How to make delicious homemade canned dill pickles. Small Town Girl Blog.

Adventures in Canning: Dill Pickles

A summer of canning would not be complete with out classic dill pickles now would they? I love dill pickles. I’m one of those people who can sit around and eat them straight out of the jar and call it a meal. The salty, vinegary flavor just does it for me. I tried to wait for my seedlings to produce but as of last week,  I’ve picked one… and when your local produce market dangles a 20 lb box of perfect pickling cucumbers in front of you…

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You cave! So this was my first time making pickles and with so many I wanted them to be the way I like them: no sugar, very vinegary and dilly (obviously) with garlic. I consulted the Ball Blue Book first but couldn’t find quite what I was looking for. Most of their recipes call for sugar, and, um no. I hate sweet pickles. It’s just not my bag. Next I searched web to see what other fellow bloggers had done. I soon realized it was simply a matter of determining your water/salt/vinegar ratio. Then add your extras and the rest is simple. So here’s my custom but basic recipe for delicious dill pickles!

Makes 6 wide mouth quarts

Ingredients:

  • 10 lbs pickling cucumbers
  • 10 cups water
  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 2/3 cup pickling salt
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 6 dill heads

Instructions:

Soak and thoroughly rinse cucumbers. Remove any excess blossoms or stems.

How to make delicious homemade canned dill pickles. Small Town Girl Blog.

I found it useful to separate my cucumbers into small, medium, and large piles.

How to make delicious homemade canned dill pickles. Small Town Girl Blog.

At this point start sanitizing your jars and lid rims. I just use the antibacterial setting on the dishwasher using water only. Works like a charm.

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Add water, vinegar, and salt to a large pot and bring to a boil. I check and stir occasionally as I’m setting everything else up. Once the salt is dissolved, turn the heat down to a simmer.

This is also a good time to get your water bath stock pot warmed up and another smaller pot for warming up your lid caps.

Cut dill heads. I also like to keep some of the bushy branches as they have a bit of flavor too.

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Shell garlic cloves.

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And now were ready to can!

Start with however many cans you can fit in your stock pot. For me, it’s 4 of the quart sized ones. So I take 4 out of the dishwasher and continue to let the rest sanitize.

Put 1 dill head and 2 garlic cloves in each can. If the dill head is very small, I’ll throw some of those bushy branches in too.

How to make delicious homemade canned dill pickles. Small Town Girl Blog.

Add cucumbers lengthwise into the jars. I start with the mediums cucs and then stuff the top with small ones.

How to make delicious homemade canned dill pickles. Small Town Girl Blog.

Ladle hot vinegar/salt/water mixture over cucumbers leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Cover with lid and cap.

Boil in the water bath for 10 minutes.

What to do with the big cucs?

For me, I ran out of big quart jars before I got to the big cucumbers. So I cut them up and put them in pint jars for gifts. Worked like a charm!

How to make delicious homemade canned dill pickles. Small Town Girl Blog.

Important: Wait at least a week before opening your first bottle. This will help set the flavors.

Enjoy!!

How to make delicious homemade canned dill pickles. Small Town Girl Blog.

Summer Squash Breakfast Hash. A delicious and healthy way to enjoy your squash in the morning! Small Town Girl Blog.

Summer Squash Breakfast Hash

Summer Squash Breakfast Hash. A delicious and healthy way to enjoy your squash in the morning! Small Town Girl Blog. This is the best breakfast ever!! Seriously. Turning squash into hash browns is healthy, flavorful, and down right awesome!! I didn’t know how much I liked squash until this summer. It’s been a very slow and steady journey over the years but I think I’m finally finding my squash voice. When I first started growing zucchini, I did it just for the zucchini bread, which is delicious, but you don’t even taste the zucchini. It kinda felt like I was cheating. So last year I started playing around with grilling and frying zucchini as many of us novice “squashers” do. Trying to bring out the flavor carefully and cautiously as to not disturb my under developed pallet. During that experimentation I came up with my favorite go to summer lunch: Zucchini Pizza Bites which I now have several variations of and enjoy for lunch almost daily. I’ve been running out of zucchini this year with how quickly I’ve been gobbling it up, and I haven’t made bread once!!! This summer Mrs. Stout introduced me to crookneck quash. Such a hideous name for such a delicious plant. Seriously, they taste like butter! There is no way this could be healthy and yet it is! I’m growing my own next year for sure!! She’s got a few plants and more squash than she knows what to do with. The first time she gave me half a dozen! I panicked thinking “What am I going to do with all these before they rot??” It was time to go to the interweb in search of new ideas! I am not about to waste a gift from a dear friend! No sir! My initial thought was turning the squash into hash and it worked perfectly. Spruce it up with some tomatoes, feta, and crack an egg of the top and you have my new favorite breakfast!! Now I’m calling up Mrs. Stout every week begging for more delicious squash. Stay tuned for other delicious recipes featuring this fantastic veggie.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 small summer squash  – I use zucchini and crookneck
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 2 rashers of bacon or 1/4 cup diced ham
  • 3 tbsp feta
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Time: 15 minutes

Servings: 1

Instructions:

Shred squash using a wide cheese grater.

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Place squash in a fine colander and use the base of a cup or something similar to press as much of the moisture out as you can.

Place a medium skillet on a wide burner at medium heat.

Melt butter and coat the pan.

Add squash to the pan in a single even layer. It will look like a lot but it shrinks.

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Allow the layer to cook for 5 minutes.

Flip the sqash once and flatten it into a single even layer again.

Sprinkle tomatoes and feta over the top and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

Crack and egg on top of the hash and cover the pan for 3 minutes. The excess moisture from the squash will steam the egg perfectly!

Summer Squash Breakfast Hash. A delicious and healthy way to enjoy your squash in the morning! Small Town Girl Blog.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Now of course it looks so pretty in the pan and you could eat it right then and there in all it’s glory….

Summer Squash Breakfast Hash. A delicious and healthy way to enjoy your squash in the morning! Small Town Girl Blog.

But I like to dump it on a plate and mix it all up like a little kid. I think it tastes best that way!

Summer Squash Breakfast Hash. A delicious and healthy way to enjoy your squash in the morning! Small Town Girl Blog.

Enjoy!

The Cadillac Margarita. Made with top shelf liquors, fresh lime, and agave nectar. This is the best margarita you will ever have!!!

The Cadillac Margarita

This is the tale of one girl and her quest for the holy grail of margaritas. I have loved margaritas since I became of legal drinking age. It was one of the first cocktails I tried and has remained dear to my heart over the years. Shortly after I turned 21, I was promoted to bartender at the local Black Angus where I was a part-time hostess while going to school. I was trained by two powerhouse gals, Kandy and April. The three of us became fast friends and often went out for cocktails together after our shifts. Monday’s were special evenings for us since it was the only evening all 3 of us had off and Ally McBeal was on!! I looooooove Ally McBeal! So each Monday, we would congregate to Kandy’s home for dinner, Ally McBeal, and of course, margaritas. We would debate over our prefered tequilas, and mixers all the time. However we all agreed that the Cadillac margarita was, by far, the best type of margarita out there.

The Cadillac Margarita. Made with top shelf liquors, fresh lime, and agave nectar. This is the best margarita you will ever have!!!

The Cadillac Margarita is considered by many, the best margarita out there. It is always made with top shelf ingredients and augmented with an orange liquor, typically Grand Mariner or Cointreau. Most Mexican restaurants will have a version of this on their cocktail menu, just look for the most expensive one. Believe me, it’s worth the extra couple of bucks!

One of my goals for the summer was to do a couple of blog posts showcasing my favorite cocktails. This was at the top of the list. But in all honesty, it had been some time since I made a margarita for myself. Why? The only way I knew how to make them is with sweet and sour mix. Now, when I was 21, I didn’t care very much about what I put in my body, so sweet and sour mix seemed just dandy. These days, my tastes have sophisticated particularly in the margarita department. A freshly made margaritas with real limes is far superior to that bottled crap. I mean, look at the ingredient list:

Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Acacia Gum, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Polysorbate 60, Natural Flavors, Ester Gum, Sodium Metabisulfite (Preservative), Calcium Disodium EDTA (to Protect Flavor), Yellow 5, Yellow 6.

No thank you!! I firmly believe all margarita lovers should unite and shout:

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Good lord Faye Dunaway was terrifying!! Do you think if a bartender saw that coming at them they would serve that garbage? I think not!

So I try to keep my margarita drinking to places with a reputation for quality cocktails.  However, I have learned that even these places will cheat. I went to a certain swanky Mexican fusion restaurant in downtown Bellevue (the hoity toity neighbor of Seattle) recently where it says at the top of the cocktail menu: All Margaritas are crafted with 100% Blue Agave tequila and fresh juices…. and then I watched the bartender fill up half the glass with sour mix! I couldn’t believe it! I had half a mind to say something but decided against it since it was happy hour and I was already getting the drink for half price.

And why am I so particular about quality margaritas? It’s one of those things where once you have an exemplar, there is no turning back.

The Cadillac Margarita. Made with top shelf liquors, fresh lime, and agave nectar. This is the best margarita you will ever have!!!Which brings us to last June where I found myself at a teacher professional development summit in San Diego. Having never been to San Diego, it was only natural to spend the evenings exploring the area. On our last night, we decided to check out a Mexican Restaurant in the Gas Light District called La Puerta. La Puerta takes great pride in what they serve, practically everything is made fresh daily with the best ingredients. This is the place where I had The Best Margarita EVER!!! …. and another….. and another. The angels came down from heaven, Jimmy Buffet started singing, I was riding a unicorn on the beach…. you get the idea. It was beyond perfection. After getting down off my unicorn I grabbed the menu and took another look at the ingredients. Pure agave tequila, ok. Cointreau, sure. Lime, duh! Agave nectar….. huh? Never heard of that. After some brief googling I learned that it’s a natural sweetener much like maple syrup but made from the same plant that renders tequila. A ha! This is the key to getting past the sweet and sour mix problem. If I add a little of this, some sweetened lime juice and fresh lime, we should be in business!! And boy, were we ever!! So why don’t I shut up already and tell you how to make it right?? Right!

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. pure agave tequila – Cazadores and Hornitos are my favorites.
  • 1/2 oz Grand Mariner or Cointreau
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1 oz sweetened lime juice
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar – you can find this in the organic baking section of your local grocery store
  • 1 oz water
  • kosher salt (optional)

Tools: Cocktail Shaker and Muddler

Instructions

Add tequila, Grand Mariner, and the lime wedge to a cocktail shaker and muddle.

Add sweetened lime juice, agave nectar, and water to the cocktail shaker and shake.

Salt the rim of your glass and add ice.

Strain liquid into glass and enjoy!

The Cadillac Margarita. Made with top shelf liquors, fresh lime, and agave nectar. This is the best margarita you will ever have!!!

Mom's Meaty Enchiladas

Mom’s Meaty Enchiladas

Mom's Meaty EnchiladasBecause sometimes you just want meat! I’ll admit I’m not a big carnivore. I like a little meat and a lot of pasta, veggies, sauces, and cheese. But, on occasion, meat just sounds great! That’s where this completely non – authentic, ultimate comfort food, super meat bomb comes into play. Mom has been making this since, like, forever! It’s been in the rotation since I was little. When I moved away for college, she gave me a recipe book with a couple of our family favorites including Sour Cream Chicken, Chicken and Rice, and this gem. And these meals were so crucial to my education in cooking as well as getting decent nutrition during finals week. Meat + carbs = brain food people!!  Every time I make it, it’s like being a kid again sitting around the dinner table talking about piano lessons or future family vacations. Oh nostalgia.

These days, when I make it, I like to add pico de gallo and guacamole so I feel like I’m getting some veggies in there. This dish would also go great with Mexican style beans and rice.

Oh did I mention how EASY this is too make?? If you have a family to feed, or love leftover lunches this is a must make! It only takes 20 minutes to prepare and look at the list of ingredients below! I’ll wait….. did you look? You probably already have them all. Am I right?

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 can beef or turkey chili
  • 6 medium sized flour tortillas
  • 3 cups Mexican style shredded cheese

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook ground beef, onion, and taco seasoning in a skillet.

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Drain and set aside.

In a wide bowl add chili and an additional can full of water. (I got lazy and used a large skillet instead of digging for a big bowl. No I did not heat up the chili at all, just to be clear.)

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Set up your assembly line: chili with water, tortillas, shredded cheese, taco meat, greased 9X13 pan, and a plate to roll the enchiladas on.

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Dip a tortilla in the chili/water mix. Yes, this is your very unauthentic enchilada sauce… and it is awesome!! Just trust me on this.

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Lay it on your work plate and add taco meat and cheese. You are not going to fold in the ends of the tortilla so go ahead and put lots of taco meat in each!

Mom's Meaty Enchiladas

Roll and place in the pan seam side down. Repeat steps for the other 5 enchiladas.

Mom's Meaty Enchiladas

Bake for 15 minutes.

Strain chili/water so all that remains are the beans and meat.

Remove enchiladas from oven and sprinkle beans and cheese over the top.

Mom's Meaty Enchiladas

Bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve with your favorite Mexican sides:

My recipe for: Pico De Gallo

My recipe for: Guacamole

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How to can delicious dilly beans. Small Town Girl Blog.

Adventures in Canning: Dilly Beans

How to can delicious dilly beans. Small Town Girl Blog. Last summer I discovered the wonderful world of canning. It’s the crafty, rewarding, and a great way to stay productive in the summer. As a teacher, I’ll admit, I get lazy and out of sync when I don’t have a schedule… Canning is on of several activities that keeps me busy and focused during long breaks from work. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a new hobby or just something different to do the next time you find yourself hanging around the house being bored.

The best place to start is by purchasing the Ball Blue Book. It explains everything in fantastic detail and has a wealth of recipes. For more information, check out the Ball getting started website.

Dilly Beans was the first recipe that I tried on my own and it was EASY! My friend, Mrs. Awesome, makes these every year with her daughters. They are a coveted family treat in their household. Last year, she gave us a couple extra cans and they were gone in 3 days! Once they were gone, I knew I had to start canning if we were going to have a steady supply of this spicy pickled goody in our home. The recipe calls for 2 lbs of beans which sounds substantial at first… until you notice it only makes about 4 jars. Between MM and I, those are as good as gone in a week. That simply will not do! So, this year I decided to start with 5 lbs which yielded 12 cans. That’s way more like it!

There is absolutely no reason to deter from the genius that is the Ball Blue book nor do I see a reason to type out the recipe, so here ya go:

How to can delicious dilly beans. Small Town Girl Blog.

Below are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way:

First, you need to wash and cut the beans. This is the most tedious part of the whole operation. Make sure you get rid of the stalks in particular.

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I like to add the dill, cayenne pepper, and garlic to the cans before stuffing them with beans. It’s easier. It says to use a whole head of dill per can but the ones I got were huge so I broke them into thirds and it worked great. I also like using the stringy leafy bits as well as the heads.

How to can delicious dilly beans. Small Town Girl Blog.

Then stuff the beans lengthwise into the cans.

How to can delicious dilly beans. Small Town Girl Blog.

After adding the boiling liquid, you’ll want to get the air bubbles out using headspace tool. You will probably find that you may be able to stuff a few more beans in the can too…. do it!!

Seal the cans and put them in a 10 minute water bath.

I like to wait at least 4 days before diving in. It gives the flavors a chance to really sink in.

Enjoy chilled.

How to can delicious dilly beans. Small Town Girl Blog.

Garlic Dill Dip. The most amazing dip in the world. This is the only one you will ever need. Great for all occasions. Seriously, you need this in your life! Small Town Girl Blog.

Garlic Dill Dip

Garlic Dill Dip. The most amazing dip in the world. This is the only one you will ever need. Great for all occasions. Seriously, you need this in your life! Small Town Girl Blog.This is the single most amazing dip in the world!! I’m serious. It’s a rare day that you won’t find this in our fridge at home. It’s quick, easy to make, keeps for up to a week, and goes with just about everything. I enjoy eating it especially with pita chips and fresh snap peas from the garden but it’s also great with french fries, roasted potatoes, in salad, on a sandwich, on grilled chicken, as a veggie dip, chip dip, you name it! This dip permanently replaced almost all cream based dressing or dips in our house. It’s the perfect flavor for every occasion. I can’t rave about it enough!! Oh and best of all? The lightened up version which is only 30 calories per tbsp tastes just as awesome! If fact, that’s all I make.

I’ve been making this recipe for years and have only waited to share with you now because I wanted to take the pics with my fresh grown snap peas in the garden. Silly I know, but I’m so proud of my homegrown veggies. So where did this wonderful recipe come from? The long-short of it is its my friend’s father’s recipe. One camping trip several years back, she made it and presented it to us as a veggie dip for a relaxing hot afternoon. It was sensational. Everyone went nuts for it, including me. I begged for the recipe and started making it on a regular basis. Naturally I asked if I could write a post for the blog as well. Being the good buddy that she is, she naturally said yes! Hooray! Now I get to share with the world!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayo (light mayo for the lighter version)
  • 1 cup sour cream (fat-free or light for the lighter version)
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic pressed
  • 1 tbsp dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Prep time: 10 minutes

Chill time: at least 3 hours

Important: It will not taste right until you let the dill and garlic permeate for a few hours. You just have to wait!

Instructions

Using a fine cheese grater, grate the onion to get about 1 tbsp of onion zest.

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Mix all ingredients in a bowl and chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

Garlic Dill Dip. The most amazing dip in the world. This is the only one you will ever need. Great for all occasions. Seriously, you need this in your life! Small Town Girl Blog.

A delicious mash-up cocktail! Part mojito, part dark and stormy. All delicious! The perfect summer drink! Small Town Girl Blog.

The Stormy Mojito

A delicious mash-up cocktail! Part mojito, part dark and stormy. All delicious! The perfect summer drink! Small Town Girl Blog.A delicious mash-up cocktail! Part Mojito, part Dark and Stormy. I’m sure you’ve heard of a mojito but you probably haven’t heard of a dark and stormy have you? It’s my absolute favorite summer drink. Essentially, it’s dark rum, ginger ale, and a lime garnish. I prefer mine with a spiced rum like Captain Morgan’s or Sailor Jerry’s and lighter more mainstream ginger ale like Canada Dry. It’s light refreshing and perfect for a hot day. Seriously, try it!

 

A delicious mash-up cocktail! Part mojito, part dark and stormy. All delicious! The perfect summer drink! Small Town Girl Blog.So how did the stormy mojito come to be? Well, it started with a hot day, naturally. There was nothing in the fridge to sip on except the fancy organic super gingery ale by Reed’s that I used to make my Crockpot Ginger Ale Pulled Pork. Generally, if you order a dark and stormy at a restaurant, it will come with a strong organic ginger ale that is a bit bitey like Reed’s. The first sip was very gingery and needed to be tamed so I added some lime juice. At that point, I thought to myself, “Well, I’m half way to a mojito…” Next thing I know I’m snatching mint of my overgrown plant (see it in the background of the pics?) and grabbing my muddler. This was such a good idea!! The muddled mint and lime are a perfect complement to the strong ginger ale. This is the perfect summer cocktail! I hope you love it as much as I do!!

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz spiced rum
  • 5 oz organic ginger ale (Reed’s)
  • 5 mint leaves
  • 2 lime wedges

Equipment: Cocktail tumbler and muddler. Hint: if you don’t have a muddler, try using the back end of a wooden spoon or something similar. Works like a charm!

Instructions:

Add spiced rum, mint, and lime to tumbler and muddle vigorously.

Strain over ice and add ginger ale.

A delicious mash-up cocktail! Part mojito, part dark and stormy. All delicious! The perfect summer drink! Small Town Girl Blog.