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            I saw this recipe in my Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving and thought this might make a lovely alternative to the dressing I usually make which is Dan's mother's recipe, which our whole family loves to bits!   This Blueberry-Basil Vinegar is jarred and hot-bathed after quite a lengthy process of leaving it in a large glass bowl in your refrigerator for "three" weeks, stirring every 2-3 days, before you can actually can it.  I do love blueberries and basil, so am happy to say this is excellent and well worth the wait!  When I made the dressing, I found I had absolutely no dijon in the house, so my neighbour, Heather, gave me the amount required of honey dijon in place of the regular.  It was delicious.  We thought it might taste sweet because of the blueberries, but it was a lovely tangy dressing we're looking forward to having again soon! 

Blueberry-Basil Vinegar

Makes about ten 4-oz jars or five 8-oz jars

Ingredients

4 cups blueberries
4 cups white wine vinegar, divided
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, crushed
grated zest of 1 lemon

In a large glass bowl, combine blueberries and 1 cup of the vinegar.  Using a potato masher, lightly crush blueberries.  Add remaining 3 cups vinegar, crushed basil (use a mortar and pestle for this and do it one layer at a time) and lemon zest, stirring to combine.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a dark, cool place for up to 4 weeks, stirring every 2-3 days.  Taste weekly until desired strength is achieved.

Weeks later

Prepare canner, jars and lids.
Line a strainer with several layers of cheesecloth and place over a large stainless steel saucepan.  Strain vinegar without squeezing cheesecloth.  Discard cheesecloth and residue.  Place saucepan over medium heat and heat vinegar to 180F (82C)
Ladle hot vinegar into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Blueberry-Basil Dressing

In a blender, or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine:
    1 clove garlic
    1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
    2 Tbsp Blueberry-Basil Vinegar
    2 Tbsp Olive Oil
    1 tsp Dijon mustard
    1 tsp granulated sugar
    zest of 1/2 lemon
Process until smooth.  Drizzle over a bed of spinach for a light and healthy salad.

I was thinking this might be kinda great to marinade a pork loin in? 

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            If you love curry, you will certainly love this dish and it will quickly become a favourite, as it has in our household!

            We had a park trailer up north until a few years ago and friends of ours (Shelley and George) made this for me one night and gave me the recipe.  Since then, we haven't stopped making it!  (well...not every night silly!) 

            This is the best recipe for getting rid of all the food in your fridge that's leftover in the veggie, meat category.  All you need to have on hand is two cans of cream of mushroom soup, and some Patak's Mild Curry (we always add Thai Red Curry Paste too....cuz we like it HOT!).

         I'll give you the ingredients we had on hand last night for this, but you can switch it up to whatever you have, which is the beauty of this recipe!

Ingredients

Chicken, cubed & cooked
Red & Green Peppers, chopped
Onion, chopped
3-4 Garlic cloves, sliced thin
Mushroom pieces
2 cans Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
Patak's Mild Curry Paste
Thai Red Curry Paste (for heat, optional)
cauliflower, cut into small florets, blanched
broccoli, cut into small florets, blanched
1 cup or so of water
Cilantro
half of a lime

Basmati Rice

Cook the chicken, cubed with a sprinkle of salt & pepper, first and set aside.
Blanch the cauliflower and broccoli, drain and set aside.
Add some olive oil to the pot (we use a big cast iron dutch oven), but have used a cast frypan in the past) and             saute your red & green peppers, onion and garlic cloves.
Add in the mushroom pieces next and saute a little longer.
        (you want to saute the harder pieces of veggies first and add the more tender ones afterward)
At this point, scoop the cream of mushroom soup in...both cans and add about 1/2 cup water and stir.  The
        consistency should be like a thick gravy...add more water as required.
Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer.
Add in the chicken, broccoli and cauliflower at the end to warm them up.

            Your taste is completely personal in this dish.  Last night, for the first time, I added some lime and cilantro and loved it!  Don't forget to cook your rice alongside as you prepare this!  You can have this with chicken, pork, fish, beef....whatever you like and whatever veggies you have, whether they be cooked already (add at end to warm) or raw!  The flavour comes out as strong or as mild as you like and is always excellent!  Be sure to have bread on hand, especially if you make it spicy! 

            Thanks George & Shelley for an awesome recipe!


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            Years ago, Dan & I would frequent the Rude Native restaurant when it was in Hamilton and this is the reason we loved it most!  Although, this isn't their recipe...it's as close to it as we could get!  The one highlight of this meal is dipping your fresh bread into the curried sauce they are cooked in....delicious!

            You can use this as a main meal or as an appetizer for a bunch of people.  We prefer it as a main meal with salad.  This is what we had last night (yes...on my diet...hahaha) and it was completely scrumptious!  It's so easy to prepare and you can make it as hot/spicy or mild as you personally like.

Preparing the Mussels
After you've brought your mussels home from the store, it's important that you de-beard and wash them.  Make sure that each and every mussel is completely closed at this stage.  De-bearding is just pulling the hair-like fibers off that are in the seam of the shell.  When you are washing them, tap on the shell with a knife and if it closes on it's own, it's safe to eat.  Discard the mussels which don't close and any with cracks or holes.  Now, there may be a lapse between preparation of the mussels and dropping them into the pot....just keep cold water on them and they'll be fine.  If any are open (which were closed previously) when you begin to put them in the pot, they'll be fine. 
After cooking, don't eat the mussels that didn't open.

Ingredients
2-3 lbs of mussels
2 cans of coconut milk (don't scrimp and use the "light"...just not the same)
2-4 Tbsp curry paste (we use Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
Chopped Cilantro
Lemon slices
Fresh Bread

        Bring the coconut milk and curry paste to a boil in a large pot.  Smushing (great word!) the red curry paste against the sides of the pot with a wooden spoon will break it up to help it blend.  You can add as much or as little as you like of the paste.  It will define the "heat" of the dish.

        Add the fish sauce and sugar after the curry paste has blended into the milk.

        Add the mussels all at once and stir them into the coconut milk mixture.  Cover the pot and let them steam/cook in there, stirring and checking them a few times.  They should only take about 5 minutes for the shells to open up and cook.

        Serve on a platter or do what we do and throw the pot on the table on a cutting board and be sure and have a refuse bowl on hand for the shells.  Dip your french bread into the Curry Sauce and enjoy your mussels!

Yum!!

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            I think this is the utmost, "to die for" appetizer on the planet!  You all know how in love I am with garlic?  Now, you must try this, if you never have....and come on up to heaven with me!   You can use whatever jelly or chutney or preserves you have on hand that you love to eat to personalize this yummy H'ordervy! 

            I know, I've talked about it in the garlic blog (Herbs, Flowers & Such) and in this section when I wrote about the Balsamic Red Pepper Jelly...which is what we had this with last night!  Enjoy it now!

Garlic, Brie and Toasts

Full heads of Garlic (as many as you think you'll need)
A round of Brie
Dry herbs (anything...rosemary, herbs de province, oregano...)
Loaf of French Stick
Jelly, Jam, preserve or chutney of your choice

Garlic
Peel the outer layer away from the whole head of garlic and cut the top off revealing the cloves.
        (Try not to peel away too much of the garlic head or it may fall apart!)
Place into a casserole dish, not overlapping, sprayed with non-stick spray.
Drizzle Olive Oil over the heads and sprinkle with dried herbs of your choice.
Cover casserole dish and bake for one hour at 375F.

Toasts
Cut a loaf of french stick up into thin (1/4-1/2") slices on the diagonal and place flat on a cookie sheet.
Broil one side (watch closely so they don't burn!) then flip and broil other side until lightly browned.

Brie
Shave off  the skin on the flat round top of the brie and place in microwave safe dish.  Heat in microwave until melted and hot!

            As you can see, this is probably the easiest appetizer to make as well!  You can make this ahead of time and just wrap the garlic heads and the toasts separately in foil packs to heat up wherever you are going.  Throw everything on a platter together and let everyone dig in!

Warning:  You will taste this in the morning on your tongue!


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Sunday's Best Linky Party!
 
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            Today I made seven weenie 125ml jars of Balsamic Red Pepper Jelly.   You might note there are only six in this photo....I piled them that way on purpose...hahaha!  No...we ate some of one with our dinner!  This particular jelly has three jalapeno peppers in it!  Eek!  But, the reason I wanted to make this so badly was for that Garlic & Brie on toasts appetizer I was talking about in my Garlic Blog last week!   There's nothing like the heat of the jelly with the sharp strong taste of the roasted garlic...out of this world!  I will have to make some mild jelly for when my heat-intolerant friends come to visit!  It actually wasn't as hot as I expected it to be...just nice, with a little bit of heat left over at the back of your tongue...

Some of the equipment I used differently:

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            I have never used an actual real life jelly strainer...always the layers of cheesecloth over a sieve!  This was fabulous to use...it perches on top of a bowl and it's not going anywhere.  Just seems to be snug.  I would recommend that anyone who does jellies uses this and it unscrews for easy storage.  Made by Fox Run Culinary Tools and I picked it up at Home Hardware.

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            This is our old canning lifter.  The problem I had using those weenie 125ml jars was that they would slip right through the wires if I used it as is.  So, I took some Heat Resistant Silicone Elastics to build up the base (the coloured sections in the photo).   These elastics are one of the best gifts we've ever received from one of our kids...they're reusable, heat resistant up to 500F and we use them for a myriad of different food preps.  They are made by Architec.

Balsamic Red Pepper Jelly

Makes seven 4-oz (125ml) jars

5 medium red bell peppers, stemmed and seeded
3 medium jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and deveined
2 cloves (I used 3!) garlic
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 package (1.75 oz/ 49-57g) regular powdered fruit pectin
3-1/4 cups granulated sugar

        Finely dice enough red pepper to measure 1/2 cup and set aside.  In a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade, puree remaining red peppers, jalapeno peppers and garlic until smooth.

        Transfer puree to a dampened jelly bag or a strainer lined with several layers of dampened cheesecloth set over a deep bowl.  Let drip, undisturbed, for 30 minutes.  Measure 1-1/2 cups pepper juice.  If you do not have the required amount, add 1/2 cup boiling water to the remaining pulp in the jelly bag to extract additional juice.

        Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.

        Transfer pepper juice to a large, deep stainless steel saucepan.  Add reserved diced red pepper, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.  Whisk in pectin until dissolved.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Boil hard, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam.

        Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

        Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

"Serve this jelly with cream cheese and crackers as an hors d'oeuvre.  Or use it as a glaze for roast poultry or fish"

Thanks to Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving for this tasty recipe!

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            I hadn't made this deliciousness in a few years and was wracking my brain with what to do differently with my basil this year, when I remembered Alice Weatherbee's (This is Wonderland?) most awesome bruschetta-like dip she gave me the recipe for in 2004!  This truly will make you drool for more!   So, with Alice's permission to publish this on my blog and an abundance of yellow tomatoes in our garden plus the basil I grew, Alice & I are sharing this with you! 

            The great feature of this dip is you can serve it cold or warm, which makes it very versatile in that you can use some as soon as you make it....why wouldn't you?!....and freeze the rest in small batches to be pulled out for company as a tasty appetizer.  You could use crusty bread, or toasted french breads and you could even add an accompaniment of spreadable cream cheese with the bread or crackers.  Personally, after tasting it after all these years, I think I'm going to try it on grilled fish!  The lovely sesame flavoured oil in it will give it an oriental essence.


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Ready for Freezer
Basil & Yellow Tomato Dip

1-1/2 cup chopped spanish onion
2 cups chopped yellow tomato
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp chopped garlic
2 tsp black pepper
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup lime juice
2 tsp oregano
4-6 Tbsp white sugar
2 tsp celery salt

            Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight, stirring whenever you open the fridge for something.
            This keeps well in the fridge for several weeks and can be frozen and heated up as well.

            When I made Alice's recipe, I doubled it and messaged her frantically saying "I think it's too much liquid!".  I sent a photo of it at that point as well.  She wrote me back and advised me to add more tomato, onion and basil, so this is reflected in this recipe for one batch, because at the time she wrote it out for me, she did say, "I am terrible at measuring things so this is all guesstimates".   When I doubled the recipe I finished up with eight 250ml jars.  The jars pictured here are made by Bernardin and are twist on tops made specifically for the freezer.
       
            Try not to eat it all at once......it's soooo delicious!

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            Here is where it starts!  Out in the garden, we planted about eight Roma tomato plants, some beefsteak and yellow tomatoes this year and they are falling over with the weight of their bounty!  This year was especially good because we took two great ideas from friends and combined them.  After we planted the tomatoes, we put down newspaper, then put straw on top of the newspaper.  We have had no weeds!  That's right!  No weeds and when the tomatoes fall down onto the straw, they are still as intact as if they were on the bush...no bruising, no grubs, no bugs eating them.  We'll be doing this every year from now on and you all should too!  It truly makes life easy when you don't have to weed.  For me, weeding is a huge undertaking and I never last very long at it before I have to go stretch out, so it becomes a vicious circle because by the time I finish weeding something, I'm starting over on the new ones that sprouted! 

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            This method is just going to floor you with how easy it is to can your tomatoes!  Bring them into the house and cut the tops (stems) off of them after you wash them.  We used Roma's this year only for the sauce.  There's something about them that just makes a nicer pasta sauce.  Get a large pot of boiling water going on the stove and blanch the tomatoes in batches until the skins start to split.  Use a large slotted spoon to transfer the batches to a colander sitting on top of a bowl to catch the liquids.  If you do this in batches you can be working on the tomatoes you just pressed and be boiling the next batch for the press procedure.   In other years, after the tomatoes were lifted out of the boiling water, we used to peel them.  This was not a fun job at all.  Hot, messy, icky!  but this year we thought, why bother taking the skins off because alot of the really great pulp is under that skin, so we didn't!

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            Place the tomatoes into your tomato press and crank it around and around and around.  What we found was that the round sieve disk with the smallest holes works great.  That's at the bottom of the press and all the tomato has to pass through that before you get the good pulpy stuff shown here in the lower pot.  This is where not peeling them or de-seeding the tomatoes worked out great for us.  Oh, a little tiny bit of the skins managed to get through the sieve, but not much by any means and most all the seeds were caught in the press as well.  We were amazed at the pulpier texture of the sauce when we didn't bother peeling them first.  Who knew?  Probably everyone else except us....always the last to know!  Hahaha!  Transfer the pressed tomato mixture to the stove now to thicken up your sauce.

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            Pictured to the left here are two pots of tomato sauce and the reason we have two is because my husband likes it HOT!  The tomato sauce....of course!  So, we added a couple of the dried red chili peppers to the smaller pot of sauce.  After the tomatoes come to a boil, you want to simmer them on a medium-low heat for awhile and reduce the liquid by about a third.  You'll be able to tell if it's the texture you want it to be.  It should be like a thin porridge?  or hey...it should look like your tomato sauce looks coming out of a can!  Duh!  Why didn't I think of that?  This reducing takes a few hours of simmering.    When it is the consistency you like, then add your dried spices to it.  Now, this is a different process from what alot of other people do as well.  Many people add their herbs and spices into each jar they make when they pour the sauce into the jars.

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            We like to add the spices right into the pot and cook them in and taste test (the best part) to see if it needs anything else?  This year was different for us, like I said and we didn't add onions or garlic or salt to the sauce.    Into the one sauce I should say...lets not forget about the hot chili peppers in the other pot!  All we added were some different dried herbs like basil, oregano, herbs de provence, celery salt and although I didn't see Dan spice his hot sauce...I'm betting he put in cayenne!  

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            We wanted this sauce to be somewhat bland, in that other years we've added onions, fresh garlic, celery, etc..., but this year we decided it would be more versatile a batch if we could just add fresh what we wanted in it at the time of cooking.  Unlike other years as well, this year, we decided to hot-bath jars.  Most years we freeze the sauce in plastic sealed containers.  So, we dug out our hot bath canning pot and the cookbooks to see how long to water bath the jars for and then....had an epiphany!  We remembered my daughter Alana and her man, Mark go to his Nonna's every year and make tomato sauce.  It's a big family fest where Mark's family spends all day making sauce and everyone takes some home!  Sounds like so much fun!   Did I mention Mark's Italian?  Who better to give advise on tomato sauce?  We called Alana & Mark and asked about their method of finishing off the sauce because we recalled they didn't use a hot bath canner.  Oh, it's so simple.  Fill your HOT, sterilized (we use our dishwasher for this) jars with HOT sauce brought back to a boil.  Using a funnel made for canning makes this part easier.  Fill to within 1/4 inch of the top and make sure there is no sauce on the lip of the jar...if there is wipe it off, with a clean cloth or paper towel, and dry it.  Put the sealers (hot and sterilized as well) on and turn them upside down on your counter overnight.  No hot water bath, no burning your fingers (if your name is Wendy that is), no heating up your kitchen!  Yay!  I'm not sure if this will work on anything else you would do in a hot-water bath and am not willing to take the risk of not doing that last step for other types of foods, but if tomato sauce goes bad, you know as soon as you open the jar, so don't worry! 

            This is such an easy method that even beginners who are daunted by all the equipment required to can tomatoes need only buy a tomato press of any sort and some jars!  I like knowing that our sauce originates from our own organically grown tomatoes!

Further to this post:  Since making this sauce, I've been surfing the web for more info and it appears that although this sauce "may" and "most likely is" safe if done in a clean, sterile manner, it's possible that some bacterial organisms could still be prevalent.  We are taking the precaution of refrigerating our jars done in this manner.  Although Mark has never said if anyone was ever sick from his Nonna's recipe, I'm still a little leary, so better safe than sorry!  Hot Pressure Canning is apparently best for tomato sauce, then water bath canning.  Just an FYI