Category Archives: recipes

End of Summer Recipe: Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes

Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes

You know how it is. One day you have a plant full of green tomatoes and the next day you have a hard frost. And that means you’re about to become the proud owner of an army of green tomatoes. If you should find yourself in this pickle, here’s a suggestion: pickle ’em!

I picked up the spicy pickled green tomato recipe from Food.com. It’s an easy recipe that makes quick use of a crop of green tomatoes. And it’s really quite basic. Just chop up the green tomatoes and stuff them along with a couple cloves of garlic and jalapeno pepper slices into sterilized jars. Add some salt and a hot white vinegar/water mixture and then top with lids.

The only problem is, I won’t know how these pickled green tomatoes taste for another couple of months. According to the recipe the mixture has to cure for at least two months!

 

Rhubarb Jam: Hello Summer!

Freshly Canned Rhubarb JamMemorial Day weekend was jam packed with activity. Literally! We cut down the rhubarb in the garden to make way for other plants and found that he measly little plant I had plopped in the dirt last year gave us a lot of fruit! Since I had such a big pile of rhubarb and – thanks to the gift of some old canning supplies from a friend – a package of Sure-Jell, I got the sudden inspiration to make rhubarb jam.

I Googled around for a recipe and came across this one from Kraft, makers of Sure Jell. Making the jam is actually quite easy. Canning it is easy, too. It’s just all so damned time consuming! And I swear that at one point we had every pot and pan in the kitchen in use.

It was a lot of work for 8 jars of jam, but it was actually kinda fun. And this jam is going to taste so good this winter when we’re baking bread and fattening ourselves up to stay warm.

And you know what else? It really gave me an appreciation for home canning. It was only 80 years ago that most homes relied on this form of food preservation to survive. We’ve got it so easy, with our store-bought, high fructose corn syruped jams!


A Return to Home: Homemade Lefse Recipe

Lefse Recipe on This American House

In many ways, buying this house in northeast Iowa has felt like returning home for us. This despite the fact that neither of us are from Iowa. For me it’s a return to the small town life that I knew growing up. And for The Mister we’re once again in a region of the country that proudly celebrates its (and his) Norwegian heritage. And just like in his native Fargo, North Dakota, that Norwegian heritage means that there’s lefse in grocery stores.

Lefse is a Norwegian flatbread that I, a small town boy with southern roots, had never encountered until I met The Mister. It’s kind of like a tortilla but it’s made out of potatoes. And whereas a tortilla is stuffed with meat and cheese and other fixings, lefse is simply smeared with butter, rolled up and eaten as is.

Enjoying Homemade Lefse at This American HouseI was introduced to lefse on our our first visit to The Mister’s parents’ house in Fargo. It was one of the first things we were presented by The Mister’s adoring and adorable mother, Louise. We were kids then, The Mister and I, and so of course we had made the entire twelve hour drive in the dark. After The Mister picked me up from work on a dark February Friday, we set out on our first road trip together. We had only met the month before but we were already quite smitten and this trip was one of those “take him home to meet mother” deals. To say that I was nervous is an understatement. Fortunately Louise made me feel right at home, even as she had to explain lefse to me.

Over the years I’ve found ways to bring this Norwegian treat into our lives. One Christmas I ordered a box of Freddy’s Lefse, The Mister’s preferred brand made in his hometown, as a surprise treat. And on every visit to Fargo we’ve picked up a package or two to take back to the city with us. While it has yet to become my favorite food, I appreciate the heritage and, more importantly, the memories associated with lefse.

It was during our first weekend in This American House that I spied packaged lefse for sale in the local grocery store. I purchased a couple packages and excitedly brought them back to the house. “You’re home!” I said to The Mister, and held up the packaged lefse to illustrate the point.

Like anything, packaged lefse is only half as good as homemade. The Mister has often told me how delicious his grandmother’s homemade lefse was. There was always a sense of wistful longing in his voice when he would say this. I’ve heard stories about how his dad had taken a class to learn how to make it and how his lefse was almost as good as his grandmother’s. Stumped for a birthday gift this year, and now that we have a house with the space to store it, I bought The Mister an 8 Piece Lefse Starter Kit  . And now I understand what he was raving about all those years. Homemade lefse is delicious!

We set up shop in the dining room for our inaugural lefse experiment. As an experienced baker, I was pretty confident that I’d be able to follow the lefse recipe that came with the kit. And except for a few oopses along the way, our first batch of lefse turned out quite nicely. Here’s how it’s done:

Making Homemade Lefse at This American House

HOW TO MAKE LEFSE

1. Make mashed potatoes. (Or, if you’re pressed for time, make a batch of instant mashed potatoes.) Let cool.

2. Add equal amounts of flour as potatoes. For instance, if you have 2 cups of mashed potatoes, add 2 cups of flour.

Lefse Dough

3. Form the potato mixture into balls that are roughly the size of tennis balls.

4. Chill the potato dough balls overnight.

Rolling Lefse on a Floured Surface

5. The next day, place the chilled ball of dough on a well floured surface. (This handy board and cover were included in The Mister’s lefse kit.  You can also roll your dough on a counter top or large cutting board.) Smoosh the dough to flatten it a little.

Making Homemade Lefse at This American House5. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a very thin disk. As The Mister’s high school friend and fellow lefse lover advised, you want the rolled dough to be the consistency of a paper towel. That is, you want it to be super thin and almost transparent.

Making Lefse at This American House

6. Our lefse kit came with a turning stick, which is an invaluable tool when you’re dealing with such a thin dough. The turning stick is used to lift the dough off the pastry board and place it on the grill.

Lefse Cooks on a Grill at This American House

7. Once on the grill, let the lefse cook for about one minute. Then, use the turning stick to flip the lefse over on the grill. Let it cook for an additional thirty seconds.

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8. To keep your finished lefse from getting crispy as it cools, store it sandwiched between towels. The condensation created by the hot lefse will keep them soft.

The Mister and His First Homemade Lefse

9. Try not to eat all the lefse as it comes off this grill. This will be harder than you think it might be. Once you slather butter on a hot lefse and gobble it down it’s hard to stop yourself from having another. And then another. If you do end up with any leftover lefse, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

While The Mister has always enjoyed his lefse simply buttered, according to a post on the Lefse Facebook page others have been known to eat it with butter and sugar, cream cheese and lingonberries and even lutefisk.

*By the way, I hope the photo at the top of this post says “You’re going to love this lefse.” Google provided the translation to Norwegian. If it turns out that I’m wrong about that, let me know!

Images: This American House

Stand Back, Johnny Appleseed! Apples, Apples, Apples!

Apple Tree at the Delbert Meier House | This American House

It looks like my countless hours gazing longingly at the apple tree in the backyard, sending it good growing mojo, and dreaming of delicious baked goods paid off. We’ve hit the apple lotto, folks, and the payout is huge! I had no idea one tree could produce so many apples. Maybe it’s because the tree was never harvested last fall. Maybe it’s the little apple dance I did under the tree this spring. Or maybe we’re just lucky jerks who bought a house with a magic apple tree. Whatever the reason, we should be able to eat an apple a day for the next three years from the fruit of this one tree!

Apples, Apples, Apples! | This American HouseLet me tell you, the anticipation of testing the apples for tastiness was quite a burden. It kicked off this spring, when the tree filled with leaves and blooms.

“Do you think we’ll actually be able to eat them?” The Mister asked.

“I hope so. But I don’t know.” I said.

We watched as the buds turned into little green fruit. And as the apples grew and started to turn red I asked The Mister, “Do you think they’ll be edible?”

“Gee, I hope they are,” he replied.

This American House

Starting sometime in mid-July, our curiosity got the best of us. We plucked an apple off the tree and sliced into it. It wasn’t ripe (of course) but it looked like an apple and wasn’t full of worms so it seemed promising enough. Every few weeks we’d pluck another apple off the tree for another taste test. And each time we got more and more hopeful that the apples would indeed be tasty eventually.

Well, folks, it has finally happened. The apples have ripened and they are delicious! I mean, they’re no Honey Crisp apple. They’re more like a Red Delicious, which is probably what they really are. But they’re apples growing on a tree in our backyard!  And there are a ton of them!

This has to be a bushel of apples, right? | This American House

I don’t know how many apples make a bushel but I’m sure we’ve picked at least that many so far. In the past two weekends I have filled one giant IKEA bag and four reusable grocery bags with apples. I’ve given two bags of apples to neighbors and have a few more bags earmarked for friends back in the city. I plan to freeze some apples for winter baking but I’m actually going to keep most of them in the refrigerator. That’s the wonderful thing about apples — they keep for months when refrigerated.

I’ve also turned out two batches of apple butter recently. Both recipes used the crock pot, and let me tell you, nothing makes a house smell better than cooking apples! The first batch of apple butter, using a recipe from AllRecipes, was a little lackluster but we happily smeared it on toast anyway. For the second batch I used Brown Eyed Baker’s Slow Cooker Apple Butter recipe. OH. MY. GOODNESS. I want to eat this apple butter by the spoonful!

Stand back, Johnny Appleseed. There’s a new king of apples in town!

Images: This American House

 

6 Ways to Use All Those End of Summer Tomatoes

How to Use All of Those Tomatoes Before the Frost | This American House

It’s the end of summer and all of the tomatoes are suddenly getting ripe all at once. And what’s that in the forecast? Frost?! Uh oh! If you don’t get those tomatoes off the vine soon, you’ll lose them! Whatever will you do? Well, you’ll set aside an afternoon to prep that beautiful late summer fruit and then you’ll use one (or more) of the methods and recipes below to make use of them all.

Freeze them: You’ll want to peel the tomatoes first but then you can chop them up and put them in freezer bags or containers. They’ll be great for soups and sauces this winter.

Can them: Freezing tomatoes will only preserve them for a 3-6 months. While canning is a lot more labor intensive, it will also preserve them for much, much longer. For beginners, there’s a wonderfully illustrated tutorial on canning over one Food in Jars.

Make Salsa: Why buy jarred salsa when making your own is so easy? By tossing together just a few ingredients – tomatoes, onions, jalepeno, green pepper, cilantro and lime juice – you can whip up a batch of fresh salsa in a jiffy. Once you’ve perfected your salsa recipe, make a big batch and can it!

Make Pasta Sauce: I haven’t purchased jarred pasta sauce in years because homemade is just too easy. I like this Food Network recipe for its simplicity. Then again, I rarely stick to a recipe when it comes to sauce. Add extra veggies or olives to make the recipe your own.

Make Homemade ketchup: Ditch that overly sweetened bottled ketchup and make your own. This recipe from Ball, the canning jar folks, looks fairly straightforward.

Make Fried Green Tomatoes: Let’s face it – not all of the tomatoes will ripen before the first big frost. What a great excuse to make fried green tomatoes. There’s a great tutorial at Southern Living. Although most recipes, like this one from My Recipes, call for a flour/cornmeal mixture for the breading, I prefer using panko crumbs.

EVEN MORE TOMATO OPTIONS:

Image: This American House