Wednesday, February 26

Japanese Apple Jellies

Japanese jelly candies are by far one of the best candies I have ever tasted. The full fruit flavor and soft texture are a delightful bite. Easy to make and fun to try in different flavors, these great little treats add a little something extra to lunches or gifts.

Full time 12+ hours (includes overnight rest in refrigerator)
Makes between 25-48 candies (if using cutters)

You will need:

1 pound apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp lime juice
4 drops green food coloring
6 tsp powdered pectin

*If you have never made a homemade jelly candy before or are new to making candy in general, you will want to read the notes at the end of this blog before beginning.

Let us begin:

Line a 8 x 8 baking dish with plastic wrap. (I am using an 6 x 8 in photos)

In a blender puree apple, food coloring, and lime juice until smooth and chunk free. If you feel it needs a tiny bit more moisture to help it blend, add 1 tsp water.

In a medium sauce pot, whisk together the pureed apples with 1/2 cup sugar.

Cook mixture over medium-low heat until it begins to thicken, stirring constantly. Approximately 15 minutes.

Once thickened, remove from heat and whisk in 1 1/2 cup sugar and pectin. Whisking quickly to prevent clumps from forming.

Return to heat and cook mixture until it reaches 205' on a thermometer, stirring constantly.

Once the temperature hits 205' remove thermometer. Continue cooking for 10 minutes (you may want to use a timer), stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and pour into plastic lined baking dish.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in refrigerator overnight or at least 10 hours.

The next day.

Pour 1/4 cup sugar onto a silicone mat or non stick cutting board.

Remove jelly from refrigerator and remove top plastic wrap.

Flip jelly over onto the sugar covered surface.

Slowly peel up plastic wrap from the base of jelly, it will take a tad bit of patience to prevent ripping the wrap.

Pour over remaining sugar and coat jelly.

You can either slice into squares, trimming off the outside edges of the pan to create nice smooth lines. Or use jelly cutters dipped in sugar to cut out nice fun shapes.

Pile jellies into seal-able container or on a serving dish. Cheers!

A few notes before beginning this recipe or any jellies recipe.

  1. Cooking jellies is not a child safe activity to try. The mixture is extremely hot and sticky. It can cause really nasty burns if not handled properly.
  2. You cannot, for any reason stop mixing this at any point during the cooking phase. Seriously, the stirring is not just to prevent scorching but to prevent the bubbling. Once it gets bubbling this mixture will splatter up very high and fast. If you need to stop even for a second, remove the mixture from the heat instantly. You risk nasty burns if it starts bubbling.
  3. If for some reason you do stop stirring and it starts bubbling, take precautions and cover both your arms and hands before you attempt to go back to stirring. Also watch your face as it can splatter very high once bubbling. You can get the mixture back under control if you start stirring it in about 30 seconds, but I cannot stress how hot and sticky this will be.
  4. Do not be surprised if it takes a few moments to get the plastic off the cured jelly, it is after all jelly therefore sticky. Just work slowly and in little movements to prevent tearing the wrap.

Monday, February 24

BAKE IT: Pull-apart Cinnabon Bread

Quick and easy, this fun bread is a great way to start off your weekend. The warm cinnamon and gooey frosting make for a perfect brunch or breakfast dish.

Full time 50 minutes
Serves 6-8

You will need:

3 can Pillsbury Grands Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls (5 count)
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 350' and grease a bundt cake pan very well.

In a large zip top bag mix sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon, pour roughly 1/4 of mixture into a small bowl and set aside.

Working with one can at a time. Open cinnamon rolls and cut each into quarters.

Add quarters into zip top bag and shake to cover.

Continue with remaining two cans. Once last can is added, add in the reserved sugar mixture.

Shake to fully cover pieces.

Pour into bundt pan and spread pieces out evenly.

In a bowl combine melted butter, brown sugar, and 1 tsp cinnamon to create a thick syrup.

Spoon mixture over cinnamon roll pieces and spread out using a back of spoon.

Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes or until the cinnamon rolls feel set and do not giggle much.

While this bakes, place the un-lidded frosting containers on the stove top to warm but, not melt frosting.

Once baked remove from oven and let set in bundt pan for 10 minutes.

Once set, flip out of pan by placing plate over pan and carefully inverting. 

Shake pan lightly to help slide out of pan.

Pour frosting over bread.

Serve immediately and cheers!

Saturday, February 22

HOW TO: Make Steak Fajitas

Steak fajitas are a great staple to Mexican cuisine. Bursting with full robust flavor, fajitas are so easy and quick to make. You can have these on you dinner table in less than 30 minutes, start to finish.

You will need a few ingredients to get you going towards a tasty dinner.

1 lb. Flank steak, slice thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 red sweet bell pepper, sliced thin
1 orange sweet bell pepper, slice thin
1 lime, squeezed or 2 tbsp lime juice
1 chicken bouillon cube, ground up
3 tbsp olive oil, divided into 1 tbsp increments
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Once you have gathered your ingredients, you can get started.

In a large deep sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat.

Once oil is giving off a bit of heat, to check this hover your hand 2" above pan, making sure not to touch it.

Add in the onions, yellow peppers, and red peppers. Stirring well to coat with oil.

Add in 1/2 of the lime juice.

Cook vegetables 5-8 minutes or until they soften. Stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

Once softened, move vegetables to one side of pan and add in sliced steak into the pan.

Stir around to help brown steak evenly.

Add in all seasoning and remaining lime juice.

Stir around to continue browning steak evenly.

Lower heat to medium low and allow flavors to meld and steak to finish cooking, roughly 5-6 minutes.

Remove from heat and move to serving plate.

Serve and cheers!

Tuesday, February 18

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcake Muffins

The perfect balance of breakfast and dessert baked into one tasty treat. These magical little morsels have the texture of a muffin and the flavor of a cupcake, making these a delightful morning mouthful.

Full time 1 hour (includes baking in multiple batches and cooling)
Makes 18 muffins

You will need:

3 eggs
2 bananas mashed (approximately 1 cup)
2 cup flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup coco powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Let us begin:

Preheat your oven to 350' (or get your cupcake machine heated), line cupcake pans with paper liner and set aside for a moment.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, coco powder, baking powder, and salt.

Add in eggs and vegetable oil, mixing until well blended. It will become very thick and hard to stir.

Fold in mashed bananas to create a thick but smooth batter.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Fill paper liner 2/3 of the way full.

Bake in oven 20-25 minutes (or in machine for 10 minutes), or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in tray for 2-3 minutes.

Turn gently out onto a wire rack or cutting board to finish cooling completely.


Sunday, February 16

HOW TO: Make Meatballs

Making meatballs is one of the first things I ever learned. My great-great grandmother and great grand mother taught me. Well, actually it was more like I did what they said and pointed out in broken Italian/English. There are two main ways to make meatballs partial sauce cooking and full sauce cooking. I prefer the first, mainly for food safety and secondly you can save meatballs in freezer for later this way.

The most important thing to deiced when making meatballs is meat. What kind of meat do you want to use? There are a few "main types" of meatballs:

  1. 100% beef: these are usually what you find in restaurants, grocery store made, and frozen prepackaged.
  2. 50% beef/50% pork: these are usually found in mom & pop Italian restaurants, delis, and high end Italian ready made.
  3. 50% pork/50% veal: this is classic Italian right here, high end restaurants, Italian markets, and classic Italian households.
  4. 50% sausage meat/50% veal: this is also a classic Italian version, usually just depends on where in Italy family came from.
I learned with pork/veal but, I am not a fan of using veal so I make mine pork/beef. Regardless of your meat combination all meatballs are made the same. You can have a batch of 18 meatballs made in approximately 1 hour.

To start gather your ingredients, you will need:

1 lb. meat of your choice
2 slices bread
1 egg
1/4 cup minced onion (I am using dried but fresh are fine)
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

To begin preheat your oven to 350'.

In a medium mixing bowl shred bread into very small pieces.

Add in onions and all seasoning.

Toss with your fingers to mix well.

Add in egg and milk.

Using the back of a fork, break egg and mix well. You want a nice even color across the mixture.

Let the mixture sit for a good 5 minutes before moving on.

Add in meat.

Mix well to fully incorporate seasoning into meat, however work gently with fingers so you do not accidentally toughen the meat. 

Break off a nice size piece, roughly 2-3 tbsp.

Roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball.

Place on a baking sheet and continue until all meat has been rolled, you should get 15-18 meatballs.

Bake in oven 25-30 minutes.

While this cooks, in a large pot get your sauce heating over medium-low heat.

Add meatballs into sauce and continue to cook 5-10 minutes or until ready to serve.

Serve and cheers!