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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



 
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        An absolutely scrumptious main course chicken that's so easy to put together...just a little tiny bit time consuming to ensure you seal the edges so the ooey-gooey, cheesy stuffing doesn't drip out into your BBQ!  We've never had any complaints about these...only praises,  and I love to make them for company because you can make them all up ahead of time and leave them in the fridge until you're ready to barbeque them and then the mess of preparing the main meal is not an issue with guests visiting.  I got this recipe several years ago from Dan's mother and I'm really not sure where it originally came from, so apologize if I've seized someone's prize recipe!  I also realize this isn't a Weight Watcher's recipe and is full of fat, but, does it count that I had a vegetarian burger tonight?  I promise to be good tomorrow!  It's awful being human!

Ingredients

6oz Goat Cheese
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Green Onion, minced
1 tsp Dry Thyme
1/2 tsp Dry Marjoram
Pinch Cayenne
4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp each ground cumin/paprika
1/4 tsp each salt/pepper

    In a small bowl, combine goat cheese, garlic, green onion, thyme, marjoram and cayenne until smooth.  Set aside.

    Trim any fat from chicken.  With knife held horizontally and starting at thinner side, cut chicken in half "almost" but not all the way through.  Open like a book.  Spread one side of each with cheese mixture.  I use a heaping regular big spoonful, depending on the size of the breast.  Fold uncovered side over and secure edge with toothpicks.  Be sure to make sure it's fairly tightly sealed or the cheese will ooze out on the bbq....use 2-3 toothpicks as needed.

    In a small dish or measuring cup, whisk together oil, cumin, paprika, salt & pepper.  Brush all over chicken (both sides).

    Place on greased grill over med-high heat.  Close lid and grill, turning once, until golden brown and chicken is no longer pink inside.  Approx. 8 minutes per side.

    Makes 4 Servings

327 cal, 39 gm protein, 18 gm total fat, trace fiber......again.....bad, bad, bad...but yummy!

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        BBQ Pork slices are definitely an all-round loved recipe in our family.  Robynn, one of our daughters, used to ask for this for birthdays all the time and now she makes it herself...as do the other kids!  It's just like authentic Chinese BBQ Pork and came from the Australian Women's Weekly "Chinese Cooking Class Cookbook".  I do it a wee bit different, but it tastes the same as the original recipe.  Same ingredients, different method of combining them.  I guarantee you'll love this!


Ingredients

2 - 12oz. lean pork tenderloin fillets
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp dry red wine
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp red food colouring (optional)
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 shallot minced

        Combine the soy sauce, red wine, honey, brown sugar, food colouring, crushed garlic, cinnamon and shallot into a large measuring cup.  Place pork into large ziploc bag and pour marinade into the bag.  Try to get all the air out of the bag when sealing.  You can make this after marinading for only one hour, however, it's much better marinaded either all day or overnight, turning occasionally.
        Drain the pork fillets from the marinade, reserving the marinade.  I like to barbeque these on low heat, but you can cook on a rack in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.  The secret to this BBQ Pork is to turn every 5 minutes and marinade every time you flip them.  On the BBQ it takes about 30 minutes as well and I like to make sure the meat thermometer is at about 150-155F.
        Remove from BBQ or oven and cover with foil.  Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing into diagonal slices to serve. 

        We had this last night with fluffy basmati rice cooked with peppers, onions & okra and fresh yellow beans from our garden.
       

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        When you place this succulent dish as the center attraction for your guests, the whole meal becomes an interactive event.  I've served it up in a cast iron baking dish and the best part of this extravaganza is dipping fresh bread into the olive oil broth for a divine flavour burst in your mouth!  Heavenly!  We've been making this for years and it's always a hit!  Enjoy!

                                                                        Oven 425 degrees.

Ingredients

1-1/2 to 2 lbs Black Tiger Shrimp, deveined/shelled
Olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
Red Pepper Flakes
Half Lemon
Half Lime
Salt & Pepper
Garnish with chopped Cilantro or Basil (if desired)
Loaf of French Stick

     Peel and devein shrimp and spread in cast iron pan.  Pour olive oil over the shrimp to the point of having a thin layer in the base of the pan.
Spread minced garlic onto shrimp and sprinkle with red chili flakes.  Squeeze lemon & lime onto ingredients and salt & pepper to taste.
Bake in oven approx. 12 minutes, turning halfway through.  Garnish with herbs of choice.

Nutritional Value:  Very, very bad.

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    These were picked within one hour prior to cooking.  Truly, only pick the ones that are approx. 3-4 inches long....they are most tender.  When they get larger than that, they start to get woody.

Purchase firm and brightly coloured okra pods that are less than 4 inches long; they will be more tender than the larger ones.

Points value: 1
Prep: 4 minutes - Cook: 10-15minutes
Ingredients

1-1/2 lbs okra pods
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Cooking Spray

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Combine okra and next five ingredients in a large bowl, and toss well to coat.  Spread okra in a single layer on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray.
3. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until okra is crisp-tender.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size about 1 cup)
per serving: Cal 61 (35% from fat); Fat 2.4g (sat 0.3g); Pro 2.4g; Carb 9.1g; Fib 3.7g; Chol 0mg; Iron; 1mg; Sod 305mg; Calc 96mg.
(From WeightWatchers "five ingredient 15 minute cookbook"

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          A subject that has always been near and dear to both Dan & I.  We both cook....different menu items from different cultures.  We mix things up and we use a lot of spices and fresh ingredients mostly.  Some of our recipes are tried and true that we've been making for years and added our own twists to and others are brand new to us that are to die for!  I'm hoping you'll take my word for it and just try a few of the many recipes I'm hoping to post here.  When the credit belongs to a cookbook or another blog, I'll definitely give the kudos away, but if you don't see any signs of referral, that means it's our recipe we just made up or tweaked so much, it became our very own!  We did have 5 kids at home for a majority of years and always fed a healthy dinner.  Dinner was the time to sit down and talk about our days.  We both worked 12hr shifts and so, the TV went off and it was the only time of day you could get almost everyone, or all or us, together!  Table Etiquette was taught, however in our family, not always adhered to...but we were just happy knowing they knew how to behave properly in public, but felt safe enough to horse around sometimes at the table.  Dan was probably the worst offender getting them going sometimes, but those were interesting years! 

        As you can see, I've changed my cooking page into a Blog page.  I believe this will be better for categorizing foods in the sidebar.  Learning, learning, learning.....

Bon Appetit!