Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Well-Fed Newlywed: Homemade Refrigerator Pickles!

For our wedding, we received homemade dill & bread n butter PICKLES from a family friend! Adam and I were super excited to try these pickles, and after we devoured them within a couple of days, I got it into my mind that we would also set out to make pickles! How hard could it be, I wondered! Well, pretty damn easy, I found out!

I used this recipe from It Freezes Beautifully: 
For you lazy peeps, Imma just repost it here, with all of the wonderful changes I made:

Garlic - 1 clover per pint jar (2 cloves for quart jar)
Cucumbers - Enough to fill your jars - I used the pickling cucumbers from my garden.
Ball pickling spices 
Fresh dill  
Ball Pickle Crisp granules
Pickling cucumbers (smaller cucumbers with bumps on them!)

2 cups vinegar
4 cups water
3 TBSP Kosher Salt/ Sea Salt
So, funny story. I took off to Walmart with this recipe and ended up with what I thought was Pickling Salt, but it was actually Ball Pickle Crisp granules, which is not salt, so don't try to use as such! Most recipes call for pickling salt, but of course I wasn't going back to the store (because I sure did wait until 9 pm on a Saturday night to make these pickles!) Other recipes warned not to use table salt as it will make your brine cloudy. Enter the sea salt. 

Put your water, vinegar & salt into a stockpot and bring to a boil. Make sure that your salt is dissolved. (This is where recipes differ- it says that you should let it cool, but I was impatient and put it in warm).

Set your jars out on the counter and, assembly-line style, fill with the following: 
Sprigs of dill (however much you're feeling- I put 2 sprigs in the bottom and one on top) 
1/2 tsp Pickling Spice 
1-2 clove of garlic (I smashed my garlic with the back of the knife and put it in like that so the garlic juices would flow.

Chop your cucumbers (or slice, or put them in whole) on top of the pickling spice, dill & garlic. I sliced most of mine into spears, but the small ones went in whole. Put 1/4-1/8 teaspoon of the Pickle Granules on top, then ladle the brine over the cucumbers. Seal with the tops of the jar lids, and put into a sink filled with hot water. This is supposed to seal the lids even tighter to keep freshness. 
  Then, put your jars in the fridge for atleast 48 hours. I tried them somewhere around the 36 hours mark, and they still tasted like cucumbers! At 72 hours, they were perfect! I took them to work and handed them out. It was fun hearing the CRUNCH of a perfectly pickled pickle! 
These pickles should last around 6 weeks in the fridge (if they last that long!!)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wedding Tin Can Ham (Salad)

Sometimes, you get a gift and you don't quite know what to do with it. 

Then you find out who gave it to you, and it makes sense. As part of a wedding gift, we received a fully cooked, tin can ham.

First, a little background. My dad's best friend Andy has floated in and out of my life since I was little, living between Wisconsin and Missouri, always arriving unannounced after driving umpteen hours, crashing on our couch, and waking up to the same can of Folgers he left a year earlier. It was always great to see Andy, but now that I think of it, there is something I remember about him... 

Andy, Me, Dad
He never eats full meals. Andy's always snacking. Peanuts, crackers, chips, but never a full on dinner! So when we received a beautiful wicker basket full of tons of snacks, I should have known it was from Andy! This basket was chockfull of cheese spread, crackers, nuts, champagne, glass flutes, cookies, and more. It came especially in handy when Adam and I were opening gifts and needed some finger foods! 

I'm picking through the basket for a snack, when all of the sudden, I see this cooked ham: 
At first, I laughed. It reminded me a bit of Spam, with it's pop tab. My Grandma used to slice Spam and serve it to me on a slice of white bread, folded over to envelope it. It made so much sense at her house, but I never ventured to Spam again in the comfort of my adult life.

Over the last week, I've been thinking about this ham. How to prepare it? Should I even ingest a preservative laden pork product? Well yes, I thought. Unfortunately, tin can hams just don't have much appeal to foodies, so classing this ham up was going to be left to my imagination.

So I thought about the ham. I told people about the ham. I even looked it up on Pinterest, to no avail. Since I was left to my own devices,  I decided a couple of days ago that I was going to make ham salad! Having never made ham salad before, I treated it like tuna salad, which I thought was a pretty good idea.

I peeled open that tin can ham and sliced it- then threw it in my food processor! (This is not pretty). I added dill pickle relish, a little mayonnaise, chopped red onion, and a bit of pepper (you do not need salt, trust me on this!), and some mustard!

I have a tasting rule- if I'm going to taste it, so is Adam- so if I die,  he dies too. (Just kidding- I like his opinion!) (Side note: Often he says "It needs......something" offering no suggestion!) I scooped some ham salad onto two buttery Ritz crackers, and watched Adam's face light up. He loved it!

We toasted wheat bread, added some swiss cheese (Pinterest idea!) and had kettle cooked chips with our ham salad sandwiches for dinner! The best part: it makes tons and tons of ham salad! (But I dont know if I'm still going to be gogo for ham salad tomorrow!)

 Lesson Learned:  When Life Gives you a Tin Can Ham, laugh and make ham salad!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

We're Married! (+ New Look for the Blog!)

As you can tell, the blog got a makeover! Oh- and Adam and I got married! (But more on that later!) Just wanted to stop in (since it looks like I haven't blogged since APRIL--ehh sorry!) and let everyone know of the changes. No longer Laylan Land, we're "Pennel For Your Thoughts" (

What started out as me blogging my crazy life has turned into a Newlywed blog! I'll feature new recipes, date night ideas, lessons learned as a newlywed, and even advice for the newly engaged! We are already having so much fun, and I know that life has some good things in store for us.

I'll be writing up the wedding in some soon-to-be-published posts! Stay tuned...

Mr. & Mrs. Pennel