Monday, November 17, 2014

Blackberry-Vanilla-Black Pepper Jam

And, the last of the blackberry jams. Hope you enjoy!

2 pounds blackberries
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Place peppercorns in a tea strainer or similar. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and macerate 1-2 hours. Bring to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes before removing peppercorns and vanilla pod (save the pod, rinsing it well, to toss in a jug of bourbon or to put in sugar for vanilla sugar). Finish boiling until it reaches the gel-point, then water bath process for 15 minutes. Makes 4 half-pints.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blackberry-Bergamot Jam

Here's the blackberry-bergamot. If you don't have access to bergamot, feel free to use a regular sour orange. It will change the flavor but will still be tasty. Hope you enjoy!

2 pounds blackberries
2 cups bergamot sugar
pinch salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons bergamot juice

Combine and macerate 1-2 hours. Boil to the gel-point and water bath process 15 minutes. Makes 4 half-pints.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Blackberry-Lemon Jam

Blackberries are deeply, deeply on sale right now, which is my cue to get ready for a lot of canning even if it's a food I'm not harvesting myself. I've purchased quite a lot of them and am doing three styles of jams: blackberry-lemon (today's post), blackberry-bergamot (tomorrow's post), and blackberry-vanilla-black pepper (Monday's post). Each one uses the same basic methodology I use for all jams, so those of you who've read other preserve posts will be familiar with this method. These are lovely as gifts, and also for eating oneself on toast, in cookies or tarts, as a pie base, or over ice cream after heated to thin. Hope you enjoy!

2 pounds blackberries
2 cups sugar
juice and zest of one lemon
pinch salt

Put all ingredients together in a large pot and let macerate for 1-2 hours on the counter, or overnight in the fridge (covered). Bring to a boil, stirring, and remove from heat once it hits the gel-point. Water bath process 15 minutes. Makes 4 half-pints.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Sauteed Mushrooms

There are a million ways to make these, and I pretty much think they're all good. But I like this way for days when you're having sausage and kraut. Hope you enjoy!

8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
3-ish tablespoons finely diced red onion
1 large or two small cloves minced garlic
2-ish tablespoons white wine (I *think* this was a pinot but I froze it ages ago so can't remember for sure)
1-ish tablespoon lemon juice
pinch each: salt, lemon peel, dried thyme
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium to medium-high heat, then add the mushrooms, onions and spices. When they're about 3/4 of way done, add the remaining ingredients. When the liquid is gone they're done. Serves 2 if you feel like sharing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spiced Figs in Syrup

The fig trees have been ripe a couple of weeks now and I've been busy preserving, preserving, preserving. There's a tree on the property of the condos we live in and there's also one at Ross' Nana's house. This has put me in good supply of figs, though I'm not convinced one can ever truly have enough of these little gems of yum. Ross' family prefers a Southern fig preserve with strawberry Jell-O, so I made around 3 cases total for him and them (last year I didn't make enough for him at half a case and it was gone in a month or two so I promised not to make this mistake again). I've also made some jars of the regular fig preserve I like (figs, sugar and lemon juice only). But in the middle of all that we started what I refer to as "monsoon season" in Houston, which is NOT good for figs. I ran over to the on property tree and saw that what I thought would happen did happen. Figs were overripening faster than I could get them, even with the Piggy and I taking daily hauls, and the figs that weren't did have some rain splitting. Birds and butterflies are really happy and having a good time but I was sad. I got the last of what was usable off the tree (though there are still many unripe figs left - I will never understand how I and wildlife are the only ones using this tree for food) and it only amounted to about four cups. I've been wanting to make some whole preserved figs so this seemed like a good time to do it since I knew I was only going to get around 3-4 half-pints of whatever I made and I prefer to do a small test batch of things I've never done before to avoid the possibility of having a lot of waste if we don't like them. Kumquats have been showing up in the markets as well, so although it's more traditional to do this with lemon I thought I'd try it with kumquats instead. Hope you enjoy!

4 cups whole figs, stems removed
1 cup kumquats, whole
3 slices crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan and stick in the fridge until the next day. Bring to a strong simmer, reduce the heat and let simmer until the figs and kumquats are starting to be transparent. The syrup should be slightly thickened. Drain and reserve the syrup. Fill jars (should be around 4 half-pint jars) and then add syrup to jars. Can in a waterbath for 10 minutes at sea level.

Note: you could add, while simmering, a vanilla bean, a clove, a stick of cinnamon, and/or a few allspice berries as well if you like. Just make sure to remove them before canning since these spices will overpower the figs otherwise.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Veggie Fry with Buckwheat

I got some buckwheat a while back, intending to make it with beets. Then I forgot all about it until today when I discovered some beets in the house that needed to be used. This was substantially more delicious than I expected it to be, and we all ate it up with gusto. Hope you enjoy!


1/2 cup buckwheat groats
2-2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
pat of butter (optional)

Put water, salt and butter (if using) in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir in the buckwheat and boil for 10 minutes, stirring every so often. Strain out remaining water and serve. Serves 2.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 beets, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
1 cup celery, sliced
1 small jicama root, peeled and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 teaspoon each: garlic powder, salt

Heat oil in a skillet over medium, then add beets, carrots, onion, celery, jicama, garlic powder, and salt. Fry until softened, then add remaining ingredients and fry until as soft as you prefer. Serve over buckwheat. Serves 2.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Eggplant and Chickpea Skillet

The Piggy loves eggplant and chick peas and has been harassing me to do something with the eggplant she's been seeing in the fridge. I wanted part of it to crust with potato and parmesan but didn't want to make the whole thing that way so I also made this for her. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 globe eggplant, peeled and diced
1 can chickpeas
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon za'atar
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

In a skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onions and eggplant with salt and fry lightly. When the eggplant has slightly crisp exterior, add chickpeas, za'atar and lemon juice then cook down 1-2 minutes. Add tomato sauce and simmer until the sauce is slightly paste-like. Serves 4 as a side or 1 as a meal.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Fig Milkshake

It's figs. It's ice cream. It's a fig milkshake! As figs are coming into season, the canning is going to get out of hand. But while this is going on and poor Ross has to keep a crazy toddler out of the kitchen so we don't have to visit the emergency room over sugar burns, I figured it's good to give them something yummy to snack on while I'm preserving away. Enter the milkshake. Hope you enjoy!

8-10 figs
1/2-3/4 cup vanilla ice cream
splash of milk, if needed
1 teaspoon-ish lemon juice
pinch of salt
small splash of vanilla extract (optional)

Put all the ingredients in the blender and blend, blend, blend. Serves 1 normal sized person or 3 small people.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Honey Berries

I first learned of this practice in a fermenting group where someone was doing it with cranberries. This is delicious. Everyone should have these in their lives. I make mine exclusively with blueberries since that's the Piggy's current favorite fruit, but friends of mine make them with other berries with equal success. I think you pretty much could use any fruit and still have it be full of win. If you're going to feed this to kids (1+ years old, please!), don't let them see the container or you'll regret them knowing where these are. Hope you enjoy!

24 ounces blueberries

Fill a clean, quart sized Mason jar (or other quart sized vessel not made of metal) with blueberries. Fill with honey until the berries are completely submerged (this takes a while because the honey has to worm its way around all the fruit). Place a non-metal weight on top of the berries (I like to use the tealight holders from Ikea. The small size works in a standard mouth jar and the large size works in a wide mouth. But you can use anything, really, including a boiled rock to keep them submerged), top with a coffee filter that is secured with a rubber band, and leave it on the counter for 3-5 days. Remove rubber band and coffee filter, put a lid on it and refrigerate. The syrup can be used on ice cream, waffles, in club soda, or for making granola bars. Or whatever you feel like using it for. Makes 1 quart berries and syrup.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rhubarb Cobbler

I hadn't had rhubarb since I was a kid, when we used to pick it where it grew wild. But I saw some beautiful looking stalks at the store and thought it might make a lovely dessert without the usual strawberries that accompany it. Hope you enjoy!

4 stalks rhubarb, sliced into 1" pieces
1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon each: vanilla extract, lemon juice

Melt butter in 8-10" cast iron pan then add the other ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Top with crust, then sprinkle with turbinado sugar and bake at 425F for 30 minutes. Serves 4.


4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into bits
1 cup-ish flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
5-ish tablespoons ice water

Put butter, salt and sugar in a bowl and rub in the flour (I use my hands for this), a little at a time, until you have pea sized pebbles and "sand." Make a well in the middle of the butter mixture and add 4 tablespoons of water, quickly kneading it in with your hands. If the dough comes together so when you squeeze it it's solid then you're done. If it doesn't, add more water, one tablespoon at a time, until it does. Press out little bits of dough about the size of your palm and top your rhubarb mixture.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Quinoa "Pancakes"

So basically, I'd made a bunch of quinoa for the stuffed squash, since I wanted enough for that and then an equivalent amount for "something else." I had a lot of ideas on what that something else should be, but at the end of the day had to accept that I'm pretty lazy most of the time and so this "something" should be fast and easy. This is what I ended up deciding on and after a few revisions I'm pretty satisfied with it in this form. What I like the best about this is that it's nutritionally diverse in a single package, so you know you're getting good "growing food" served without having to mess with a bunch of stuff, and that has become really important to me since Ilana has effectively transitioned completely over to table food. Because it has both quinoa and eggs in it, it's very high in protein. Watermelon is the dessert of choice for this meal in our house.

3 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup each: chopped caramelized onions, chopped dill pickles (or any other vegetables you feel like putting in there; this is what I had that didn't require I mess with it)
1 heaping tablespoon toum (a little goes a long way here)
2 eggs
2-3 tablespoons butter or oil

Combine all ingredients but the butter/oil and stir really well. Heat a large, heavy skillet (I use cast iron for just about everything, but any heavy skillet is fine) and add the butter/oil. When melted and sizzling, drop in table spoon (not 15mL tablespoons for baking, but the large ones you eat with) portions into the skillet an inch or two apart and flatten with the spoon. Fry about 4 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown, then flip and give another 4-ish minutes (or until that side is also golden brown). Cool to serving temperature. Makes about 2 dozen.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Stuffed Acorn Squash

As you all know, I'm a pretty big fan of stuffed squash. They're relatively easy to make, despite there being a lot of steps, they're very healthful and they're effectively a "one pot" meal which means significantly fewer dishes to wash (this is important to me because dishes are the Death Star of my soul). They're also highly customizable and can be done with pretty much anything you have on hand at the house so long as you have a squash (of any type) to fill. I typically will select a high-protein grain for these because I nearly always make them either vegetarian or vegan, but meat could easily be added if that's your preference. I wanted to make one for Ilana since she'd never had it before, and since I'd found a large and beautiful acorn squash it seemed like a great opportunity. She ate this like it was going out of style, and to my surprise plowed through just under a quarter of the squash. Ross told me he thinks this probably belongs in her regular dinner rotation (and ours again).

1 large acorn squash, 5-7" in diameter

.75 cups quinoa
1.5 cups whey or water (I use whey from making yogurt; it imparts a nice flavor, cuts down on food waste and gets the ever growing mass of whey out of my fridge or freezer)
1 teaspoon iodized salt

1 small carrot, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1/2 small onion, minced
1/4-ish cup pickles, minced (I used Arabic pickles here but any kind you have on hand is going to be just fine)
1 small tomato, diced
1 tablespoon dried currants, soaked for 5-10 minutes in 2 tablespoons warm or hot water
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon iodized salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup parmesan (optional)

Cut squash in half and scoop out insides (set these aside to do something else with; the seeds will be roasted over here and the "guts" will be put in stock). Place in a cast iron skillet or oven-proof pan, cut-side down, with about a 1/2" of water and roast at 400F for 30-45 minutes (this could take up to an hour but shouldn't), or until a fork can easily pierce the squash.

While the squash is baking, combine the second group of ingredients, bring to a boil and let boil for a minute or two. Then turn the heat to medium low and let cook for 15-ish minutes. Let stand another 5-10 minutes.

As the quinoa cooks, chop up and mix together all the remaining ingredients except the cheese in a large bowl. When the quinoa is done, fold it into the veggie mixture. By now the squash should be done. Invert the halves without draining the water from the bottom of the pan and fill each cavity with half the mixture. You should need to press it down a bit to get it all in there, and it should still form a dome over the top. Feel free to spread the dome out to cover the whole squash top. Turn the oven down to 350-375F (your call) and put your squash back in the oven. Roast another 25-30 minutes, then sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over each squash half. Bake another 5 or so minutes. Let cool to serving temperature and eat! Serves 2 adults and 1 highly messy baby.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Sauteed Watermelon Rind

I picked up a watermelon recently (yes, I know. WAY out of season) because Ilana is a huge fan of them and likes to mash her pieces around, bite off too-big chunks, and try to feed them to me. Since we're a small house I typically buy the person sized melons. It was quite a surprise for me when I cut it open and found a rind thick enough to eat and so I peeled the green part of the melon carefully and then cut off all the white rind before dispensing watermelon chunk treats. This is a really fun recipe, since watermelon rind tastes a lot like cucumber and in the States that's not something we typically cook before eating. It also, of course, cuts down on food waste. Since Ilana (aka the Piggy, so named after the pig-like sounds she used to make) spends a lot of time in the kitchen "helping" me cook I figure starting her out from the very beginning with an aversion to food waste is the way to go rather than trying to instil this concept later in her life. Hope you enjoy!

5 cups watermelon rind, cut into strips about 1/4" wide and 2" long
1 teaspoon ground galangal or ginger
1/2 teaspoon each: onion powder, seasoned salt (I use Konriko)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice

Heat oil in a large saute pan and add all other ingredients except lime. Toss well and cook until slightly softened, then add lime juice. Cook until al dente. Serves 4.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Elderberry Syrup

My body appears to have an understandable bias against the air in Houston. I don't know if it's the pollution or if there is some other kind of weird allergen in the air that bothers me more here than anywhere else I've lived, but the allergies have been hitting me hard in that debilitating, nearly flu-like kind of way. This is probably compounded by the fact that I really do have a bad habit of running myself ragged and only stopping when my body freaks out on me. On account of this I decided I should make some elderberry syrup to take daily, and since the Piggy (this is Ilana's nickname) also appears to have my allergies, for her to take daily as well. Although I make this for medicinal reasons (tablespoon daily for adults, teaspoon for little ones) it also has a lot of fun culinary applications. You can use it in place of maple syrup on waffles or pancakes, it goes well on ice cream and frozen yogurt and can be part of a sauce to top delicious things like lamb chops. The sky is the limit with this simple recipe and you can incorporate immune building yums with just about anything else you like to eat. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 cup dried elderberries (these can be purchased in health food stores, homebrew shops and online)
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water

Combine all in a small saucepan and put the stove to medium or medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is melted then turn the stove down to low or medium-low and let simmer 20-30 minutes. Strain, retaining the liquid and tamp the berries down in the strainer with a wooden spoon to get all the syrup out of them as well. Transfer to a container (I use a small sized Maker's Mark bottle for this which is kind of bad because now when the Piggy sees a MM bottle she opens her mouth and is excited for her spoonful of syrup which probably means I'll need to explain about repurposing things a little younger than I intended so she doesn't think all bourbon bottles contain sweet things) and put the lid on once it's cooled to room temperature.