Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Microwave Relish

Last July, I told my readers about a simple recipe for microwave pickles. I made the recipe many times and so did my readers, who emailed me, called me and stopped me at Wal-Mart as much as six months later to tell me how much they loved that easy pickle recipe.

Just this week, I heard from a neighbor who had made her first two batches of the season, and my husband and I have made two recipes already as well.

Because that recipe was so popular last year, I wanted to try something new this year. I decided on microwave pickle relish. I started with last year’s simple recipe for microwave bread and butter pickles and just varied the vegetables.

I used cucumbers, sweet onion, green bell pepper and pimiento. Next time I make the relish, I will use red bell pepper instead of pimiento, but I didn’t have any at the house, so I improvised. (Funny how hard it is to leave the house and go to the grocery store when it’s hot and humid outside!)

The relish takes a little more time than the very quick pickles because you must do a lot of chopping.

To prepare my unpeeled cucumbers (which we grew, by the way!) I sliced then in half vertically, then in half again to make quarters. I then sliced off the inside seeds, leaving the firmer flesh to cut. Using a chopping board, I made very small cubes out of my cucumbers.

I carefully chopped the onion and bell pepper in small cubes as well and left the diced pimientos as they came in the jar.

The vegetables are then cooked in a vinegar solution that’s mixed with sugar and pickling spice, and everything is cooked in the microwave for 7-8 minutes.

It’s really that simple.

Once you’ve eaten your relish, which is stored in the refrigerator, you can make another batch in the remaining relish syrup.

I’m sure many of you are either growing your own vegetables this summer or relying on fresh produce from area farmers markets, so take advantage of the summer bounty and give this recipe a try.

Click here to read last year’s pickle column.

Microwave Pickle Relish
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups cucumbers, diced small
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, diced small
  • 2 tablespoons diced pimiento or 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spice*
Place diced cucumbers, onion and pepper in microwave-safe bowl. Pour other ingredients over vegetables. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.

Microwave on high for 8 minutes.

Let cool before pouring into container for storage. Store in refrigerator after cooling.

*Instead of pickling spice, you can use 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed, 1/4 teaspoon celery seed and 1/4 teaspoon tumeric.

Microwave Bread and Butter Pickles
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups sliced cucumbers
  • 1 cup sliced Vidalia onions
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spice*
Mix all ingredients in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. I used a batter bowl.

Microwave on high for 7-8 minutes.

Let cool slightly before pouring into container for storage. Store in refrigerator after cooling.

*Instead of pickling spice, you can use 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed, 1/4 teaspoon celery seed and 1/4 teaspoon tumeric.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cool off with Jell-O

One hot afternoon last week, while discussing what to eat for supper, my daughter made the comment that she wished we could have something cool to eat.

I know the feeling and find myself planning more and more meals that involve sandwiches, green salads and pasta salads. I’ve also been known to make a number of Jell-O salads this time of year as a side dish to whatever we are eating.

I have several favorites.

Sometimes I mix up a batch of orange Jello-O, using the juice from a can of pear halves as part of the 1 cup of cool liquid called for in the instructions. (There’s not enough liquid for the entire cup, so I use water to reach the one-cup measure.) Pour the mix into a square baking pan and add the pear halves, cut side up, and place a cherry inside the indention before placing in the refrigerator. The same salad is also delicious using sliced pineapple instead of pears.

But the one I’ve made most is the one I remember from my childhood. It’s a salad I ate at my paternal grandmother’s house, and I associate it with her, although I imagine one of my aunts made it. It’s simple enough and so good. Mix a small box of Jell-O (my favorites for this recipe are orange and cherry) as instructed on the box, using juice from a can of fruit cocktail as part of the cool liquid. Pour the mixture into a glass baking dish and mix in the can of fruit cocktail and some chopped pecans if desired. Place in refrigerator to congeal. I love having this salad on a hot summer day as a side dish with a sandwich. It cools me off and is so good.

When strawberries and blueberries are in season, I often made cherry Jell-O parfaits. I mix the Jell-O as instructed on the box and divide it between four parfait dishes. After the Jello-O has set in the refrigerator I layer the fruit with whipped topping for a cool and easy dessert. We all love it at my house.

I made a new version of this treat last week using a recipe from the Jello-O website, www.kraftfoods.com/jello/. Fast Fruity Delight is a simple recipe for an easy hot-weather dessert. I love trying new techniques, and I was eager to mix the frozen strawberries I used into the Jello-mixture and watch the dessert as it quickly congealed. This four-ingredient treat would be a fun recipe to make with children.

There are so many Jell-O recipes on the Web site. Give them a try this summer.

Fast Fruity Delight
  • 3 oz. package Jell-O gelatin (choose flavor based on your fruit)
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups frozen fruit (strawberries, raspberries, tropical fruit blend, blueberries, etc.)
  • 1 cup whipped topping
Add boiling water to 1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O gelatin in large bowl; stir 2 minutes until completely dissolved.

Stir in 2 cups frozen fruit until gelatin starts to thicken. Add 1/2 cup gelatin mixture to whipped topping and stir with whisk until blended. Spoon into four dessert cups; cover with remaining gelatin mixture.

Refrigerate at least 15 minutes or until firm.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yummy sandwich

In the last year or so, I’ve found myself open to adding more of a variety of flavors into my meal planning.

A lot of that has happened because of a new passion for grilling at my house. My husband and l especially love experimenting with marinades and rubs for chicken and beef.

Today’s recipe for Carolina pulled chicken is a good example of our new flavor experiments. There was a time when I would have never considering using a prepackaged spice mix for my food. I’d be afraid I wouldn’t like one of the ingredients, so I wouldn’t even try it. But this delicious chicken recipe gets the bulk of its flavor from an envelope of McCormick Grill Mates Carolina Country marinade.

This is a very easy recipe to make and involves mixing and simmering a tangy and delicious sauce and grilling a package of chicken breasts. When the breasts are cooked, all you do is shred the meat and mix it with the sauce and it’s ready for the sandwich rolls.

It was the weekend and I had the time, so I made the sandwich rolls for this recipe, but any roll, lightly toasted, would work well. If you lightly toast the sandwich rolls, they won’t get soggy as quickly when you add the sauce-covered meat.

The McCormick recipe suggested this sandwich be served with pickles, so we tried it with our favorite Trader Joe’s bread and butter pickles. My husband and I both agreed the pickles added a nice crunch and cooled down the mildly spicy sauce. When we make our own microwave pickles again this summer, we will use them, I’m sure, for this sandwich.

I look forward to making this recipe again, but I might not always grill the chicken. The grilled chicken added a wonderful flavor to this recipe, but shredded chicken or turkey cooked by another method work be delicious, too, I’m sure, and would be easier for a weeknight at my house.

Carolina Pulled Chicken
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped sweet onion, such as Vidalia
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 package McCormick Grill Mates Carolina Country marinade
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sandwich rolls
Mix ketchup, vinegar, onion, sugar and marinade mix in medium saucepan until well blended. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes or until onion is tender. Set aside. Brush chicken lightly with oil.

Grill chicken over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes per side or until cooked through, turning occasionally.

Shred chicken using 2 forks. Add to saucepan; toss to coat well. Spoon shredded chicken mixture on rolls.