In A Pickle

Need some last minute gifts but have no time to shop? Instead of dragging your kids to the mall, get them into the kitchen and cook some gifts. The beauty of giving a food gift is that it will never be the wrong size. You don’t have to wait in long lines to pay for it and there are never any shipping costs. 

This year we decided to try our hand at pickling and make some jars of sweet pickles. In our house we call them pickle chips but the traditional name is bread and butter pickles. They are delicious on a sandwich or burger, but just as good straight from the jar.

Making pickles is surprisingly easy, although it may take a few attempts until you get just the right spice level for your taste. Our first attempts were a little too vinegary but after we had perfected the recipe, our pickles tasted as good as the Pickle Man at our local farmer’s market. (well, almost…)

All you need to get started is a few simple ingredients, small glass jars, labels and ribbon to dress up your gifts. We opted for a very kid-friendly, not so spicy pickle but there are so many spices that work well in this recipe; celery seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, or coriander seeds just to name a few. Experiment with a variety of combinations to see what works for you.

Sweet Pickles Chips

Ingredients

Note: Recipe yields about 2 small jars of pickles

6 mini or 2 regular size cucumbers

2 Tsp Kosher salt

1 1/4 cup water

3/4-cup rice wine vinegar

1/2-cup sugar

1 Tbsp mustard seeds

 

Method

Wash cucumbers thoroughly and pat dry. Cut cucumbers into coins, 1/8 thick.

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Place sliced pickles into a colander. Sprinkle with the salt and toss to evenly coat. Place the colander over a bowl and let sit in refrigerator for about an hour. Rinse off the salt and pat the cucumbers dry. Place the slices in your jars and set aside.

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In a small saucepan add the water, vinegar, sugar and mustard seeds. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and allow the brine to cool. Pour over the cucumbers in jar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

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Note: Unless you are sterilizing your jars and following proper canning procedures these pickles are only good for up to 2 weeks, and must be kept refrigerated.

And the VERDICT is: 

Matthew (age 6): “Much better than our first batch! Not as good as Pickle Man”

Liam (age 4): “Too spicy, don’t like these little balls”

Dylan (age 4): “I l sure do love these pickles”

Dining on the High Seas

This year my parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary and to mark this momentous occasion they took the whole family on a Caribbean cruise. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive about setting sail with our brood for seven long days. But it turned out to be a fantastic voyage.

There are lots of fun things to do on a cruise but by my calculations about 90% of the time is spent eating.  And by eating I mean, elaborate three-course meals, even for breakfast. If you don’t like to EAT – a cruise is not the vacation for you!

We ditched the kid’s menu and took the opportunity to have the boys try new foods every day. Personally I’m not a fan of the kid’s menu. But that’s a topic for another day….

The menus had endless options to sample. If the kids didn’t like their order, another meal was always around the corner so no worries they would go hungry. We did bribe with dessert at every meal (including breakfast!), so they were “on board” to try most of the dishes. In the end, no one ever left the table without eating something, even if it was only the fresh baked sourdough rolls (big hit!)

One standout was Chicken Cordon Bleu – quite a fancy name for breaded chicken stuffed with ham and cheese! We had such a relaxing dinner that night – no whining -no tears – so clearly this is something to try at home.

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Pickle Chips

Ingredients:

For the pickles:

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4-cup rice wine vinegar

3 small cucumbers, sliced in 1/4 inch rounds

 

For the chicken:

8 chicken breasts, skinless & boneless, thin sliced

8 slices ham, thinly sliced

8 slices Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced

1-cup all-purpose flour

Kosher salt & black pepper

3 eggs

2 cups panko bread crumbs, seasoned

2 Tbsp butter, melted

16 toothpicks

 

Directions:

Combine salt, sugar, and rice wine vinegar in a small bowl. Microwave for 15-20 seconds and mix well until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the cucumbers, cover and let sit until chicken is cooked.

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Top each piece of chicken with a slice of ham and cheese. (If you are not starting with thinly cut chicken flatten the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness.) Roll up and tuck ends; secure each side with toothpick.

Make your assembly line: In first shallow bowl place the flour, season with salt and pepper. In the next bowl, whisk the eggs, season with salt and pepper. In third bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and melted butter.

Dip each piece of chicken in the flour, then the egg, and gently coat in the breadcrumbs.

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Place on baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until browned and cooked through.

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AND THE VERDICT IS:

Matthew (age 5): “Mmmmmmmmmmm,… more please!”

Liam (3 days till age 4): “Yummy, I feel like we never had this before… Dylan, why do you like pickles so much?

Dylan (3 days till age 4): “I love pickles – I was born like that”

I might just send this recipe to Royal Caribbean – maybe they can add it to the kid’s menu!

 

Happy Anniversary to my amazing parents!

Happy Anniversary to my amazing parents!