Monday, April 27, 2009

Gin is Serving Homemade Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles

Is there such a thing as beyond delicious?

My obsession with canning continues with Homemade Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles. I ate these things for breakfast this morning! They have a snappy texture and are wonderfully spicy. They have an authentic taste that put store bought pickles to shame. That is all I have to say about that!

Gin's Homemade Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles

7 lbs small salad cucumbers

6 cups water

2 1/2 cup vinegar

1/2 cup minced dried onions

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 5 oz Ball® Kosher Bill Pickle Mix

8 tablespoons dry white wine

4 hot small green peppers

1 head of fresh garlic

8 (16 oz) Pint Glass Preserving Jars

(1) Cut ends off cucumbers and then cut into spears. (2) In a sauce pan combine water, vinegar, minced onions, red pepper flakes, Ball® Kosher Bill Pickle Mix. Bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes. (3) Cut hot peppers in half leaving seeds for more spice. (4) Put half pepper in each jar. (5) Pack cucumbers in jars. (6) Ladle hot liquid over cucumbers leaving 1/2 inch head space.. (7) Top with 1 garlic clove and 1 tablespoon wine. (8) Follow preserving instructions on the back of the Ball® Kosher Bill Pickle Mix. (9) ENJOY!!

If you have no desire to preserve these pickles, you can put them in jars and enjoy them now. They will last for approximately three months. If you preserve them the will keep for over a year. For added flavor you should allow the pickles to stand in the refrigerator for two weeks. This is close to impossible. I made them Friday morning and could not wait to open a jar! I gave four jars away to friends and family.

Pickles are synonymous with summer picnics and grill outs. These pickles would be great on top of a Chicago Style hot dog, grilled hamburgers, or folded in homemade ham salad. They are spicy with a small hint of sweetness. They are crisp, fresh, impressively tasty, and healthy!

I am already thinking ahead to the holidays! Can you believe it? I am going to can these all summer for holiday gift giving. After all, "it is the season to be jolly." Who would not be jolly eating one of these things? Of course, you do have to like pickles!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Blueberry Lemon Cupcake to Say Hello and Goodbye. . .

Cupcakes are making me happy!

It has been a good week and a sad week. A good week because my kitchen remodel is coming along. Mr. Crabby Head has been smiling and I am good with that. I let Mr. Crabby Head have the final say on the tile back splash and he was empowered by that responsibility. He did an excellent job!! AND it is finally warm in Cincinnati, Ohio. It has been a sad week because of Max.

Max was over 25 years old. I have been feeding and caring for Max longer than I have for Mr. Crabby Head and my two sons. Max had made four moves with me. He had a strong vocabulary. "Baby Birdie, What are you doing, and hello!" He could sing beautiful melodies, and he did every single morning for the last 25 years! Max was my Cockatiel.

So, in honor of Max, the warm weather, and Mr. Crabby Head actually not being that crabby:

Blueberry Lemon Cupcakes

2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 oil
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract
the juice and grated peel of one lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 21-ounce can of blueberry pie filling
1 can of lemon frosting
blue colored sugar

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (2) In a large mixing bowl combine the first nine ingredients. (3) Gently fold in blueberry pie filling. (4) Fill cupcakes 1/2 full and bake 15 to 20 minutes. (5) Decorate with frosting and colored sugar. (6) ENJOY!!

Max made me realize that things are changing for me, and honestly I am OK with that. My oldest son is in college, doing good, and happy. What more could a Mother ask for? I can't believe it, but I starting all the college stuff with my youngest son. He (Lucas, 17 years old) still has the ability to render me speechless and send me into a "fit," but I have the experience to know that we will get through these "wonderful" teenage years.

So, where does all this leave me? Well, looking ahead to my future. I know one day that my husband (aka Honey and Mr. Crabby Head) and I want to live in the mountains near a lake. I know that being out of the "workforce" for over 20 years, I would like to work. "What would you like to do, Gin?" I am hoping to open a small cafe, and use my skills to open a catering business. The wonderful thing is that I am open to anything! The other wonderful thing is that I feel happy!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Charming Candied Cupcake for Mr. Crabby Head

The ability to think ahead makes for a very happy marriage. For once, I had the time and the foresight (and twenty-four years of marriage) to know it was time for me to put a plan in action. There is not a home improvement project on the face of the earth that will not eventually push my husband (honey) over the crabby line.

We are in the process of redoing our kitchen. Our house is twelve years old and ready for some TLC updates. Let me just say that there are crooks and crannies that otherwise would be impossible to get at unless you pulled every cabinet out (which we did.) Hmmmm.... well gross, but it was nothing a little elbow grease and a great shop vac could not handle!!

We are getting new kitchen counters. We had a white tiled back splash that we also wanted to replace. Honey tried to take the tiles off one by one but ending up getting a hammer and taking the entire wall out! He spent the all day hanging new wall board. Let me just say that a few choice words could probably be heard through the entire neighborhood!

Don't let this face fool you.............

He turned pretty crabby and tired after seven hours of solid work. There are several ways to honey's heart, food being close at the top of the list. He isn't a big "sweets" eater but likes to occasionally treat himself. That is where the Candied Cupcakes come in to play for the day.

Charming Candied Cupcakes

1 package white cake mix
1 cup sour cream
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup walnut oil
1/3 water
1 large bar of white chocolate, shaved
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 can Carmel icing
chocolate sprinkles
white chocolate melting chips
chocolate melting chips

(1) Add cake mix, sour cream, eggs, egg yolk, walnut oil, water, and white shaved chocolate. Mix well and put in to cupcake liners. Bake at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. (2) Cool and ice with icing. (3) Generously sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles. (4) Melt white chocolate chips and chocolate chips in separate sandwich bags. Snip the corner of the bags and drizzle chocolates over the cupcakes. ENJOY!!

These cupcakes are simple, rich and just plain scrumptious. They look stunning and taste the same. The walnut oil and shaved white chocolate definitely adds an unique twist the the batter and finished cupcake. Best of all, they are a crabby antidote. Come on!! Who could be crabby eating one of these things? Mr. Crabby tried, but the candied cupcake was just what he needed to put a smile back on his face!! Wish me luck for the week. I am all out of tricks because I have no oven, or dishwasher, or water in my kitchen at the moment.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Simmer a Pot Of Too Busy For Words

Have you ever gotten back from vacation and been overwhelmed with things that need to be done? That is how I feel right now. I have about one hundred things on my "to do" list!!

Tampa was great. The weather was just perfect. It was nice to see my son and spend time with him.

Tampa is full of unbelievable local restaurants. But, what is a Mom to do when her son is more interested in going to Outback and Lonestar Steakhouse? She goes!! All he wanted was big plates of steak and baked potatoes. There was a bright spot to my dining in Tampa.

Who goes to Tampa, Florida for an authentic Chicago Hot Dog? Well, you should if you are ever in Tampa. These things are fantastic! Of course, I have no pictures of the food because I am always too involved in eating it. (There goes my hope of being a freelance food reviewer) Mels is tucked away but worth the time to find. It is right by Busch Gardens. The menu offers a variety of hot dogs with the Chicago Dog being the most popular. You will get a beef hot dog with relish, pickle, onion, tomato, hot peppers and celery salt. I am here to tell you that it was lip-smacking good. With the basket you get a hot dog, fries and coleslaw. The coleslaw is sweet with a slight spicy kick and worth every delectable creamy calorie. Surprisingly enough, Mel serves homemade beef tamales. Can you believe that I have never had a tamale?? These things were delicious and once things calm down, I am setting my sights on concocting a batch of my own tamales.

Anyway, this brings me to Simmer a Pot Of Too Busy For Words. Sometimes the day just gets away from you, and dinner is the last thing you want to do EVEN when you love to cook. Being a "seasoned" stay at home Mother, I have learned to have a few quick back-ups in my freezer. I always have a pack of turkey sausage and turkey meatballs. If I don't have homemade Italian sauce to defrost, my pantry is full of jars of spaghetti sauce. So there you go, a Pot Of Too Busy For Words simmering away. You can serve this over garlic mashed potatoes, pasta or steamed veggies. All you need is warm baked bread and a fresh salad and dinner is on the table.

I am excited because I am getting new kitchen counters next week! My kitchen is getting ready to have a complete makeover. Believe me, it is really needed. This brings me to my long list of "to do." A lot has to be done before those counters come and me being the chronic procrastinator is not helping at all!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chinese Tea Eggs and the Easter Buffet

When I came upon I immediately remembered my two trips to China. My sister's husband worked for Proctor and Gamble and took an international assignment to Guangzhou, China. I had the opportunity to visit my sister twice. I have to tell you that I absolutely hate to fly! Can you imagine? The trip to Guangzhou was approximately twenty four hours! Anyway, as much as my sister is adventurous, I am cautious. As much as she dives right in, I prefer to be in the know before I go. Nothing could prepare me for China. It was an unbelievable adventure. The people, the sites, the culture and the food.

Once I landed and got over the fact that I just spent over twenty four hours with white clenched knuckles just waiting for the airplane to drop out of the sky, I decided to be open minded to being in China. I am so happy I did that. Authentic Chinese food will heighten every sense that you have. The sight and the smell so very different than I was use to, but surprisingly enough different in a good way. As far as food goes, I am very adventurous. There is nothing that I will not at least try once. There were "some" food items in China I politely passed on, but I tried a variety of foods that were absolutely amazing.

That brings me to the Chinese Tea Eggs. One afternoon there was a knock on my sister's apartment door. There stood the sweetest older Chinese woman. There was no language barrier. What I mean by that is, that her sweet genuine smile spoke volumes to me. She handed my sister a small basket Chinese Tea Eggs and my sister handed her a small stack of Chinese money. These things were incredible and I ate several a day until I boarded a flight back to Cincinnati. I had all but forgot about those eggs until I came across Sugarlens's eggs look authenic and really pretty!!

I called my sister and asked if she knew how to make those eggs. I went to her house (she has been back in the States now for several years) and away we went. We made several batches until we decided what we liked best. So, here are our Chinese Tea Eggs

Gin and Suz's Chinese Tea Eggs

8 hard boiled eggs

1/2 cup teriyaki Sauce

2 tablespoons Chinese Five Spice

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons raw sugar

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 large black tea bags

water to cover the eggs completely

(1) Boil the eggs 8 to 10 minutes, cool. (2) Take the back of a spoon and crack the eggs but leave shell in tack. (3) Combine all ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Add eggs and water to cover eggs completely. (4) Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from heat and let eggs sit in liquid for several hours. (5) Refrigerate and serve cold.

The part that my sister and myself could not do is let the eggs sit in the liquid. We started eating them right away. They are so unique in taste that you really just have to try them. What do you have to lose but a eight eggs? If you really want the "WOW" factor then try serving these for Easter Dinner. It will be an unique treat for your guests!!

I am heading to Tampa tomorrow to visit my son. He is a sophomore at the University of South Florida. I am taking my computer and my camera in hopes of blogging. Tampa has some of the best restaurants in Florida. I will have to see how it goes. My son has been struggling with mono since Thanksgiving. He is improving day by day, but still has some lingering effects of the virus. I will have to take my cue from him. Happy Easter from my family, to you, and your family.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Best Brine Grilled Chicken Legs for your Summer Picnic and The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day

The other day I went to the store and left with two small bags of groceries. There was no meat and no dog bones (the two things that really add the dollars to my bill.) The sum of the two bags was $92.97! What the heck? Buying groceries is really getting expensive. That got me to thinking about my upcoming Memorial Day Picnic. It is really going to be expensive and I need to seriously plan ahead.

Chicken Legs are a great value and definitely are delicious when grilled. When you are hosting a picnic you don't want to be stuck at the grill the entire time. That is where The Best Brine Grilled Chicken Legs comes to the rescue. These things are easy, good, and can be made ahead of time.

Best Brine Grilled Chicken Legs

Chicken Legs, skinned removed

1/2 of raw sugar

1/4 cup kosher salt

4 tablespoons liquid smoke

barbecue seasoning of your choice

cooking spray


(1) To remove skin from chicken legs use paper towels and hold by leg and pull skin (do not throw away if you have a puppy.) (2) Dissolve sugar and salt in water. Add liquid smoke and chicken legs. (3) Brine chicken legs 4 to 5 hours. (4) Remove chicken legs, rinse and pat dry. Spray with cooking spray and lightly sprinkled with seasoning. (5) Grill on charcoal grill over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes. Turn frequently. (6) Remove to aluminum pans and place in a 250 degree oven for another 30 to 45 minutes. (7) Serve to your picnic guests!

The meat is tender, smoked, and seasoned perfectly. For all you Weight Watchers, these chicken legs are 1 point a piece! I guarantee your guest will rave about these chicken legs. I have never heard a negative comment about them. You can serve them with a side of your favorite barbecue sauce.

Here is why I said to keep the skin!

I take the skin and throw it in a hot pan with a little olive oil and fry it up like bacon. Of course, this is a treat beyond all expectations for Kramer. I guess I will have to put a disclaimer to ask your Vet first? I did this and all he did was stare at me. I am taking his silence as a vote of confidence in giving my puppy fried chicken skin!

It is getting ready to turn really bad weather wise here. If you live in this area you expect nothing different for the Reds (baseball) opening day! If it is not snowing or sleeting rain, you definitely would wonder "what the heck?" I figure warm weather and great picnics are just around the corner. I just can't wait!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Ultimate in Gourmet Flavored Dipping Oils

I am having one of those perfect days. (This is going to get a little corny) I woke up and could hear the birds singing. Most days my coffee leaves a little bit to be desired, but not today. Today I woke up to a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. I sat down at my computer and was happy about the many nice people that I am meeting through blogging. That is one of the best parts about blogging. You are exposed to people who your path would never cross.

Another great part of blogging is coming in contact with all this really great food information. There are recipes, traditions, gadgets and food products that you might not ever have had the chance to know about. For instance, I read from Dar and once again became intrigued with sea salts and the many flavors that they come in. Per Dar, I went to and placed an order for some unbelievable flavored sea salts. I ordered Habanero Heat, Lime Fresco, Roasted Garlic and Toasted Onion. I have done quite a bit of cooking with Smoked Sea Salts, so I am excited to add these flavors to my spice cabinet. FYI, Dar is hosting her first giveaway, the prize being a bag of sea salt, so head on over and try your luck.

On with my wonderful day. I was browsing a local market and came across a shelf of Gourmet Dipping Oils. My culinary inquisitiveness was peaked as a stood there studying these dipping oils from a company called Little Dipper Company. Their line includes six different types of fresh gourmet dipping oils. The color of the oils are so bright and crisp. There are such an abundance of herbs in each bottle, that I started to think of all the other uses besides dipping. After much deliberation I purchased Parmesan with roasted garlic. I would have bought more, but honey (my husband) has brought to my attention the amount of money that I spend at the grocery store. So, I will gradually add the entire line to my pantry. They also have really interesting flavored pastas and bread mixes. This is a small company owned by Susan Jonas. Their oils are made individually by hand, with only the freshest, finest ingredients. I can personally attest to that. I am not sure if she grows her own herbs and dries them by hand, but that is what my oil taste like. The oil I bought has the PERFECT mix of spices. I put a call in to Mrs. Jonas to see if she would help me host my first giveaway! No word yet, but I have high hopes. In the meantime, head on over to Little Dipper Company and let me know what you think. I love supporting small companies like the Little Dipper. These people start these companies because of their love of food and cooking. It is great to buy from people that you have something in common with.

I have high hopes for the rest of my day. I am roasting a chicken and fresh asparagus. I have a loaf of sour dough bread and my bottle of Parmesan with roasted garlic gourmet flavored dipping oil. It is nice out, so we will be taking Kramer (my boxador) to the park for a walk. There is only one possible glitch to my perfect day and his name is Luke (my seventeen year old son.) Recently, dealing with my teenager is hit or miss, a labor of love so to speak. STAY TUNED!