Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Preserving and Pickling Jalapeno Peppers

Preserving and Pickling Jalapeno Peppers is NOT something that Grandma would have done. I take that back. If she had GROWN jalapeno peppers, she would definitely have found a way to preserve or pickle them. I just don’t think she ever would have grown this kind of pepper. While she and Grandpa didn’t mind an occasional pizza (mostly frozen), these were Scandinavians to whom ketchup was spicy (so jokes the family). My garden is starting to produce peppers faster than I can use them, so I came up with this method for preserving and/or pickling them. I use the syrup for Refrigerator Pickles, but without the spices, and the jar goes into the refrigerator so I can keep adding peppers and they grow and/or we eat them. Sorry for using “and/or” so much, but I guess it’s necessary in this particular recipe. We want to pickle the peppers, but not make them pickles. Does that make sense? Maybe I should say, I want to preserve the peppers instead of pickle them. Regardless, this is an easy way to preserve and/or pickle the peppers so you can save them and use them longer.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Preserving and Pickling Jalapeno Peppers

Mix together in a microwaveable container (I used my glass measuring cup):

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup sugar

1/8 cup salt

Heat 45-60 seconds in microwave to warm and more easily dissolve the sugar and salt.

Whisk until sugar dissolves and set aside.

Slice:

as many jalapeno peppers as you can get into a pint canning jar (I sliced them about 1/8″ thick – not too thin – and I got 10 peppers into this jar)

Put sliced peppers into a jar and top with lid and ring.

Pour syrup over top of peppers.

Screw on lid and ring and store in refrigerator.

Let sit at least 2 weeks (a month is better).

This is such a simple recipe and it’s so easy to do – I’m glad I decided to try it. We love jalapeno peppers, but we just don’t use them up fast enough. This is a great way to preserve them.

There are 10 peppers sliced in this pint canning jar.

I always label the lid so I know when I started the jar.

Here are the sliced peppers all ready for the refrigerator. You can see my next project in the background – the bags with 3 dozen ears of sweet corn ready to get into the freezer.

Here’s a bonus way to preserve your jalapeno peppers – freezing them! I just put the whole washed peppers onto a baking sheet in a single layer, freeze for about an hour . . .

. . . and put them into a zip top freezer bag. If you don’t freeze them this way, you could end up with a frozen ball of peppers that you can’t get at unless you thaw the whole ball – this enables you to take out one, two, or as many as you need at a time. Label the bag with the date and what they are and just take them out when you need them. You can cut them into halves and take out the membranes and seeds, or chop them into small pieces, but freezing them whole works well for what I use them for.

Here is the finished product! It looks like you can already see space at the bottom of the jar – just add more peppers when they are ready to pick in from the garden. I’m in Grandma and Grandpa’s camp when it comes to my taste in spicy, but my family loves a little heat (mostly the boys). I don’t especially love it when steam blows out my ears and my eyes are tearing up so bad that tears are flowing from my eyes. They loved these and proclaimed them “just right”. I guess that means not TOO hot or spicy, but obviously hot and spicy enough. These are delicious, and you’re going to love Preserving and Pickling Jalapeno Peppers for use all winter long.

 

 

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Gluten-Free Snack Mix

I made this Gluten-Free Snack Mix when my sister visited recently (she watches her gluten intake for health reasons), and it’s so good – I might make it all the time! It makes a big batch, and you can even add doubles of your favorite snacks to make it just the way you want it. It’s easier than ever to go gluten-free these days, but you still have to read labels and do your research to make sure it’s exactly what you’re looking for. People with allergies, celiac disease, or other life-threatening gluten sensitivities should always be on guard and read labels or go to the snack maker’s website to make sure you’re all good to go. This is the easiest and fastest snack mix you’ll ever make!

Here is the recipe as I made it (this really isn’t a recipe – it’s just mixing bags of snacks):

Gluten-Free Snack Mix

Mix in a large container, 1 package of each:

Pik Nik Shoestring Potatoes

Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop Light Kettle Corn

Cheetos

Fritos Corn Chips

+Lay’s Poppables (sea salt) – made on the same line as some gluten containing products, but technically don’t contain gluten

+Peanuts – doesn’t say gluten-free on package, but technically gluten-free

+M & M’s – doesn’t say gluten-free on package, but website says they’re gluten-free

You can add any combination of tasty gluten-free snack you want, but this is what I came up with when perusing the snack aisle at my local grocery store.

Combine gently and enjoy.

When you use bags of snack, you have to make sure your container is big enough or you’re gonna have a problem mixing those delicious goodies all together.

I tried to find a lot of different textures, colors, and flavors.

At this point you could leave out the M&Ms or add them. We decided to add them – they added that little pop of sweet at the end because, of course, the peanuts and the M&Ms sink to the bottom a bit.

It’s definitely a colorful mix!

This is a tasty mix of colors, textures, sizes, shapes, and flavors. I think I’ll be making this particular snack mix over and over again – it’s delicious! Be careful – you’ll be hooked – but if you’re going gluten-free (or even if you’re not), try this tasty Gluten Free Snack Mix and you’ll see why I’m going to be making more of this soon!

 

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Nut Goodie Bars

These Nut Goodie Bars are ridiculous. I mean seriously ridiculous. I don’t remember where I originally got this recipe because it was written in my cookbook where you can write in your own recipes. My oven is waiting for a new igniter, so I needed to find something to make that doesn’t need an oven. This recipe is perfect for a hot summer afternoon. They’re a lot like Nut Goodie Candy – only better! After making these bars, I remember why I haven’t made them in years. Holy cow! The smell of the chocolate and peanut and maple – I have a problem. I have a real problem with these bars. Wow. I am not even kidding when I say that I could probably sit down with this pan and make quick work of it. Really. So sad. But true, unfortunately. You’ll see. You’ve been warned. Just you wait.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Nut Goodie Bars

Combine in a large microwaveable bowl:

12 ounce package of semi sweet chocolate chips

11 ounce package of butterscotch chips

8 ounces (1 cup) peanut butter

Melt in microwave for 1 minute and stir.

Microwave and stir again every 30 seconds until melted and smooth (this took me about 2 minutes total in my microwave).

Pour half of this mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil and spread it out to the edges.

Put pan into refrigerator to firm up while making the filling.

Add to other half of mixture:

16 ounce jar of dry roasted peanuts

Set aside.

Heat in saucepan:

1/2 cup milk

1 cup butter

1/4 cup regular vanilla pudding mix (use Jello Cook & Serve, not instant pudding)

1 teaspoon maple flavoring

Boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and add:

2 pounds powdered sugar

Mix, cool, and spread on top of first layer.

Refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

Reheat other half of chocolate mixture in microwave (another 30 seconds).

Pour over second layer and spread.

Refrigerate 3 hours or so until firm.

Store in refrigerator.

Chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter. Oh my.

Melt them all together and spread half of it on the parchment lined baking sheet.

Next, mix in the peanuts.

I put the pan into the refrigerator to firm up while I mixed the next ingredients. It worked well to spoon it on fairly evenly over the first chocolate layer.

Spread on the second layer.

I put the chocolate/peanut mixture into the microwave for 30 seconds and then spooned it fairly evenly over the second layer.

Spread out the third layer and into the refrigerator it goes. I swear – it must weigh about 5 pounds at this point!

When you line the pan with parchment, you can just lift out the whole thing and that makes it easier to cut. I’d cut the pieces small, too, if I were you. You get more out of the pan and it lasts longer.

Oh wow. This is a very decadent and delicious treat for a very special occasion.

I’m so glad my oven stopped working and I was able to revisit these bars. Well, I mean – I’m so glad I could bring some of these bars to my book club’s annual pool party – because if I didn’t bring these somewhere to someone else, they would all be mine, if you know what I mean. All mine. I might get sick, and I don’t care. I just can’t stop eating these. Remember – you’ve been warned! You’re going to love these Nut Goodie Bars as much as me – I promise!

 

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5 Years Blogging and Prune Spice Cake

Today’s recipe is for Prune Spice Cake, and today is the 5th anniversary of Plenty Sweet Life! Have I really been doing this for 5 years? Really? I had to post today the same way I did 5 years ago, when I started with Prune Cake in honor of my grandma and her 100th birthday. Grandma and one of her sisters shared a birthday. They were born on the same day two years apart. Because today is the actual birthday, I had to share this photo of the two birthday girls from sometime around the mid 1930’s.

They sure are dressed up for some special occasion. Let’s just say it’s a birthday party! Those dresses are gorgeous! I seem to remember Grandma telling me once that their mother sewed all of their clothes. She sure was good at it. She even sewed the baptismal gown that our birthday girl was going to wear, but there were complications at her birth and she never got to wear it. The fun part is – it’s been worn by all the babies in our family ever since!

Today would be Grandma’s 105th birthday, and I had to do another one of her recipes for prune cake – we do need birthday cake today, after all. The smell of this cake baking just totally smells like Grandma. And love. She is the one who inspired Plenty Sweet Life and I have to say that I believe she did live a plenty sweet life – in more ways than one! Happy birthday, Grandma! I love you and I miss you!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Prune Spice Cake

Sift together:

3 cups cake flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice or mace (I used allspice)

Set aside.

Cream together until light and fluffy:

3/4 cup shortening (I used butter)

2 cups sugar

Add:

3 eggs

Beat well.

Add:

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups drained, coarsely chopped prunes (or canned stewed prunes or cooked prunes which have stood overnight in the liquid – I just chopped regular prunes because they were nice and soft and tender and if cooked, it seemed like they’d just disintegrate)

Add alternately:

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

flour mixture

Beat well after each addition.

Pour batter into 3 9″ layer pans lined with parchment on the bottom, or 2 9″ x 9″ x 2″ square pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes (she said she had made cupcakes, so that’s what I did and baked them 20-25 minutes).

To frost these Prune Spice Cake cupcakes, I used the Fluffy White Frosting recipe from this past post.

Maybe prunes are processed differently than they were years ago, but these were very soft and I was a bit afraid to try to cook them. It worked out just fine.

I used my whisk to sift all of the dry ingredients.

Into the cupcake forms goes the batter!

They smell divine while baking, and taste even better when done!

There’s nothing better than Fluffy White Frosting, but I’m still learning (really – I hope I NEVER stop learning), and I learned something today . . .

. . . as I frosted the cupcakes. As you can see, the frosting started to get rough and it wasn’t as smooth as in the beginning. When I made the frosting and had it over the boiling water, I left it on the water when adding the vanilla. I think I’d try taking the bowl off the boiling water next time, when adding the vanilla, and beat it off the heat so it cools down a bit and doesn’t keep on cooking the frosting. Maybe that’s why it got rough – it just kept cooking in the hot bowl. It’s worth a try. It wasn’t gritty at all (the sugar did dissolve) – it just looked rough, but still tasted just as delicious!

There is just no way we’re going to have birthday cake without a cup of coffee in the afternoon. No way.

This is one of the prettier cupcakes I frosted in the beginning. The cake is tasty and the frosting is fluffy and it makes for an amazing birthday combination! Prunes? Who knew? They’re delicious in cake and I totally suggest you celebrate your next birthday girl or boy with some of these Prune Spice Cake cupcakes, and the birthday girl or boy will have, I’m sure, a plenty sweet life just like Grandma!

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Celery Seed Dressing

The recipe for today is for Celery Seed Dressing. I got this one years ago from my aunt, who brought it to a family gathering. It was so delicious, I emailed her to get the recipe. She emailed it back to me, but there isn’t a name on it, so I’m calling it Celery Seed Dressing. Summer is short here in Minnesota, and we want our recipes to be fast, easy to pull together, and amazingly delicious. Well, I’m telling ya, this one fits the bill. It makes a simple summer salad (maybe made with your fresh garden harvest) incredibly delicious with the addition of this amazing dressing.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Celery Seed Dressing

In a microwave safe bowl, combine:

1/3 cup sugar (I cut back on this a bit – it was plenty sweet!)

3 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon dried, minced onion

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Microwave on high for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Whisk in:

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)

I let it cool down a bit at this point.

Drizzle on salad and toss.

Here are the salad ingredients my aunt used that day:

Spinach (I can’t remember if there was lettuce, but I used romaine this time)

Cherry tomatoes

Mushrooms, sliced

Mandarin oranges

Sliced almonds, toasted

Green onions, sliced

You can really add anything you want to this delicious dressing, but these particular ingredients are really good!

I just use a small whisk to whisk the oil into the seasonings.

This is a beautiful salad.

Drizzle the dressing onto the salad goodies and give it a toss.

This salad and dressing would go with any main dish, but I served it with grilled chicken with BBQ Sauce. It’s a delicious salad dressing and makes a great, fast summer meal very special. Try this Celery Seed Dressing and grill up something amazing tonight!

 

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Dessert #6

Today’s recipe for Dessert #6 (there seems to be a LOT of dessert recipes in Grandma’s file – at least 6 just simple named “dessert”!) comes from Grandma’s youngest sister who got it from her daughter-in-law’s mother. I love that. That’s how these great recipes just keep getting passed around – because they’re GREAT! Actually, I have three different copies of this recipe: this one that’s Grandma’s, one that’s from another sister (who was exactly 2 years older than her), and one that’s from the above mentioned youngest sister. I guess they all liked it! The sisters definitely shared those recipes that were “V Good”, and that’s what this one is – V Good!

Note the “V Good” connotation again on this one!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Dessert #6

Mix together:

80 Ritz Crackers, crushed

1/2 cup melted margarine or butter (I used butter)

Save 3/4 cup for topping.

Put rest in bottom of 9″ x 13″ pan.

Mix together:

2 packages Butter Pecan Instant Pudding (I couldn’t find this – maybe they don’t make it anymore –  and Grandma’s recipe was the only one with this ingredient – I just used Vanilla Instant Pudding (that’s what the other 2 recipes called for) and added 1/4 cup toasted pecans)

2 1/2 cups milk

Stir in:

1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened

Pour on top of crust.

At this point I put the pan into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to let the pudding/ice cream mixture firm up a bit.

Top with:

1-8 ounce container of Cool Whip

Reserved 3/4 cup Ritz Cracker mixture

Nuts or cherries can be added (I don’t know if she means in the pudding/ice cream mixture or on top).

I like how this recipe says the exact number of crackers to crush. Sometimes it’s hard to know how much of things to use when they keep changing the size of products so often.

It’s a simple crust – crackers and melted butter. Don’t forget to keep out the 3/4 cup for the topping!

Soften the ice cream and it will be easier to stir it into the pudding. I used a whisk at first, but then changed to a spatula once the ice cream started to melt in. It might be interesting to play around with different pudding flavors in this!

I had a few lumps of ice cream that just wouldn’t stir smooth, but in the end it didn’t seem to make much difference. It was smooth once it was chilled.

It was easier to spread the Cool Whip over the top after making dollops with a spoon and then spreading it. Be gentle – the pudding layer isn’t totally firmed up yet. Sprinkle the crumbs on top!

The recipe says you can add nuts and cherries, so I added a strawberry. That makes it a healthy dessert, right? This dessert is delicious just the way it is, and if you like it of a more soft consistency, serve it right away. I made this during a very hot week, and I put it into the freezer – it was nice and firm and nice and cold! It’s a great dessert to keep in your freezer for unexpected guests! If Grandma and her sisters say it’s “V Good” – it’s “V Good” – and you’ll love this Dessert #6, too!

 

 

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Freezing Rhubarb

Today we’re going to talk about Freezing Rhubarb. Years ago, when I started making a lot of rhubarb recipes for this blog, my mom told me that she and Grandma didn’t usually use rhubarb after the first of July. This was apparently because the stalks got “woody” and tough and didn’t taste so great. By this time of the summer, I’ve made a lot of rhubarb recipes and because my rhubarb plants were so hugely productive this year (who knows why, but I like it!), I feel the need to preserve some of it for next  year. Unfortunately, some years are less productive, so just in case – we’re going to freeze some so we can use it next winter when we need a little springtime, or in case of a less productive year and we need to supplement the fresh stuff with some frozen stuff.

I have to say, this was the best year that I’ve ever had with my rhubarb plants.

This plant is on the west end of my garage garden (on the south side of our garage).

This plant is on the east end of my garage garden. You can see that the stalks aren’t huge after all the picking I’ve done this spring, but there is still a lot of rhubarb left on these plants, and if you look closer, you can see that there are still shoots coming up and out! Unbelievable! This is AFTER all the rhubarb recipes I’ve made this year and AFTER I’ve picked what I want to freeze. As long as there is this much left, it only makes sense to freeze some and have it ready for next winter and/or spring.

Remove those beautiful big leaves and the little tail parts that pull out of the ground. Wash them well and dry off the stalks.

I cut the stalks into 1/2″ to 1″ pieces. There are usually a few places that are a bit funky on the stalks, whether it’s from bugs munching on them or from their rubbing against my little fence that runs in front of the plants. Just trim off anything funky. You know – yucky.

Seriously – look how pretty!

Try to get the pieces into one single layer on a baking sheet (I might have had a bit too many pieces on this sheet, but they froze just fine and didn’t stick together). You can cover the sheet with parchment paper if you want to, but I didn’t need to do that. Into the freezer for at least one hour so they’ll get frozen, frosty, and firm up.

Out of the freezer and ready to be bagged! Use a large spoon if you’re worried that they’ll thaw too quickly, but I just used my hands because I only had one pan. I did it pretty quickly. Because of freezing them in a single layer and then bagging, you can just measure them when you’re ready to use them instead of measuring while bagging.

Of course, I use freezer zip top bags. Try to get as much air out as you can to prevent freezer burn. I have heard of some people using a straw to suck out the air. I’ve never been able to get the bag closed in time when I do that, so I don’t do it. Go ahead and try it if you want to, but I just press the air out and zip the top shut. Don’t forget to label the bags with a date and what’s inside. I don’t know about you, but there are times when things have been in the freezer too long, you can’t really tell what the heck it is. There. I’m ready for a taste of springtime around, say, about February or March of 2019. I can dream about this all winter: muffins, dessert, Torte, cake, sauce, pie. Maybe I should go out and cut some more – I might not have enough. I need to have some in case it’s an unproductive year, too! Try Freezing Rhubarb and get yourself a taste of spring for next winter!

 

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5 Frosty Desserts for Hot Summer Days

We need 5 Frosty Desserts for Hot Summer Days because we’re in it now – those glorious summer days of sunshine and heat. What’s better than a nice, frosty dessert when you’ve been at the beach all day, you’re visiting someone’s cabin, or you have a family gathering to go to? Here are 5 desserts that will keep you cool this summer!

Frozen Lemon Pie

Homemade Ice Cream and Root Beer Floats

Frozen Salad or Dessert

Dessert #2

Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream

 

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Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July, dear readers!

Plenty Sweet Life wishes you and yours a happy, safe, and fun-filled 4th!

I hope you get a chance to splash around in some water – just a bit!

Happy 4th of July!

 

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Popcorn Cake

This recipe for Popcorn Cake comes from a friend we met when we were first married and living in a different town. Their family came to visit us for a weekend when we moved to our house, and they brought the lovely housewarming gift of a recipe book where you could write in your own recipes. She had written in a few recipes that her family enjoyed, and this was one of them.

I have only made this once before, but I WILL be making it more often from now on.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Popcorn Cake

Melt together:

1 – 10 1/2 ounce bag of marshmallows

25 caramels

3/4 cup butter

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Pour this over:

9 cups popped popcorn

Add:

3/4 cup M&Ms (I used 1 cup)

3/4 cup dry roasted peanuts (I used 1 cup)

Stir until mixed.

Put in buttered 9″ x 13″ pan (I used a Bundt pan).

Cool 1 hour in refrigerator before serving.

You can make the popcorn any way you like: microwave, kettle, or like I did, with my good old college air popper! Still works great!

Not a lot of ingredients, but they’re delicious ingredients!

Pour the first mixture over the popcorn.

Mix it up and let it sit just a minute or two before adding the M&Ms so they don’t melt. When thinking about how the final product would look, I decided to put a few M&Ms into the bottom of the Bundt pan so they would be on top when it was turned out.

I put the final mixture into the Bundt pan and patted it down with a buttered piece of waxed paper.

I thought the cake would come right out of the pan easily, but it didn’t. No worries. Just hold it in some warm water for a couple of minutes and it slides right out of the pan. Maybe turning it out onto a plate right away instead of chilling it in the refrigerator would work. You can also just follow the recipe and put the mixture into a regular cake pan and make more of a bar type of thing. Either way is equally delicious and pretty. You can also find out how I made the incredibly fast, incredibly easy, and incredibly inexpensive cake stand here!

I added some sprinkles and decorative sugar to the top of the cake. Not necessary. It’s so cute and so festive without sprinkles. I can see why people make this for birthdays and holidays – it’s pretty decadent – loaded with all those goodies like marshmallows, caramels, peanuts, and M&Ms. It’s so good. And it’s so easy. This is a great last-minute treat to celebrate anything and everything. Try this Popcorn Cake and you’ll agree!

 

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