Cranberry Jalapeño Jelly


Cranberry Jalapeño Jelly
This bright, jewel-toned pepper preserve offers the sweet Texas heat that pairs so well with creamy cheese.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh jalapeño pepper (seeds and ribs removed according to your heat tolerance)
  • 4 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 6 teaspoons calcium water (packaged with Pomona’s Universal Pectin, see cook’s tip)
  • 5 teaspoons pectin
  • 6 cups white or organic cane sugar, divided use

Preparation

  1. Pulse cranberries and jalapeño pieces in a food processor until finely chopped, taking care to scrape down any larger pieces from time to time so pieces are fairly uniform in size.
  2. Place cranberry mixture into a large pot. Add white vinegar and calcium water. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer on low 5–10 minutes until mixture softens.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk pectin into ½ cup sugar until well incorporated. Return cranberry mixture to a boil and slowly whisk pectin mixture into pot, stirring continuously for 1 minute. Bring back to a boil and whisk in remaining sugar, again bringing back to a boil.
  4. Check the set of the jelly by placing a teaspoonful onto a plate and placing in freezer for a few minutes; when nudged, jelly should wrinkle but not be too firm.
  5. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. It should taste hot, but the heat will be toned down by pairing with other foods. Keeps for many months when chilled or canned according to U.S. Department of Agriculture instructions.

Makes 8–10 8-ounce jars

Cook’s Tip

Pomona’s Universal Pectin (pomonapectin.com) is a natural product derived from citrus. The package includes a packet of monocalcium phosphate powder and instructions for using it to make calcium water.

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Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies


Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together butter and sugars.
  3. Mix in vanilla and eggs, then peanut butter.
  4. Stir in baking soda, oats and chocolate chips.
  5. Drop by 1/4 cupsful onto a cookie sheet, then partially flatten.
  6. Bake 14 to 16 minutes at 350 degrees. (The cookies might not look done, but they’ll continue cooking out of the oven.)

Breakfast Cookies


The Texas Pecan board is happy to sponsor the 2011 Texas Co-op Power Holiday Recipe Contest. Texas Pecans are top quality, fresh, and have a taste as big as Texas.

Bryan Texas Utilities member Luke Canatella received $1,000 as the winner of the Sweet category in the 2011 Texas Co-op Power Holiday Recipe Contest.

Canatella, who works for Luby’s Cafeterias as an account manager, loves to make pastries and play around with recipes. For this contest, he modified a breakfast cookie recipe he’d created, adding pecans and the special ingredient—bacon—to yield a hearty cookie with a salty-sweet taste and crunchy texture that wowed the judges.

He said he loves to “take a recipe and take it apart, then put it back together to make something everyone likes.”

Breakfast Cookies
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups light brown sugar packed lightly
  • 3 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
  • 2 cups Texas pecan pieces
  • 12 ounces bacon, cooked crisp and roughly chopped
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ tablespoons baking powder
  • 4 cups regular corn flakes
  • ⅛ cup cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In large mixing bowl, mix butter, brown sugar, 2 cups granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla until well blended.
  3. Fold in oatmeal, pecans and bacon.
  4. Add flour, salt and baking powder, mixing well.
  5. Add corn flakes and mix until combined evenly. Do not over mix.
  6. Drop onto parchment paper using 4-ounce scoop. Leave at least one inch of space between cookies. Flatten each into 2-inch circle.
  7. Mix cinnamon and remaining sugar. Sprinkle atop each cookie.
  8. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set but not crunchy.

Herman Cinnamon Rolls


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • ¾ cup butter, chilled
  • 1 cup Herman
  • ¼ to ½ cup milk
  • Cinnamon for sprinkling
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix dry ingredients, cut in chilled butter, add Herman and mix.
  3. Add milk gradually until soft dough forms.
  4. Roll dough into rectangle about ¼-inch thick. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar
  5.  Roll into log, and then cut into 1-inch-thick rounds.
  6. Place in 13-by-9-inch baking pan, brush tops with softened butter and bake for about 30 minutes or until brown.

Variation: Combine ½ cup melted butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and ½ cup chopped pecans. Spread mixture in bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking pan and top with dough slices. Bake, then invert on serving tray.

Herman and Me


How a lovable sourdough starter proved to be the recipe for a lasting friendship

The first time I scribbled Herman’s name atop a blank piece of notebook paper, I was a sophomore in college. My roommate, Sharon, introduced us, and for a while, Herman became my obsession. He was bubbly, sweet, and he made me … happy.

Today, that same piece of paper is stained and worn from the dozens of times I’ve looked at it and again tucked it safely away. The memory of Herman is always fond, warm and makes me think of … pancakes.

I gave Sharon a call, and she answered on the first ring. “Remember Herman?” I asked, skipping the pleasantries, even though it’d been a few months since we’d last spoken.

“Of course,” she said, laughing. “He lived in the fridge like a pet for at least a couple of years.”

During our college years, Sharon did what my mother, despite her best efforts, had never been able to do: convince me that cooking was a fun adventure. For the first time, I’d willingly roamed the grocery store aisles, planned menus and, despite my Piney Woods instincts to the contrary, tried new things.

When Sharon introduced me to Herman—our “pet” sourdough starter—baking became my favorite pastime. I called my mother regularly, asking for the tasty recipes I’d loved growing up.

While Sharon and I talked, I leafed through the yellowed note cards that held our recipes for everything from simple breads to coffee cake to fluffy pancakes. “We called him ‘Herman,’ ” Sharon said. “But lots of people call it Amish Friendship Bread. Somebody bakes something yummy, takes it to the office and brings a cup of starter to share.”

As Sharon and I talked, I realized that Herman was much more than a bubbling crock of yeast. In that little apartment kitchen, Sharon and I had baked a lasting friendship.

After we hung up, I remembered that Texas cowboys had a lasting affection for their chuck-wagon cooks. Sourdough was a camp cook’s prized possession, and on chilly, winter nights, the cook could usually be found curled up with his crock of sourdough tucked in next to him, keeping it warm. Freezing temperatures wouldn’t kill the sourdough, but unless the mixture was warm and bubbly, the cook wouldn’t be making bread, either. A batch of starter could be kept going—literally—for years on end, and every morning, when hungry cowboys craved fresh biscuits, the cook was a hero.

While there are many variations in creating a new starter, today’s packaged yeast makes it easier than it was in the 1800s.

Here’s the basic Herman recipe.

Combine:

  • 2 cups flour (all-purpose or organic)
  • 2 cups warm (not boiling) water
  • 1 package active, dry yeast

Mix these ingredients thoroughly in a crock, glass jar, stainless steel or plastic bowl that gives the starter room to grow. Do not use a reactive metal container. Cover the mixture loosely with a cloth, and put it in a warm place overnight. The next morning, your new friend Herman should be waiting to greet you, active and bubbly. He will also be hungry and ready to move into your fridge.

On the first and fifth days, feed Herman:

  • 1 cup water or milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup sugar

Stir gently.

It’s a good idea to keep Herman covered in the fridge and give him a gentle stir each day. On the 10th day, you’re ready to start baking. Remove one cup of starter for your favorite recipe, and remove one cup to share with a friend. Then, feed Herman as before, stir and return him to the fridge.

Herman is resilient. I often forget to stir him daily; and instead of feeding him every five days, I only feed him about once a week using half the amount of milk, flour and sugar. He remains healthy and bubbly.

Despite the fact that Herman and I don’t spend as much time together as we did in our college days, he still holds a special place in my heart. Because of Herman, I discovered the adventure of cooking; I learned that warm bread can hold memories like fresh butter; and I found that the joy of friendship forged in even the tiniest college kitchen lasts a lifetime.

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup


When I was younger, the words Asian cuisine would bring to mind familiar dishes like sweet and sour shrimp or moo goo gai pan, but not much else. The local Chinese restaurant was my only exposure to the food of an entire continent.

But as a grownup, my horizons have been expanded. In large part, it’s because I moved to a larger city with more variety in restaurant choices—thus I became exposed to more previously unfamiliar fare.

I remember my first visit to an Indian restaurant, when I was a college student. I was so baffled by the unfamiliar menu that I left without ordering. That was a shame, because it was many years before I tried Indian food again, and now it’s one of my absolute favorite cuisines. I think about the years I missed out on such delights as chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo and shrimp coconut curry with some regret.

Now, my palate is definitely attuned to pan-Asian cuisine. Japanese (and not just sushi), Vietnamese and Thai foods are part of my regular dining experiences. And I can thank my wife, Lisa, for my exposure to many of these cuisines. She has been my guide into a larger and tastier world.

A couple of years ago, she had a soup at a Thai restaurant that she liked so much, she came home and, with some trial and error, figured out how to make it herself. This spicy-sweet-tangy broth with the rich flavor of coconut milk is a satisfying meal by itself or can be the starter for a larger dinner.

Lisa is an “eyeball” cook, tossing ingredients together more by look and feel than by measurement. But to share her recipe, she took the time to figure out the basic amounts of ingredients she uses. And because some of the ingredients may not be available in smaller grocery stores (you can find everything but lemongrass online), I have included some possible substitutions.

Sample the soup as you cook, especially if you use substitutes. The amounts of just about any of its components can be adjusted to fit your particular tastes.

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon oil
  • 6 green onions or shallots, sliced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (or substitute 1 teaspoon lemon zest and a teaspoon or so of minced fresh ginger)
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste*
  • ½ cup fresh basil (or Thai basil)
  • Juice of 1½ limes, or to taste
  • 8 baby bok choy (Chinese cabbage)
  • 8 to 10 mint leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves only
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
  • ¼ cup fish sauce,** or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • ⅛ cup rice wine vinegar, or to taste
  1. Sauté onion in 6 tablespoons oil in large stock pot until translucent.
  2.  Add green onions (or shallots) and garlic.
  3. Discard tough, brown stalk from lemongrass and chop tender green portion.
  4. Add to sauté along with chicken broth, grated ginger, carrots and 1 quart water.
  5. Meanwhile, debone chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces and sauté in frying pan with teaspoon oil until browned.
  6. As chicken is cooking, remove about 1/2 cup hot broth from stock pot and mix with miso until smooth.
  7. Return to pot along with basil and lime juice.
  8. Trim and discard ends from bok choy and add to soup along with mint leaves, cilantro leaves, coconut milk, fish sauce, pepper and vinegar.
  9. Taste and adjust amounts of lime juice, fish sauce and vinegar.
  10. Add browned chicken and juices from skillet to soup.
  11. Simmer an additional 10 minutes, or until carrots are tender.
  12. Serve by itself or over noodles.

Servings: 12. Serving size: 2 cups. Per serving: 289 calories

* Miso is a fermented soybean and/or rice product often used to make soups or sauces in Japanese cuisine. If it’s not available, try substituting soy sauce at a rate of a teaspoon of soy sauce per tablespoon of miso, or an equivalent amount of tahini (sesame paste).

** If you must substitute for the fish sauce, which is a condiment popular in Thai and Vietnamese cooking, try a combination of soy sauce and a squeeze of lime juice to equal the amount of fish sauce.