Mama’s Fridge Pickles

This year, I grew my cucumbers vertically. The result was that they have been able to protect themselves from the Sacramento heat and will not stop producing. It’s been the summer of Mama’s Fridge Pickles!

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This is my personal recipe that I’ve tailored from a few trial and error attempts with multiple recipes. I love it because the cucumbers are jared in less than 15 minutes and the pickles are ready after 6 hours! They only keep for 6 weeks in the refrigerator, so make a note on the jar.

Here is what you will need:
4-6 cucumbers (I used 4 lemon cucumbers for this)
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tsp Kosher Salt
3 springs fresh dill
1 smooshed garlic clove
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or a leftover pack from the pizza place)
1 quart Mason Jar
Mandoline (optional)

If you gather all you need first, this will go very quickly. If you have impatient kids who want to help, this is a bonus step.

First, wash and slice your cucumbers. I use a Mandoline because it’s fast and consistent. I do not recommend this as a kid job. It’s definitely a grown person job (for fingers sake). The goal is to have enough slices to reach the top of the mason jar.

Speaking of your mason jar, take two or three stalks of dill (or half of a dill package from the store) and cut off the stalk leaving the beautiful leafy part. Discard the stalk. Give the dill a little squeeze with your hands and place them in the bottom of your mason jar.

Smash a clove of garlic and drop it in.

Toss in your salt. Throw in your vinegar. Sprinkle in your pepper flakes. Tighten the lid back onto the jar and give that mason a good shimmy shake for about a minute.

Here is where you have to trust me. You will look at this mixture and then look at the cucumbers and want to shake your head. It’s going to be okay. Science is going to do the rest of the job and we just get to observe.

Place your cucumbers in the jar in the mixture. Some of you are great at making things pretty. I applaud you. Although this is a present for my friend Brit (you can see her art here), this is about as adorable as I can get. You do you. I’ll be me. It all tastes the same in the end.

After I fill it all the way up with the cucumbers, I tighten the lid back on. I flip it over one time to let all the liquid come to the top, just for a moment, then flip it back right-side up. Then I pop it in the refrigerator.

It only needs 6 hours. Come back to it. Flip it again if you want to, although you don’t have to. I often can’t resist the urge. The longer you let it sit, the more your stack will shrink.

In the end, your jar will probably be only three quarters full of pickles. This is a good thing!

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Don’t forget to add the expiration date and enjoy!

Written by Mariah Cook, Sacramento local and toddler mom with another baby on the way (any day). Pregnancy brain motivated her to write her recipe down somewhere otherwise it would be lost for good.

 

 

 

Too Many Tomatoes? Dry them! Sun-Dried Tomatoes!

The end of summer is near. For me, this means two things. Kids are heading back to school and I have way too many tomatoes in the garden for my family to eat. Let’s focus on those tomatoes for a second. As much as I love having my family and friends over to have their own harvests, I want to preserve as many as possible for the winter. At the same time, I don’t have time.  I also want my kid to be able to help me, or at least pretend to help, long enough for me to accomplish my task.

That’s why we are making sun-dried tomatoes.

For this task, you will need a food dehydrator or access to a friend’s. Yes, you could use your oven; however, with the summer heat outside, the less I need to use my oven the better. If you have a garden or you can’t beat the deals you are seeing at your local farmer’s market, buying a dehydrator might be a great investment.

NESCO is what I have - it's on the low end but works great

NESCO is what I have – it’s on the low end but works great

Things You Need:
Tomatoes (I use Roma, Ace, and San Marzanos. Smaller sizes shrink too much. The bigger the better.)
A paring knife (To be used by a grown-up.)
Little thumbs (Kid fingers happen to be the perfect size.)
Kosher salt
Basil (Just another fun way to use your dehydrator if you are feeling inspired.)

Preparing Your Tomatoes:
I like to rinse my tomatoes in a colander and leave it in the sink to air dry while I work. I slice my tomatoes in half and get the seeds out using my thumbs. I do this over the sink as well.  If the tomato is too large for the dehydrator at this point, I slice the tomato lengthwise, about ½ inch thick. You want a big slab, but you also need to be able to stack your racks. This will help you keep your slices or halves pretty consistent in size as well.

I simply place the slices on the rack, sprinkle with salt and basil, then stack the rack!

work station

work station

single layer, sprinkled with salt and basil, ready to go

single layer, sprinkled with salt and basil, ready to go

Culinary Note: Many recipes recommend boiling your tomatoes first before slicing and seeding. This isn’t mandatory, but a matter of taste. I don’t have time to boil, cool, and peel a hot tomato. Just placing them on the rack with the skin on is enough for my family and they taste great.

Drying:
ust like you and I, dehydrators are all different, so read your manufacturer’s manual for their recommended dry time. I dry mine for about 10-14 hours. It’s like a crockpot, right?! You just get it ready and leave it be.

The key is to check after the minimum time. You want a tomato that is like dried leather versus a crunchy dead leaf.

finished and ready to freeze

finished and ready to freeze

Culinary Tip: If you have a lot of hot Serrano or Poblano peppers, you can cut them in half and dry them on a separate rack. They use the same amount of time to dry! You store them the same way as the tomatoes.

serrano peppers and pablanos

serrano peppers and pablanos

Storage:
Dried tomatoes need to be in an airtight environment like a ziploc bag and placed in the freezer.

get all the air out and they are ready to freeze

get all the air out and they are ready to freeze

Questions About Storing Dried Tomatoes in Oil:
Can you do it? Sorta. You can soak them in oil with a sprig of any herb for up to 24hrs in a closed container like a mason jar. I have not found a safe way to can dried tomatoes in oil in a home kitchen for long-term storage. If you have, leave me a comment! I’d love to know!

Ideas for Use:
Aside from the common stuff like pizza, sauces, and salads, you can use them as part of a gift basket for holidays and/or birthdays! People love things made from the heart-I know I do.

Written by Mariah Cook. She lives in Sacramento with her small son and big husband.

Quinoa Baby Cereal

As a mother of a 1 year old, and in the full swing of solid foods, if there was one thing I wish was easier to find on the internet when my son was 6 months old it has to be quinoa baby cereal.

Every kid is different. All moms and dads agree on that. For my kid, rice cereal and oatmeal gave my son a devilish combination of gas and constipation. Yuck and ouch! I was desperate to find a recipe for a cereal that would change everything. I needed protein, fiber, and carbs. Quinoa was the golden ticket.

What you need:

1/4 c. Quinoa; dry

I get this giant bag at Costco! The price is right!

I get this giant bag at Costco! The price is right!

2 c . Water

Magic Bullet or food processor to grind and puree

This bad boy will multi-task all your baby food needs.

This bad boy will multi-task all your baby food needs.

Ice cube tray

I use different sized silicone ones like this. P.S. They make perfect squares for the cutest ice cubes for cocktails after this baby food phase is over and done!

I use different sized silicone ones like this. P.S. They make perfect squares for the cutest ice cubes for cocktails after this baby food phase is over and done!

Here is what you do:
Put water on stove and bring to a boil.

Put quinoa in the grinder. Grind until it is a powder (about 1 min). Add to boiling water and cover. Turn heat down to low. Walk away for 12 minutes and do some dishes because we all know they are staring at you in the sink.

After 12 minutes, remove from heat. The cereal will be goopy looking. That’s a good thing! Feed your kid a couple tbsp mixed with any type of milk he/she is consuming (breast or formula). You can also mix with fruit.

Pour extra mixture into ice tray and freeze overnight. Pop out cubes and place in an airtight container to store in your freezer for easy use. When you heat up the cubes for use, I recommend only heating for 10 seconds at a time until warmed to your standards.

Here are links to find the Bullet and the ice cube trays:
Magic Bullet Mini
Silicone Ice Trays