Monday, March 30, 2009

Pass the Homemade Roasted Garlic Taco Sauce, PLEASE!!

How I got on to wanting to learn how to can foods is beyond me. Once I start thinking about something though, I almost always become obsessed with wanting to do it. It is not like my garden is ever overflowing with brilliantly-colored fruits and vegetables. Quite the opposite. I start out with good intentions, but never have the time to devote to caring for my garden. Last year the only thing that survived my lack of a "green thumb" was my basil and a few lonely salad cucumbers. Hardly the bounty to start canning with! But, I love the canning jars and the fact that I could give gifts of homemade jams and jellies. And, if I could effectively learn how to can homemade soups, I could send them to my son who is in college.

The word that resonates through my search for information on canning is... MICROORGANISMS!! Forget it!! The last thing I want to do is poison my friends and family. My honey (Kenny) bought me the equipment, so I just had to try.

That brings me to my homemade taco sauce. This is something that I make a lot because we are a family of spicy eating. It is fresh tasting, free of preservatives and extremely cost effective. The good thing about this taco sauce is that it freezes well. So, if you aren't on a quest to can, then pop several containers in the freezer for your eating pleasure.

Gin's Homemade Roasted Garlic Taco Sauce

3 cups tomato paste
2 heads of roasted garlic, cooled
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Ancho pepper powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
t tablespoon hot pepper sauce
5 cups water
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 corn syrup or honey

(1) Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. (2) Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thicken. (3) ENJOY!!

The color of this taco sauce is a deep hue of red. The taste is fresh, spicy, with the tang of sweet roasted garlic. Obviously, it goes great with tacos. It also can be used to make soup, meatloaf, and fresh salsa. You can add or delete chili powder to suit your taste for spicy foods.

I did can this. All I do is keep staring at the jars trying to decide if they are free of bacteria, microorganisms, molds and yeast! I feel pretty confident that I did everything correct and my taco sauce is safe to eat. I will tell you just how confident I am that I canned my taco sauce properly. Next week I am going to Tampa to visit my son who goes to the University of South Florida. He has had mono since Thanksgiving and FINALLY has started to feel better. The last thing I would want to do is to poison him with my canned taco sauce. I am taking him a jar!! Stay tuned........

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The $12,000 Donut

Who could not use $12,000 dollars right about now? I know that I could. That would pay for my new kitchen counter tops and my broken KitchenAid! I have an ever so slight chance to win $12,000, and so can you!!

For all my foodie friends, this contest is right up your alley. Head over to They are running a contest until April 7, to create their next donut. The prize for the winning donut is $12,000. It is easy to do. There are some really unique flavor combinations to choose from. Let me know it you decide to try your hand at this contest. It is a lot of fun to see the donuts that people have created. You guys are so creative, I just know one of you can win this. The story that you attach to your donut is pretty important, so make sure you bring your best writing skills to the contest.

Who wouldn't want to eat a Dunkin Dounut everyday? I know I would. Their coffee alone is enough to get me there. Add a donut to that coffee and I am all in! I have to face the facts though, I can not eat a donut everyday. No matter how many miles I run, it would never be enough if I was eating a donut a day! For a special treat, I choose Dunkin Donuts. In honor of this contest, I have come up with a "healthy" version of a donut hole.

Gin's Baked Donut Holes

1 cup reduced fat baking mix
1/4 cup Splenda sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon butter extract
1/4 egg substitute
2/3 cup fat free half-n-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 can reduced sugar frosting

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (2) Spray a 12 hole mini muffin pan with cooking spray. (3) In a medium bowl, combine baking mix, 1/4 cup Splenda, cinnamon, egg, half-n-half, vanilla and almond extract. Mix well to combine. (4) Drop by spoonfuls into prepared muffin pan and bake for 14 to 16 minutes. (5) Place muffin pan on a wire rack and cool for 12 minutes. Remove holes from pan. (6) Melt 1/2 can frosting in microwave. Dip donut holes in frosting. Cool and enjoy!!

These donut holes are a simple concoction with a hint of sweetness. I add a couple of tablespoons of fiber to mine to add a bit more "health." You can also roll the holes in sprinkles or colored sugar after dipping in the frosting, if you so do choose.

Now, go to dunkindonut and create for a chance to win $12,000!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pass the Sweet Tart Mandarin Orange Muffins PLEASE

Mandarin Oranges are in every grocery store around here. These oranges are awesome. They are sweet, easy to peel, a great to go snack, and good for you!! What more can you ask for? I will tell you!! For them to go away!! Bear with me on this. When you buy fresh Mandarin Oranges, they come in a big pack. It is like you are buying them in bulk. You bring them home. You peel and eat, and eat, and eat, and eat...... You can not eat them fast enough before they start to spoil, or you become sick of them. What is a foodie to do?

I peel a bunch of Mandarin Oranges and freeze them. They are great to add to smoothies. You can add them to salads for a different taste twist. Finally, you can bake with them. This brings me to the Sweet Tart Mandarin Orange Muffins.

Sweet Tart Mandarin Orange Muffins

3 eggs
2/3 c. orange juice
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 cup melted vanilla chips
1/2 c. butter, melted
3 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
10 peeled Mandarin Oranges
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1/2 almond extract

(1) Gently mix all ingredients except Oranges. (2) Gently fold in Oranges. (3) Fill prepared muffin cups to the top. (4) Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

If you like, you can add a crumb topping to your Mandarin Orange Muffins. It is simple and adds an additional sweetness to these delectable treats. Here is what I like the most about these muffins. They are not too sweet or not to tart. It is a perfect combination of flavors. These are great with morning coffee, or a big glass of cold milk. I carefully packed them and shipped a batch to my son who is in college. They arrived at his apartment and were all eaten the same day. You never have to worry about shipping food to college students and it spoiling!!

I would like to tell you that I bought my Mandarin Oranges at Jungle Jims. I wish I could blog about this place, but I could never make you understand what it is without pictures. No photography in Jungle Jims! I have put a call in to Jungle Jims asking if I could have permission to take some pictures? No word yet, but I am keeping my fingers crossed! Until then, go to their web site and see what I have in my back yard!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Saying Happy Saint Patrick's Day With a Big Bowl of Corned Beef and Cabbage

HAPPY SAINT PATRICK'S DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love Saint Patrick's Day. I love going to the bar and drinking green beer. Let's face it, we all need a little green beer in our diets! I like wearing green because it is a spring color. Most of all, I love eating corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots! This dish brings the flavors of the holiday to your table with such ease even my "Honey" could prepare it.

Gin's Corned Beef, Cabbage, Potatoes and Carrots

2 packages of corned beef with spice packet

1 small head green cabbage

5 carrots, peeled and cut in chunks

10 small potatoes, cut in cubes

1 head garlic, roasted

1 tablespoon beef bouillon

1 tablespoon McCormick's Smokehouse Pepper

(1) Fill a slow cooker with water and set to low. Place corned beef in slow cooker with spice packets and cook 8 to 10 hours. (2) Roast garlic. (3) After 8 to 10 hours remove corned beef and let cool so you can slice. (4) Add half of the juice from the slow cooker to a big stock pot. Add an equal part water, beef bouillon, potatoes, carrots and roasted garlic. Cook until carrots and potatoes are tender. (5) Add corned beef and cabbage to pot and simmer until cabbage is tender. (6) Season with McCormick's Smokehouse Pepper. A word about additional salt: YOU WON'T NEED IT!! If you insist on salting make sure you start slow and taste. You don't want to ruin this masterpiece!!

Don't kid yourself, this isn't a dish just for Saint Patrick's Day. This can and should be eaten year round. This dish is addictive and unforgettable. It is a great way to eat cabbage. The great thing about making this in the summer months is that you make it in your crock pot. That way, you are not heating your house on a hot summer day (a hot summer day sounds good right about now.)

Top of the morning to you and I hope that there is a pot of gold at the end of your rainbow!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Most Lemony Cookie Of All Time

Before I start, a word about my obsession with cake mix cookies, it was love at first bite. They are cheap, delicious in "almost" any flavor, and if baked right they are chewy-crisp with a gooey middle.

Nothing brings out the flavor of lemons like sugar: lemon cake, lemon bars, lemon bread and the most lemony of all cookies. These cookies have a secret ingredient that will surprise even the most experienced baker. These cookies are becoming wildly popular in the local school bake sale circuit, with people offering up their very own delicious flavor combinations. We even have young bakers getting in on the cake mix cookie action. I think I started a trend!! To bad for me, that I actually never start a trend that could earn me a little cash of my own. You never know, maybe one day?

The Most Lemony Cookie of all Time

1 box lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon lemon extract
1 7 oz box of Lemonheads®
zest from one lemon
1 box powdered sugar
Preheated oven, 345 degrees

(1) Ground Lemonheads® in food processor into a fine powder. (2) Add all ingredients and blend well. (3) Use melon ball scooper to measure small dough balls and roll in powdered sugar. (4) Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. It is very important not to bake these cookie for more than 10 minutes. Ten minutes give these cookies the perfect texture inside and out. (5) ENJOY!

In my opinion, these cookies are terrific. If you decide to bake them yourself, please let me know what you think. They resemble a lemon bar. I really think they would make a good picnic, boating or camping dessert. They are definitely better if you let them sit for a day. If you over cook them, you will end up with a cookie that is hard and quite frankly unappealing.

The very notion of cake mix cookies would have been unthinkable to me a short time ago. I could not imagine a cookie from a cake mix? I like that they are versatile and easy to make. I am now in the habit of picking up cake mixes from the store when they are on sale. Our neighborhood has a lot of impromptu parties and happy hours. I can easily put a batch together for all the fun! Get baking your very own cake mix cookie flavor, and let me know about it

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tempting Tasty Banana Cake Worth Freezing For....

There is something so crowd pleasing about Banana Cake. It is moist, dense and remarkably satisfying with a cold glass a milk, or a piping hot cup of coffee. It is definitely a "comfort" cake loved by adults and kids. This cake is a perfect way to use up those bananas that have seen better days. It is still freezing here!!

What did I do this weekend? I hung out with my honey (husband). We looked at new boats, and then went to happy hour at a local bar. We went to the book store, and spent time with my family. Yesterday, I made a huge banana sheet cake and sent my son out to deliver the goodies to my friends and neighbors.

There is definitely a few tricks to making a banana cake that is a prize winner, and I am getting ready to share those tips with YOU! Before you read any further, if you don't have any banana extract head out to the store this very minute.

Best Ever Banana Cake

1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed, ripe
3 bananas slice thin
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons banana extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon banana extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

(1)Preheat oven to 275° and grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan. (2) In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice and banana extract; set aside. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup butter and 2 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in banana mixture. (3) Pour batter into prepared pan. Gently place the sliced bananas on top of the batter. (4) Bake in preheated oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (5) Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. (6) Remove from freezer and bring back to room temperature. (7) For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in vanilla and banana extract. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth. Spread on cooled cake. ENJOY!!

A fellow foodie friend of mine bakes, bakes and bakes! She gave me the tip to add banana extract to my cake recipe. I have to tell you that it really pumps up the banana flavor. She also gave me the tip to place my cake in the freezer. The theory behind this technique is that it makes the cake super moist. Well, it really does work! I have since seen this technique stated in several recipes that I have come across. I have to say that it is is worth finding space in your freezer. It gives the banana cake the perfect moist texture.

Here are a few things that I am working on: picnic and boating recipes, MORE cake mix cookies with Jenny and recipes for the new smoker that I received. Here is what I am hoping for: WARM WEATHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!