Orange Marmalade - easy

I went to the grocery store to get some orange marmalade to make orange glazed chicken.  I was shocked to see how much the good stuff cost!  A 12 oz. jar of a common (not the most expensive) brand was over $6!!
I realize that I haven't shopped for jam or marmalade in a very long time, but...seriously!
Then I went to the produce section.  A 4 pound bag of oranges was only $1.50.  That's right, no more thinking of buying marmalade.
Homemade all the way.
This recipe made 7 half-pint jars.
It didn't cost $6 a jar, either.
Orange Marmalade
4 medium oranges, washed
2 medium lemons, washed
2 1/2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 box low-sugar fruit pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter
5 1/2 cups sugar
Bring a large pot of water (you know, your canning pot) to a simmer.  Prepare your jars.  Pour boiling water over lids and let them stand in the hot water until ready to use.
Zest (remove the colored part of the peel) from your oranges and lemons.  Use a vegetable peeler or a zester.
Mix the peels, water and baking soda in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Enjoy the wonderful aroma wafting through your home.
While the peel is simmering, cut the white part off of the lemons and oranges.  Slice the fruit and chop into small pieces, removing any seeds you might come across. 
After the peel has simmered 20 minutes, add the fruit and juice to the pot.  Cover and simmer and additional 10 minutes.  You should have about 4 cups of fruit and juice.  I didn't take it out to measure, but it looked about right.
(Turn up the heat of your big pot of water to start it boiling.)
Stir pectin into the fruit in the large pot.  Add butter to reduce foaming.  Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil (that is a boil that you can't stir down) on high heat, stirring constantly.
Add the sugar all at once. (I like to pre-measure it in a separate bowl.)
Return to a full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and skim off any foam with a metal spoon.
Ladle the hot marmalade immediately into the prepared jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the top.
Wipe jar rims.
Cover with two-piece lids and screw the bands on.
Place the jars on an elevated rack in your canning pot with the boiling water.  The water needs to cover the jars by 1-2 inches.  Boil for 5 minutes. This is called processing.
Remove the jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely.
After the jars cool, check the lids by pressing the middle of the lid with your finger.  If the lid springs back, the lid did not seal and you need to put that jar in the refrigerator.  If they are sealed, keep them in your pantry.

Baking Powder Biscuits

The staff of life.
Breaking bread.
“All sorrows are less with bread. ”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”
James Beard
“The heat of the bread burned into my skin, but I clutched it tighter, clinging to life.”
Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
“How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like kleenex?”
Julia Child
“You are the butter to my bread,and the breath to my life”
Julia Child
I love making bread.  I also grew up (a lot of the time) in the South.  Bread then, oftentimes, comes in the form of biscuits.  Now, biscuits can be very personal.  Everyone's Granny has the best recipe.  Some people even say that it is not "from scratch" if you use a spoon or pastry cutter - only use your hands to mix the dough.
I like them all.
Here is one of my favorite biscuit recipes.  This recipe makes quite a few since we like extras for breakfast the next day.  Feel free to cut it in half.
Baking Powder Biscuits
1 cup shortening
5 1/4 cup flour
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 cup milk (or buttermilk or half and half or cream)
Heat oven to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients - just whisk them up.
Add the shortening to the flour mixture.  With a pastry cutter, or 2 knives, or your hands, cut or rub in the shortening until it is in pea size chunks.
Add the milk to the flour mixture.
With your hands, stir until the dough holds together.
Once it is holding together a bit, knead (just keep it in the bowl) 10 times.  You don't want to over work the dough, it makes it tough.
Press the dough into a rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick, onto a lightly floured board.  Cut into rounds, making sure not to twist the cutter.  If you twist the dough cutter it will seal the edges of the dough and it won't rise properly.
Place on an ungreased baking sheet (I cover mine with parchment paper but you don't need to) about 1/2 inch apart.
Bake at 450 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes, or until golden brown.


Hot Fudge - super easy and quick

How are those New Year resolutions going?  Mine is going great!  I, however, only resolved to take a nap 2 Sundays a month (at least.)  Older and wiser, remember?
Are you ready for hot fudge yet?
How about now?
Okay, here you go.
This is a recipe that I got from my dear friend, Cheryl.  She was over at my house one evening and just whipped it up.  5 minutes.  Really.  It takes that long to get the "jar-o-fudge" from the grocery store warm in the microwave.
This is better.
So much better.
Keep the excess in the fridge.  It will harden and is lovely to nibble on that way, or you can spoon a dollop into a bowl and heat it up again.
Hot Fudge
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 can of sweetened evaporated milk
In a double boiler (or a pot with a couple of inches of water and a metal bowl on top of that) bring a couple of inches of water to boil.
In the top of the boiler (or bowl) add the chocolate chips and butter.
Heat until smooth.
Turn off the heat and add the sweetened evaporated milk.
Stir until smooth.
That's it.

Apple Crisp

I'm behind on my postings.  So much to do, so little time.  I have been cooking and canning up a storm - biscuits, marmalade, soup, so many things.  I took pictures, but I didn't always write down what I did, thinking that I would remember.  Of course I would remember.
Or not.
My 16 year old kiddo says that he thinks that I should remake everything.
He would.
He, being 16, thinks he is hungry if his eyes are open.  Those were the days.
I did write down how I made this apple crisp, however.  It is my favorite.  It's not like I haven't made it before and won't make it again - I just don't usually measure.  You know what I mean.
If you want this to be gluten-free, just substitute rice flour or another kind of flour for the wheat flour.  It doesn't need to rise, so it shouldn't be an issue.
Apple Crisp
8 cups apples, peeled and sliced (I use 6 Granny Smith and 2-3 golden delicious.  You use whatever you have.)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup flour
2 cups oatmeal (not instant)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (if you use unsalted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon salt)
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Stir together first 5 ingredients. 
Spread the apple mixture in a 13x9 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl or food processor, mix together the remaining ingredients, except the butter.
Cut the butter into chunks.  Add to the oatmeal mixture and cut into (or pulse) until the mixture has pea size chunks of butter.
Sprinkle over the apple mixture.
Bake at 375 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes, until the apples are soft ant the topping is lightly browned and crispy.
Serve warm or cold with ice cream or all alone.  It is lovely.


Beef Stoup and Dumplings

Have you ever made something that you weren't sure would turn out?  You know - an experiment, usually out of desperation, to use up things in your fridge before you have to throw them out.
Yep, thought so.
Sometimes it just okay. Usually it's just okay.
Sometimes it's better.  A whole lot better.
This is one of those.  I started out making beef stew and found myself diverging from the actual plan.  My family LOVED it.  Slurpingly, gorgingly, amid groans and "Why have you never made this before?".
 Here you go. 
 Oh yeah, I call this a stoup because it is thicker than soup but not thickened like stew.  You know - stoup.
Beef Stoup and Dumplings
2 pounds of stewing beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups beef broth OR 4 cups water and 1 Tablespoon beef better than bouillon
2 bay leaves
1 onion, large dice
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
about 12 small red potatoes, cut in half or quartered (you don't need to peel them)
1 red (or orange or yellow) bell pepper, diced
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cup milk OR buttermilk
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Brown the beef in the oil, about 5 minutes. 
Add the tomatoes (don't drain, just dump in the can), broth or water with b than b and bay leaves.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 1-2 hours.
Add all the veggies and Worcestershire sauce.
Cook for about 30 minutes, until all the veggies are soft. Salt and pepper to taste.
While that is cooking, mix up the dumpling dough.  To do that, mix the dry ingredients.  Cut the butter into the flour mixture with 2 knives or a pastry cutter.  Mix in the milk until just mixed.  It's going to look sloppy.  That's just fine.  We don't judge.
Drop the dumplings into the hot stoup.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes. 
 Uncover and cook for 10 more minutes.
Gobble it up.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes you just need a cookie.
It's true.
Many years ago, a dear friend of mine - Victoria - brought me and my family some cookies.  We were having a rough time.  It was just a plate of cookies.  Not much.  A little time and a few ingredients.  But it seemed like so much more.
That plate of cookies meant that someone was thinking about me.  It meant that someone cared enough to spend a little time just for me.  They drove out or their way just for me.
Just a little plate of cookies.
Maybe, if we are thinking of someone, that is a sign that we need to give away a plate of cookies.
Because sometimes it's not just a little plate of cookies.
Victoria's Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
lotsa chocolate chips (I usually use 1 bag, PoppaH uses 2, I used 1 1/2 today)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream together the butter and sugars.  It will be thick.
Add the eggs and vanilla (you get good vanilla, right?  You can order good Mexican vanilla here http://www.globalgoods.com/This is where I order it.) Mix it up.
Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl.  Mix.  Add the chocolate chips.  Go ahead and taste the batter - you know you want to.
Scoop out the dough (about 1 rounded Tablespoon at a time) onto an ungreased baking sheet.  I line mine with parchment because it works better.
Bake at 325 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.
Cool on rack.
Okay, let them cool at least long enough to not burn your tongue too badly.


Split Pea Soup

My kiddos have been complaining about the cold.  They know that they live in New England.  They know that it is January.  They see the ponds covered with ice and the ground white with snow.  They know and they see. But in their hearts, they are still in sunny California.
It was 5 degrees (Fahrenheit) this morning on the way to school.  I must admit, it was a little brisk.  It was (according to their friends in CA) around 50 this morning in San Jose.
In San Jose, I never made split pea soup.  It needs to be pretty chilly for me to want it - oh yeah, I cook to please myself.  I gave up asking my family what they want for dinner a long time ago.  But today I want it.  Yes, yes I do.
To start a good split pea soup, you need a ham bone.  Many of you had a ham for Christmas or New year, right?  Save the bone.  If you didn't save the bone, and you live in a populated area that has modern conveniences like a Honey-baked Ham Store, you can actually go into this handy dandy store and buy a ham bone.  That's right.  I have done it.  A couple of times, right after their lunch rush, they just gave me the ham bone for free.  Cool.
Anyhow, save that bone.
Split Pea Soup
1 ham bone and enough water to cover it
1 - 1 1/2 pounds dried split peas
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups potato, diced
1-2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
Place the peas in a large pot.  Cover them with water by 2 inches.  Over high heat, bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and cover.  Let sit for 1 hour.
While the peas are soaking, put the ham bone in another pot.  Cover with water.  Over high heat, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.
After an hour, drain the peas and let them wait in the colander until you are ready for them.  They won't mind.  Wipe out the large pot you were soaking the peas in (unless you want to use another pot which I don't).  In this pot, melt the butter.  Add the onions, carrots and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until the veggies soften.  Add the garlic and potato and cook, stirring for another minute.
Take the ham bone out of the water - save the water - and set on a cutting board.
Add the drained peas, salt and peppers and the bay leaves and thyme.
To the pea mixture, add 4-5 quarts of the ham water, depending on how many peas you used.
Pull off any bits of ham meat from the bone and add it to the pot.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, about 1 hour.  Taste it, you might need to add more salt.  I will sometimes simmer it for 2-3 hours.  It tastes better the longer you cook it.  You can add water if it becomes too thick or dry.