar.

BOILING BRATS - there are folks that say grill first, boil second.  Boil first, grill second.  Etc...  I am a boil first girl.  If I am not worried about keeping my kraut vegetarian, I often braise my brats in the kraut above, then finish on the grill.  but, my favorite way is this:

  • Put brats in a big pasta pot (I did 24 in my larger pot the other night).  Add on top 1- to 2- sliced onions of choice.  Pour 1- to 2-beers over the top (anything from PBR to Highlife to a lighter microbrew).  Also add the same amount of water as beer to just over the brats and onions.  (For me I empty one can of beer into the pot then fill that can up w/ water and put it in.  If I need more liquid I do it again w/ a new can of beer, then water).
  • To kick it up a notch I took some of the cider from the recipe above and added about a 1/2C of cider in here.
  • Simmer over medium heat until just cooked through - about 20-mins of simmer.  Stirring occasionally.
  • Finish on a medium grill for good outer grill flavor but not to dry out.
  • Finally - strain the onions and serve on the side w/ the brats, kraut, bread, mustard, potatoes, etc...


We had this for Monday night football this week, but alas the Pack could not pull out a win against the Bears.  It won't stop me from making it again and again, though, as we have many of our friends hooked on the apple cider kraut!

I will be making a huge vat of it for canning soon and a few of you expressed interest in learning to make it with me.  Let me know so I can plan a kraut canning day.

Guten Appetit!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Apricot Family

Last year I wrote a note on Sept 1 about dilly beans.  It's Sept 4th and I'm putting up the dilly beans, rosemary-lemon beans and bread'n'butter relish... but that's not what this note is about.  This note is about our apricot tree.  That tree giveth and giveth no matter how much we shareth and taketh away.

This year we've had at least 15-groups pick (and we could have had 30 judging by the number of wheelbarrows of mashed ground fruit I put in my compost)!  We've had seasoned pickers, neighbors, co-workers, folks from our winter grubshed, winners of a few silent-auctions where we donate 5-pounds every year, and loads of friends.

[An aside - one auction winner was a local banker... he was up on my ladder in his leather loafers replete w/ tassels, pressed dress pants and a short-sleeved pink collared shirt and tie picking fruit on a 90+-degree day!  I loved this so much.]

But today was the best... a good neighbor friend and her three kids, one of my oldest and dearest Missoula friends and another old and now new again Missoula friend and her son all descended up on our tree within 5 minutest of one another... It was only sort of planned... very loose timing, a lot of maybes and delays earlier in the week, and then they were there.

And it was just what EB and I needed.  We'd been spiraling on totally clashing orbits all morning.  She suddenly had 4-friends over, I had a team of good women friends to clean up the warm mushy fruity ground, and then shake the bejeasus out of that tree with me.  And we all had laughs and sticky-sweet fingers and faces within the first few moments.

The apricot tree has balanced us these past few weeks more than a few times.  EB is a pro at gleaning the ground and has a discerning eye for the good vs. the bad fruit, which is a fine line.  We'll spend a half-hour picking the ground.  Then give the fruits a quick rinse and commence pitting.  This is the best part... juice is running down our arms.  You have to pop a few perfect fruits in your mouth.  And EB likes to take two handfuls and just squeeeeeeeeeeze the pits out and dump the rest in the freezer bag.  We're done picking and pitting enough for 2-gallons in less than an hour.  And she gets to press the "wet contents, vacuum and seal" button on the food-saver.

After our apricots friends left today, EB and I were back on the same planet.  We happily finished our day of chores and playing, talking about how special it is to share our fruit with friends so they can feed their families the taste of summer all through the winter.  During the afternoon I got a picture text of one friend pitting and storing w/ her toddler.  And another "thank you" text.  Just the other day I found a jar of chutney on the front steps and my co-worker gave me a jar of jam from their harvest.  The gifts of our tree pass both ways.

Our tree still has a few laden branches left.  All the fruit will be gone by the end of the week.  Tomorrow I'll likely pick my last gallon or two w/ another great friend before I teach her how to shoot a rifle (that's a post for another day).  While the bees and wasps and mashed fruit on soles and scattered lawn nag me more than a few times a week, I'll miss apricots when they are gone. They are so sweet and warmed by the sun.  They make me smile.  They bring over new friends and old friends.  And they'll feed my family - when we're in the throngs of winter, we'll enjoy a pop of hot-August and endearing friendships in our jam, chutney, fruit leather and crisps.

EB said to me the other night, as we were sealing up the last bag, "Mom, this is going to jam that we'll eat all winter, and it will taste great because we made it together."

She is right.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Red, White, Blue and Crispy

I got hooked on a new kind of rice crispy treat from some good friends at a recent BBQ... and then I found a recipe for them on smitten kitchen.  To enhance the flavor of the treats, they use twice the butter, brown the butter first to golden and nutty deliciousness, and add some sea salt w/ the cereal... these really are amazing treats.

So, for the 4th of July I decided to take it up a notch.  Red, white and blue treats.  And, well, I couldn't stop there.

For the red layer I added cinnamon, bit of salt and red coloring... add more than you think or they are a salmon color like mine were.

For the white layer I did like the above - sea salt.

For the blue layer I added some almond extract and a bit of salt.  I didn't put in enough blue, so they were grey-ish... but you get the point.

We used rice checks instead of crispies - I think the larger cereal is nicer.  (sometimes we just mix up the last cup of all the cereal in the house to make them... that's yummy, too.)

I put the red layer down first, then the white, then the blue ... used a greased butter wrapper to press it firmly into a deep 9x9 brownie dish.  Cooled, cut into little triangles... they really were a hit... as gourmet as a red white and blue cereal treat can get.

For the base:
1-stick butter (1/2 C) - melted, browned, no burnt (stir and watch closely)
6-cups marshmallows - add to melted butter off heat, if you need low heat to fully melt, that's cool... but stir and watch.
7-8 cups cereal - stir into smooth butter/mallow mixture
1/4 t sea salt - add w/ cereal

For the Red White and Blues... I doubled the recipe and then split the butter into 3 pans from the start... I added the color w/ the marshmallows.    When it was smooth I added a 1/4 t cinnamon to the red and a couple caps of almond to the blue and the salt to the white....

YUM - Patriotic Yum!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gargantuan Rhubarb

Our rhubarb plant at the old house is gargantuan, almost out of control. When we bought our house 12-years ago it was in the middle of the grass. I dug it up and put it in the raised beds we built the 2nd summer - a combo of llama manure and compost took it to a new place in rhubarb plant-hood. 

Then I split it into 3 plants that went even bigger. So I split each of those into 3 and gave the 6-chunks to friends a few years back and left one for myself. Now I have just one plant left. It still gargantuan and time to split up for friends.

The whole point of telling you this is that i have a lot of rhubarb and I glean it at least 3 times a summer... pies, crisps, sauces, freezing, sharing with friends... With this amount of rhubarb I am often looking for a few new recipes.

This summer a new friend gave me a new recipe. RHUBARB DREAM BARS... the name alone sounds delicious. Here it is for you. Thanks Trinette!

2 c. flour
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter
Mix above together with pastry cutter and press into ungreased 9x13 pan.
Cook for 15 min. at 350 degrees

4-5 eggs
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 c. finely chopped rhubarb
Beat eggs and add sugar, flour and salt. Stir in rhubarb.
Spoon onto crust and bake at 350 degrees for 45 min. or until golden brown.


I got to thinking that this would probably be great w/ other fruits, too. We have a few fruit trees that we prune and glean each year. But there is one tree, the pie cherry tree, that I had never picked. This year we picked all the fruit. It's been soaking in water for a few days (we went to Glacier Park over the weekend) and will get cooked down into a nice base that can be made into jam, pie, chutney, or ... hmmm... I'm thinking a Rhubarb-Tart Cherry Dream bar.

What do you think about that idea?

I'll let you know how it turns out. Feel free to post your recipe idea below.