Spicy Cranberry Salsa

Happy almost-New Year!

My friend, Monica, brought over the yummiest cranberry salsa the other day for us as a gift.  You are right, I must be rubbing off on you, Monica!  Ha!

It is sooo good.  I would call it a cross between a salsa and a jam, depending on how finely you grind it in the blender or food processor.  Either way, it’s got that yummy, smokey kick to it that jalapenos add.

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I’m showing it off here as the classic dump-jam-on-cream-cheese dish because that is so simple and yummy.  I could eat it with a fork, but crackers work, too!  It would also be good on grilled chicken, drizzled on acorn squash, or just plain dipping with tortilla chips.

Spicy Cranberry Salsa would be a great dish to bring to a party, if one was theoretically going to a New Year’s Eve party.   Which I will not because I am old.  Tim and I typically go to bed well before midnight.  Then, when the illegal fireworks start all around us at midnight, we roll over for a mumbled, “Happy New Year,” and a quick peck.  Isn’t that what everyone over a certain age does?

Enjoy this dish, whenever you choose to celebrate.  Happy New Year!


Monica’s Spicy Cranberry Salsa

  • Servings: 4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 pack of cranberries, about 31/2 cups

1 bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped

4 green onions, chop green bits only

2 tsp lime juice

1 cup sugar

1 jalapeño, chopped

You can adjust the heat by including some of the jalapeño seeds. About 15 seeds gives a nice mild kick. If you would like it less spicy, simply discard all seeds.

Directions

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until the consistency desired. This can be chilled in the fridge and will last 1-2 weeks, but I guarantee it won’t be around for that long.

Holiday Banana Bread

So, I woke up at 6:20 a.m. this morning.  It’s Sunday.  The first Sunday of the winter break from school.  This really baffles me, but the only explanation I can point to is that I’ve been recovering from a stomach bug and therefore have gotten a lot of sleep lately.  Said bug is now very much gone and I’m grateful!  And apparently, I’m now well rested, so yay!

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One of my last persimmons still hanging on.

The weather changed here in Austin yesterday quite drastically.  Our daytime high was 70-ish degrees, then a cold front blew in, and so did 20-ish degree weather.  Brrr!  The wind picked up, the skies got cloudy, the leaves were blowing everywhere, it was quite exciting.  Mostly, I just felt sorry for everyone who had spent so much time diligently raking their leaves yesterday, because the wind blew everything back overnight.

Off topic, have you ever seen those blowers with bags attached where it sucks the leaves in the bag?  I saw two people using those yesterday, and I have to say, it looked time consuming, loud, and bulky compared to just using a rake.  Call me old fashioned, but I prefer using a plain non-noisy hand tool that doesn’t require dragging a cord around the yard.  It is just more peaceful and healthy, too.

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Said leaves before the wind blew them all off into my neighbor’s yard.  Sorry, Tracie!

Anyway, back to the banana bread.  It was cold and dark and 6:20 am, like previously mentioned.  What better than freshly made banana bread to warm up the house and make it smell heavenly?  So I whipped out the trusty black binder of all my recipes and found this gem.

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My mom’s recipe scrawled on a lovely 1990’s notepad.

Can we just take a minute to notice a few things.  Holy God, I have bad handwriting.  And do you see that tape???  It’s YELLOWING, people.  That makes me feel old like few things have lately.  I’ve had this recipe scrawled down for years, and it’s gone with me from Waco, Texas to Princeton, New Jersey, and back down to Austin Texas.  See, mom- I can keep up with things!  The blatant evidence of my aging aside, I am attached to all my crappily recorded recipes.  I have a great recipe for cookies that I jotted down on the back of a phone bill envelope, too.  Good times.

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The recipe produces a flavorful, moist loaf of banana bread that cracks and crusts so perfectly on top.

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Look at that yummy crust!

I took my mom’s recipe and spiced it up a little bit for the holiday.  Don’t worry, I’m going to type it out below so that it’s legible and has proper fractions.  Ha!  I hope you get to enjoy some warm, cozy times with family this year.  Many blessings to you and Merry Christmas!


Holiday Banana Bread

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

3 large very ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Optional: 2 teaspoons brown sugar for the top of the loaf

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl. I always just melt my butter briefly in the microwave because I grab it straight from the fridge and it’s easier than remembering to take it out and soften it in advance. Make sure the butter is not too hot, you don’t want to cook the egg when adding it in! In a medium bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring by hand to combine as you go. Make sure it is all incorporated, but don’t overmix. Butter up a 3×8 glass loaf pan and pour in the batter. I sprinkled a tiny bit of brown sugar on the top for extra color and crunch. Bake for one hour, or until a knife inserted comes out cleanly.

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Taco Seasoning

Don’t buy that crap in an envelope at the store.  Well… I guess you can…  I can’t stop you…

But, think of the children!  No?

But, think of how righteous you will feel when you make your own without any of the MSG, heavy sodium, and other nasty fillers!

Better?  I thought so.

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I doubt you will make a batch this big. I took the recipe below and multiplied it times SIX for all the ladies at Favorite Things.

Once you get the hang of the basic recipe, you can tweak it to your own personal taste and feel even more like a rock star.

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I wish screens were scratch and sniff.


Taco Seasoning

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients


1 T chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon paprika
1 and ½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Combine all spices in a mason jar and store in your pantry. Use about 2-3 tablespoons of the seasoning to spice up a pound of meat.

The pictures above are from a massive batch.  The recipe included here is for a normal sized batch.  This recipe is from rachelcooks.com  It truly is a standby at my house, I love it.

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Homemade Yogurt!

Y’all, this is what started my whole kitchen adventure right here!  I don’t even remember how I heard about homemade yogurt.  It seems so mysterious and complicated, like something that you HAVE to buy.  But once I heard about it, the idea grew on me quite a bit.  I discovered that I have a bit of an independent streak.  I like the idea of knowing how to do some things myself instead of paying for someone to do it for me.  And since my first homemade batch, I’ve not bought a container of the store-bought kind!  It really is that easy and delicious.

Start with a large pot, a digital thermometer or a candy thermometer (whichever you have), a spoon, two empty gallon jugs, about a quarter to a half a cup of plain yogurt with live and active cultures, and an ice chest.  I use whole milk for my yogurt.  I’ve never tried making it with two percent or skim.  I think two percent might work, but I would avoid skim because I believe it might be too processed to turn into yogurt.  You can used pasteurized milk or organic milk, just make sure that it doesn’t say, “Ultra-Pasteurized,” because that will fail to produce yogurt as well.

You can make a half gallon of yogurt at first, if you want to experiment with a smaller batch or if you don’t think you will eat very much within a week.  I typically make an entire gallon because my husband and I both eat yogurt a few mornings a week for breakfast.

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Pour the milk into a pot that will fit it and plunk in your thermometer.  Make sure that the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pan or it will give you an overly hot reading.  Heat the milk over medium heat to be 180 degrees Fahrenheit.  This kills any bad stuff in your milk.  It’s best to not let your milk get hotter and come to a boil, but if you get distracted and it does, you can still use it.  You just might have to strain off some scalded milk from the bottom of the pan.  Not that I know that from experience or anything….ahem.

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While your milk is getting close to 180 degrees, fill the two empty gallon jugs with very hot tap water and place in your ice chest, closing the lid to create a warm environment.

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Here’s the pot in the incubator.

Let your milk cool to between 115-120 degrees and then whisk in your plain yogurt.  Make sure that it is yogurt that says, “Live and Active Cultures,” as the active cultures are what spread through the milk to turn it to yogurt while it incubates.  Place your pot in the ice chest with the hot jugs still in there, and close the lid tightly.  Don’t touch for at least 4 hours.

When you open the lid after 4 hours, you should have slightly jiggly but solid yogurt.  If your pot still has liquidy milk in there, it is fine to put it back in the incubator for up to four more hours and then recheck it.  Once it is done, put it in the fridge for several hours to cool.  It will firm up even more in the fridge.

If it still hasn’t formed into yogurt after incubating for up to eight hours, then it’s mostly likely due to three possibilities:

  1.  You added the plain yogurt when the temperature was too high and accidentally killed the good bugs.
  2. You used ultra-pasteurized milk.
  3. You didn’t use a quality plain yogurt as your starter that had live, active cultures.

Honestly, in all the times I’ve made yogurt, I’ve only had one failed batch, so it is pretty rare.

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You can totally do this at home.

After it chills in the fridge for a couple hours, you can pour it into whatever container you would like to store it in.  I like to use mason jars.  Reserve a quarter to a half a cup of your first batch to be your starter for the next batch!  You can’t use the starter indefinitely, unless you order a special heirloom starter.  But you should be able to use your own starter for three batches or more.  Then, I just buy a single serving of plain yogurt to start fresh.

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This is my go-to starter when I’m not using a starter from a previous batch.

If you like greek-style yogurt, you can strain it by placing a few cups at a time into a colander lined with a thin plain cotton flour sack style kitchen towel.  Let it strain for anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the consistency you like.  Scrape the finished product into a jar, you can dump the whey or save it for other uses, and rinse the towel and throw it in the wash.

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My yogurt with homemade cranberry sauce and almonds!  This has been my favorite breakfast since Thanksgiving.

I think there is nothing that compares to the mild taste, the richness, and the perfect flavor of homemade plain yogurt- try it for yourself, you will be amazed!

If you do make your own batch, take a picture of the results and tag me on my new Instagram account @KitchenWithKeri.

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Homemade Yogurt

  • Servings: 6-8 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients


1 gallon whole milk
¼ to ½ cup yogurt with live active cultures

Directions

Heat the milk in a large pot until the thermometer reads 180 degrees. Let cool to 115-120 degrees and whisk in yogurt. If desired, add sweetener or flavoring of your choice at this point. You could add vanilla, sugar, maple syrup, fruit, coconut shreds, etc. The sky is the limit! Place the pot in a cooler with two jugs of very hot tap water on either side. Tightly close lid and incubate 4-8 hours. Strain through a sack cloth towel if greek-style yogurt is desired.