Wednesday, June 25, 2014

caprese salad

My favorite vegetable? Tomato. My favorite herb? Basil (with a close runner up of parsley). My favorite cheese? Any. (lol)  But fresh mozzerella is very close to the top of the list.

My heirloom tomatoes are starting to ripen at a steady, eat-one-or-two-a-day rate. Yesterday, I made a caprese salad with room temp mozzerella and heirloom tomatoes, and some beautiful basil from my mom. I am currently out of olive oil, so I just left that part off this time.  Also, I noticed the Pioneer Woman makes a balsamic reduction and drizzles that, so I will be giving that a go as well.

Caprese Salad

fresh ripe tomatoes, sliced thick
fresh mozzerella, brought to room temperature or warmed in a bowl of warm salt water, and sliced
fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil

Layer the first 4 ingredients on a plate as so: tomato, cheese, basil leaf, salt and pepper. As a final touch, drizzle good olive oil over the salad. Enjoy!

So, so, so good. I could eat this every day.

(heirloom tomatoes pictured:  the dark one, Black Krim; the red one, Homestead; and the yellow one, Mr. Stripey)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

preserved lemons

I've been wanting to try this for a while now. It's a little time consuming, but simple to do.  They will hang out for 4-6 weeks and then I'll be giving them a taste test, and hopefully making this chicken dish, which I've been eyeing for a while now.

Preserved Lemons

Prepare a clean, heat-proof glass jar by filling it with boiling water; soak the lid covered in boiling water also (do not use metal).  Prepare the lemons.

7-8 large Meyer lemons
extra lemons for juicing (probably 4-5)
Sea salt

Cut the ends off the lemons. Stand a lemon on the end, slice through vertically until you reach about 1/2 inch from the bottom - do not cut completely through. Make another slice crosswise to the first. Your lemon will be quartered, but still connected at the bottom. Prepare all the lemons this way.

Empty the jar and pour 2 tablespoons of sea salt onto the bottom.

Open the quartered lemon and pour in 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Squish it around so the salt starts working on the lemon juices (do this over a cutting board with a trough, so you can collect any juice and salt that is released), and then smash it down into the bottom of the jar. Repeat with the remaining lemons, smashing them down to release the juices. When all the quartered lemons are in the jar, juice enough of the remaining lemons to cover the jarred lemons completely in juice.  Be sure to add the collected juice/salt that is on the cutting board.

My lemons floated a bit, so I cut a circle from a plastic container lid (such as a ricotta container) and put it over the top of the lemons to keep them submerged.

Set the jar in a cool place out of direct light and leave to preserve for at least 4 weeks. To use, rinse the excess salt off the lemon first, and use both pulp and peel as your recipe dictates.

 I'll surely be letting you know how this works out. :)

Friday, June 13, 2014

roasted banana bread

Roasted bananas are genius. We all know the best banana bread comes from way over-ripe bananas, but when you only have firm, ripe, still-eatable bananas, roasting them is a way to concentrate and intensify the flavors to something that's even better than over-ripe.

I used mostly white whole wheat flour in this, so it's a bit more dense and chewy and nutty than using all-purpose alone. You can use the all purpose exclusively if you like. Also, it's not overly sweet - but I don't think quick breads necessarily should be super sweet. I found this one to be perfect.  If you choose to add all sugar rather than sugar+Stevia, use 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  You can also replace the Greek yogurt with sour cream if you like.  Feel free to add toasted pecans or walnuts as desired.

Roasted Banana Bread

4 large firm, ripe (but not over-ripe) bananas
2 sticks butter (I used salted for this recipe)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons white Stevia powder
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt

Place butter, eggs, and yogurt on the counter to come to room temperature, about 45 minutes to an hour before making bread. Preheat oven to 350 degrees to roast bananas. Grease and flour a Bundt pan, or 2 loaf pans.

Place bananas on a baking sheet, still in the peels. Roast for 15 minutes; flip them to the other side and roast 15 minutes more. Let cool to handle, peel, and place 3 bananas and the juice from the baking sheet in a bowl. Mash thoroughly. Slice the other banana in half (for loaf pans) or in thirds (Bundt pan).

Cream softened butter with the sugar and Stevia. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well with each addition.  Add mashed bananas and vanilla and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Alternate adding dry ingredients with yogurt to the banana mixture, starting and ending with dry ingredients. Do not overmix.

Pour into Bundt pan, or halve between the 2 loaf pans. Place remaining sliced banana on top of batter. Bake for 1 hour, 5 minutes to 1 hour, 10 minutes. Start watching and testing at 1 hour.  Turn out bread onto a wire rack to cool a few minutes before slicing and serving warm.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

almond joy popsicles

Seriously? Seriously. SERIOUSLY!

My original intent was Mounds popsicles, since that is my favorite candy. But no dark chocolate in the house, and I just couldn't wait.

I toasted some almonds and chopped them fine for most of these, sprinkling them lightly over the coconut layer. But just in case we didn't like that, I left the almonds out of some also.

This layering involves a lot of time, because you have to freeze each layer at least partially so that you can pour on the next. I was a bit impatient, so the lines between are kind of muddled. My mom suggested that maybe mixing the chocolate and coconut mixtures together would give the same flavor but much quicker. I will be trying that, and am thinking that maybe partially coating the frozen popsicles in a light dusting of fine-chopped almonds would be a great way to incorporate that ingredient, and would look cool too. We'll try that next time, because there WILL be a next time!  I really like these.  They taste just like an Almond Joy candy bar.

Almond Joy Popsicles

Chocolate Layer
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 cups milk

In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour, and cocoa. Stir in milk slowly, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Cool.

Coconut Layer
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 14 ounce cans coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut flakes

In a saucepan, combine sugar and flour. Whisk in coconut milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Stir in coconut flakes, and cool completely.

Additional ingredient for popsicles: toasted almonds, chopped fine.

Using a funnel, pour a couple of tablespoons of chocolate mixture into popsicle molds; freeze for 30 minutes. Using a separate funnel, pour a couple tablespoons of coconut mixture over the chocolate layer; freeze for 15 minutes, then sprinkle chopped almonds over this layer. Freezer for 15 more minutes. Repeat layers until popsicle molds are 1/2 inch from top. NOTE! When first 2 layers are set, after pouring 3rd layer (2nd chocolate layer), top with mold lid and insert popsicle sticks. You will have to carefully remove the lid after this layer freezes.  Continue adding layers around the popsicle sticks, being careful not to move them.

When layers are complete, freeze overnight. To remove, fill a large bowl or your sink with hot water, and immerse the popsicle molds in the water up to the top edge, being careful not to let water go over the top and get in with the popsicles.  Place on a tray and immediately freeze again for an hour. Remove from tray and place in freezer bags for storage.


diggin' taters

I have never lived very far from my parents but until I came back home and put a house right next door, it was too far.  Proven once again by the phone call from my dad: "We're digging the potatoes, wear some old jeans."

I truly love my life.  The place, the generosity of my family, getting dirty.  Thanking God for all these things and more.

I love how you can see the shape of my dad's hat in the shadow.

Ready for the next row of whatever Dad decides to plant.

Supervision is hard work!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

easy fig jam

My mom informed me just the other day that the figs were 'coming on.' I can't tell you how excited I am for that, which is a change for me - growing up, I would eat fig preserves, but absolutely hated the fruit. A texture thing.

In my more 'mature' (ahem) adult years, I have learned to like figs pretty much any way I can get them. So I am already bookmarking some fig recipes to try this summer.

In the meantime, while we wait, here is a series of pictures (that I took summer of 2012 and never did anything with, that I can remember), along with a super easy way to make fig jam.  Give it a try, especially if you have a lot of figs and having a hard time using them up before they spoil - we know how quickly that can happen.

Easy Fig Jam

Wash figs and remove stems; slice figs. Place in a microwave-safe dish and cover with sugar.  There is no set amount of sugar, I just take a half cup or so and sprinkle over and if it looks like I need more, I add more.  If you don't want that much sugar, add less; if it needs more, add more. Also - my mom makes her jam in a single layer in a casserole dish. Me being a bit impatient with that, I layer the figs in deeper dishes, and pour a bit of the sugar over each layer before adding the next.

Cover the dish with a glass lid or sturdy plastic wrap. Microwave for 5-6 minutes on high; carefully remove from the microwave (don't burn yourself!) and check the 'doneness' of the figs. Return to the microwave and repeat cooking and checking in 3 minute intervals until the figs are soft and the sugar/fig juices have turned to syrup. Remove from microwave, let cool a few minutes to safely hold the dish, and smash to desired consistency with a potato masher - be careful not to splash hot syrup on your skin.  Let cool completely and put in freezer bags to freeze or jars to refrigerate.

You MUST make homemade biscuits with these - delish.

Monday, June 9, 2014

magic elixir (thanks, Dawn!)

A couple years ago, my friend Dawn posted about this "magic elixir" (she called it that very thing) that caused her to go into a manic cleaning frenzy because it cleans so fabulously. Well, I can say that not much will send me into a cleaning frenzy, but if something could, it would be this stuff.  I can't believe it has taken me this long to post about it.

Disclaimer: I am very hard on my tools, appliances included, and use them well. There are some things that are pretty much not removable around my stovetop burners, from past sessions of canning, etc.  What I want to show you here is the ability of this inexpensive and non-harmful (we have a septic system) cleaner to remove grease and food particles.

Before proceeding, I must post a word of caution: you are about to see a stove that was severely cooked upon for numerous days before taking this series of pictures. If it is too graphic for those who can eat off their own floors, you might want to click off this post and go have a snack. On your floor. (teehee!)

Magic Cleaning Elixir

one part white vinegar to one part blue Dawn dishwashing liquid
(when I make it, I use 2 cups vinegar to 2 cups Dawn)

Microwave the vinegar for 2 minutes. Add the Dawn and stir well. Pour into spray bottle. It's ready to go!

Now brace yourselves...

I can see the reflection of the pan in the surface of the stovetop. :)