Strawberry Jam

The last three post have been about strawberries. Four if you count this one.

The next post after this one- also strawberries. Do you still love me?

I can’t help but just be totally head over heels in love with this fabulous season we are having. The berries are incredible and plentiful this year.

Simple Homemade Strawberry Jam

The past couple of posts have been using up last years jam. This one is all about the fresh berries. Well it is about how to keep the fresh berries around all winter.

The summer I got married I had a friend take me under her wing and teach me to can. We didn’t do any jam but we put up lots of peaches, cherries, green beans, corn, and applesauce. I loved it. My pantry looked so beautiful with all those jars I had loving taken the time to prepare.

It took me a couple of years of canning with her before I was willing to branch out on my own. Now my house is where my friends and family come to can. When my sister got married I bought her cases of jars and promised to teach her.

Simple Homemade Strawberry Jam

I love canning. I love the community aspect it is here at my house where I am not only putting up food for myself but food to share too. I don’t think I have ever canned alone and these past few years my sister Tiffany has always been in the kitchen with me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tiffany was actually the inspiration for branching out our canning last year. We added peach jam (the best ever) and pickles to our repertoire. This year we are talking about pickling green beans and carrots too in addition to the usual suspects- green beans, peaches, jam and more jam, dill pickles, and applesauce.

In case you are wondering tomatoes aren’t on that list because I freeze mine.

So strawberry jam. We went berry picking on Saturday morning. Little ate more berries than was probably prudent. We went home with about 12 quarts of berries total. We froze a few, used a few for pie, and then made five batches of jam. All in all 28 pint jars full..

Simple Homemade Strawberry Jam

Don’t let the quantity I can in deter you. You can do a much smaller batch or just enough for your little family.

Ok on that note I have something to make clear to you. I do NOT want to be your authority on canning. Not here on the blog not in person. I consult my books and read read read every time I can. Canning is serious business to get right because not doing it right is downright dangerous. My resource is my Ball Blue Book. Also our local extension service is a great place to call and ask questions. They have master preservers on hand to take your calls. Lastly, as a brief overview into the world of canning this post at Crackers on the Couch is a great place to start.

Just go get yourself a Blue Book and come over and can with me. That is really probably the easiest way. Plus it is fun. Loads. I promise.

Simple Homemade Strawberry Jam

One year ago today: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Strawberry Jam (makes 5 1/2 pints aprox.)
from the label on the Ball Real Fruit Pectin Bottle

6 2/3 cups mashed strawberries
7 1/2 tablespoons Ball Real Fruit Pectin Flex Batch Classic
5 cups sugar
1 tablespoon butter

First read all the directions on the bottle.

Put a small ceramic plate in the freezer. Place the mashed berries in a large pan over medium high heat. Stir in the pectin. Bring to a boil. Add the butter. All at once add the sugar and stir well. Bring back to a boil. Once at a full rolling boil set timer for 1 minute. Once time is up turn the heat off and skim off any foam. Take the plate out of the freezer and spoon a bit of jam on to it. You are checking that the jam will jell. Run your finger through the jam and if it doesn’t run then you have perfect jam! Ladle the hot jam into hot jars (I keep my washed and still wet jars in the oven set to 180 F). Wipe the rim of the jar, place a lid on, then gently screw on the band. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes as a boil. Remove to a towel on the counter. Allow to sit on the counter till complete cool. Store in a cool dry place.

Simple Homemade Strawberry Jam

One Year Anniversary Party

I meant to post on Friday but see there was this party and I was kinda busy…

Then I meant to post something Saturday morning but was terribly busy….

So I am sorry. But not really. Because it was totally worth it to miss getting a post up.

Thank you all so very very much who came. Thank you for the lovely kind words from those of you who didn’t make it. What a fun fun day.

The party went off without a hitch. There were hardly any leftovers and yet I think everyone got to try everything they wanted. I could not have been more perfect.

So here are a collection of pictures from right before everyone showed up. I intended to take pictures during but set my camera down as the first guest appeared and didn’t pick it back up.

IMG_8587

One year anniversary party!

One year anniversary party!

One year anniversary party!

One year anniversary party!

One year anniversary party!

One year anniversary party!

One year anniversary party!

One year anniversary party!

One year anniversary party!

One year anniversary party!

One year anniversary party!

Those beautiful cards with the names of the dishes? Yeah I am not that crafty. I was blessed to have the talented Jayma Malme visit me and so generously make them. She is amazing. Go check out her blog. I am in awe.

Let’s do this again next year!

Ps. Want the recipes? Here is the cookbook! Enjoy!

Beef with Broccoli

Remember a few weeks ago when I made chinese take out at home? Delicious baby bok choi and mushroom in a not so chinese beer sauce. Yum.

Here is my most recent foray into chinese cooking.

Easy quick homemade beef with broccoli

When I was working I had a weakness for Panda Express. There was one within walking distance of my desk. Plus I always ordered steamed veggies instead of rice or noodles so I had a delicious almost all veggie lunch for cheap.

Come on. Everyone has that one fast food (or fast foodish) restaurant that you have a weakness for you would rather not admit right? Right? Don’t leave me hanging here.

Thankfully a slim budget isn’t allowing for eating out so I am learning to recreate these dishes at home.

Easy quick homemade beef with broccoli

I have been craving beef with broccoli for some time now but for some reason I have put it off. It was incredibly easy to throw together even if it did dirty an inordinate number of dishes. Like 30. Or maybe fewer but it felt like 30.

This recipe made a huge batch and I was hoping for leftovers. No dice. Even Little, who normally turns his nose up at everything, inhaled a huge bowl full.

So we were left with a kitchen full of dirty dishes and no leftovers. Thankfully our bellies were full of delicious homemade not too bad for you food.

Easy quick homemade beef with broccoli

Ps. The one year anniversary party is swiftly approaching. May 18th from 10am-1pm I will be hosting a light brunch here at my house for anyone brave enough to admit they read this blog. I’m taking requests of favorite recipes. If you need the address leave a comment and I will email it to you!

Beef with Broccoli (serves 4 and a Little)
Adapted from Food.com

3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1/2 cup water, plus
2 tablespoons water, divided
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 lb boneless round steak cut into thin 3-inch strips (grass fed pasture raise happy please)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4 bunches of broccoli cut into florets steamed in the microwave for 3 minutes
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
hot cooked brown rice

In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons water and garlic powder until smooth. Add beef and toss. In a large skillet or wok over medium high heat, stir-fry beef in 1 tablespoon oil until beef reaches desired doneness; remove and keep warm. Stir-fry broccoli in remaining oil for 4-5 minutes. Return beef to pan. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and remaining cornstarch and water until smooth; add to the pan. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Serve over rice.

Easy quick homemade beef with broccoli

Planked Salmon

Sometimes you burn dinner.

Sometimes that is ok.

In this instance it was more than ok.

 Planked slamon. The easiest way to BBQ Salmon!

Have you ever planked fish? It is simply cooking fish on a wooden board. In our case we used the charcoal BBQ and had cedar boards.

I love eating fish but am often at loss for how to prepare it and so intimidated of ruining what is usually a pretty expensive purchase by experimenting. Thankfully this is a super safe bet.

My sweet sister won a pack of cedar boards just for this purpose at a random work drawing last year. This is the third or fourth time now that we have enjoyed fish made this way. Little to no prep, quick cooking time, all around win.

Planked slamon. The easiest way to BBQ Salmon!

The reason ours burnt a little bit (or a lot bit) was because yours truly forgot to soak the board. Our package says to soak for at least an hour. I feel like at least 3 hours would be ideal. This board got a quick 20 minute dunk because I forgot till long after we had already started the coals. Oh well. It was still so so so tasty. And smokey.

I worry if I say this again you will stop reading my posts altogether but this is yet another example of good ingredients cooked simply. Beautiful Alaskan salmon, steamed haricot verts with homemade butter, and fingerling potatoes roasted in olive oil and salt. That’s it.

This is the kind of cooking I am passionate about. Sure I love intricate recipes and challenges but the day to day get the dinner on the table looks mostly like this- the very best ingredients I can afford prepared simply but to perfection.

Planked slamon. The easiest way to BBQ Salmon!

Nom on.

Planked Salmon (serves 4)
Mine

1.5 lb salmon fillet (Wild caught only. Don’t EVER tell you me have bought farmed salmon)
2 tsp dills
1 sliced lemon
Salt
1 wooden cooking plant (check amazon or your local fish monger)

Start your coals. Once hot lay them in your BBQ to either side leaving a cooler trench in the middle. You are looking for a medium high heat. Place the fish on the presoaked plank skin side down. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Sprinkle on the dill and then lay the lemon slices on top. Place down the middle of your BBQ and cover. Cook for 10 minutes with the cover on then check for doneness. Fish will flake easily with a fork when cooked. If not done cook for another 2-3 minutes checking often. Serve immediately.

Planked slamon. The easiest way to BBQ Salmon!

Sausage Potato and Spinach Soup

The first time I made this recipe it was inhaled so quickly two things happened. First, I didn’t manage to get pictures taken to share with you. Second, I flat out forgot how I made it.

Around here most meals and cooking is planned around what we have on hand, what I feel like making, and what can I share with you lovely readers. Often the three intersect which, when it does, it makes me a very happy camper.

The problem is I get stuck in a cooking rut because so many of our standby favorites I don’t feel like making because I have already shared it here. Then I just get grumpy and don’t want to make anything at all and end up eating quinoa for dinner again.

Sausage potato and spinach soup. Super easy and amazingly tasty.

Happily I got to make this crowd pleaser a second time in a few short weeks. Honestly I think I could eat this for dinner every night it was so good.

Yes there is a bit of cream but not too much. Overall it is packed full of dark green leafy spinach, savory sausage, yummy potatoes, and tender zucchini so it can’t be all that bad for you.

Now if you bake up a loaf of homemade bread and slather it with homemade butter that is a completely different story.

Maybe fruit for dessert if you choose that course of action.

I know we are headed in to summer and soups will be fewer and fewer as the weather warms so hurry up and make this soon so you don’t miss out!

Sausage potato and spinach soup. Super easy and amazingly tasty.

Sausage Potato and Spinach Soup (serves 6)
Mine

2 tbs olive oil
1 onion diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 lb ground Italian sausage
4 cups of water
1 cup cream
2-3 cups of milk
2 lbs of russet potatoes peeled and diced
1 lb chopped zucchini
Salt and pepper
1 6oz bag baby spinach roughly chopped

Set a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and when it begins to shimmer add the onion and garlic. Sautee till the onion softens then add the sausage. Brown it breaking it up into pieces with a spatula. Once it is fully cooked add the water, cream, milk (start with 2 cups) potatoes, and zucchini. Add a bit more milk or water if needed, you are looking to cover the ingredients plus about an inch. Season well and bring to a good simmer. Cook till potatoes are done (easily pierced with a fork). Add the spinach and stir till wilted, about 3 minutes. Serve in big bowls with generous slices of crusty bread.

Sausage potato and spinach soup. Super easy and amazingly tasty.

Homemade Butter

Don’t make this.

After one taste of homemade butter on fresh out of the oven artisan bread I am ruined for life. You have no idea how good this is. Unless you have made your own butter in which case you do.

Homemade butter

I recently have had the privilege to purchase some raw milk directly from a local farmer. She has just one sweet Jersey cow who produces the most amazing milk. I skimmed the cream off the first gallon I purchased and made ice cream. The last time I got milk from her she also happened to have an extra quart of cream. Um. Yes please. I knew it was destined for butter.

Problem is I had no idea how to make butter. I asked my husband and brother in law if they had made butter before both of whom replied with “yes but only on accident.”

Homemade butter

I too have whipped cream too long on accident but never have I made real butter. What I learned in making butter this week is that getting from the whipped just a bit too long to actual butter take a LONG time.

Butter, I have decided, is best made when you have other things to do. That is if you have a stand mixer. Just pour it in and walk away. I suspect that if you have a smaller amount of cream it wont take nearly as long but whipping the whole quart in to almost butter took nearly 15 minutes plus then there was draining and mixing more after that. I spent a lot of time staring at the mixer waiting and waiting.

It was totally worth the wait and effort. At first I thought “I’ll never do this again” and grumbled but one taste, yes straight plain off the knife, and I was hooked.

Homemade butter

And the color! It is so incredibly yellow. For comparison here is my butter next to store bought Tillamook. I have always thought Tillamook was SO yellow. Not anymore! Granted I used raw grass fed cream so I’m sure that helps….

Get your hands on some really really good cream and whip it in to butter. You wont regret it.

You might have to buy the next size up in pants but it will be worth it..

Homemade butter

Homemade Butter (makes 8 oz of butter)
Followed the directions from Joy the Baker

1 quart of cream (you can make it with less)
1/4 tsp salt.

Place the butter in your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Turn on to a medium speed and whip it. First you will get silky whipped cream (below). Keep going.

Homemade butter

Then it will start to break.

And finally it will separate after about 10-15 minutes.

Homemade butter

Drain off the buttermilk (save for pancakes!) then return the butter to the mixer and whisk again.

Homemade butter

Drain one more time and return to the mixer.

Homemade butter

Add about 1/4 cup of ice cold water and whisk for a minute.  This is called washing the butter and will help it last longer. Drain the water and repeat. After the second washing press out all the water you can out of the butter. Kneed in the salt. Store covered.

Best eaten on homemade bread. Yum

 Homemade butter

 

 

Fudge date balls

I love chocolate. Some may say I have a chocolate problem. I don’t think it is a problem as I have no issue with it.

If pressed I wouldn’t say I have sweet tooth. I have a weakness for chocolate, and apparently snickerdoodle cookies, but otherwise I can take or leave candy.

When I worked outside the home and had an office I had a designated drawer in my desk just for chocolate. At any given point in time I had at least 4 different kinds of chocolate but more often than not I had 10-15. You read that right. Ten to fifteen chocolate bars.  Mid-afternoon I would paw through the drawer to find just a bite or two of the chocolate that would fit my mood that day.

Once I became a stay at home mama I transferred all that chocolate to a cabinet in the kitchen (my new office). Little quickly learned when I snuck off to the kitchen around 3 in the afternoon that it was chocolate time. I have given him tastes of chocolate from very early on. And only good chocolate mind you. None of this Hershey’s crap.

 Fudge date balls- they taste like chocolate truffles but are sugar free and good for you!

The child is a chocolate fiend. What can I say? He takes after his mama. Like his mama though he doesn’t eat much at a time. This probably has to do more with his access to said chocolate rather than his self control. Just sayin.

One of my dear friends made this last week for a playdate we attended. Holy cow a bite of chocolate without a lick of sugar? Yes we can have the conversation of not eating too much dried fruit and that dried fruit has lots of sugar but I don’t care. At the end of the day it is still just fruit. And it is stupid good.

So here you go. My new obsession- chocolate I don’t feel the least bit bad about eating or feeding to the little.

Two things. First let these set in the fridge for a bit. I dare you to bite in to a cold one and compare it to a real chocolate truffle. So stinking close in flavor and texture. Second double the batch. Or triple it. There are never enough.

Fudge date balls- they taste like chocolate truffles but are sugar free and good for you!

Fudge Date Balls (makes 6)
adapted from The Happy Raw Kitchen

8 pitted  dates
1  tablespoon cocoa powder, or carob
1  tablespoon hulled hemp seeds (any nut or seed really will do)
1  teaspoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon dried coconut (not sweetened)

For decoration:
1-2 tablespoons hemp seeds or coconut for rolling

Process the ingredients ingredients in food processor until mixture starts sticking together. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in extra hemp seeds or coconut. Balls can be refrigerated about 1 hour to firm up (DO THIS). These are very soft and chewy if eaten right away.

Fudge date balls- they taste like chocolate truffles but are sugar free and good for you!

Baby Bok Choi and Mushrooms

We are completely devoid of a passable Chinese food in my town.

Baby bok choi and mushrooms. Filling, healthy and vegan!

I am a super picky restaurant person to start with. I am not trying to brag but most of what I get in restaurants in my price range I can make better and cheaper here at home. The restaurants out of my price range have incredible food but I struggle dropping what amounts to a week worth of produce on one entree- which if given a recipe I can most likely replicate at home with very similar results.

Baby bok choi and mushrooms. Filling, healthy and vegan!

So when I was chatting with friends the other day and mentioned the lack of good Chinese food  and they all agreed with me I knew I wasn’t being picky.

Want to know how bad it really is? Our local paper just released a “best of” list. The best Chinese restaurant? P.F. Changs. That’s how bad things are around here.

Baby bok choi and mushrooms. Filling, healthy and vegan!

Thai food is another story. We have lots of great Thai. And Mexican. But for now in order to get a good Chinese food fix I have to make it myself. You know what? I don’t mind.

Baby bok choi and mushrooms. Filling, healthy and vegan!

This simple yet satisfying vegan dish is a great first step into Chinese food. It requires little to no prep work (other than some chopping) and cooking takes less than 10 minutes. It is start to table in 15 minutes flat.

Baby bok choi and mushrooms. Filling, healthy and vegan!

And veggies! Look at all the veggies you would be chowing down on. That alone should be enough reason for you to make this. Oh and it is yummy. There’s that too.

Baby bok choi and mushrooms. Filling, healthy and vegan!

Baby Bok Choi and Mushrooms (serves 4)
My own

1 lb mushrooms (Any mushroom will do. The more flavor the better. I used cremini.)
1 lb baby bok choi
2 tbs olive oil
2-3 tbs soy sauce
1/3 cup beer or rice wine (hoppy beer is best but that is also my stance in life)
1 tbs corn starch
Rice for serving

Place your wok over your largest burner and set the heat to medium. While the wok is heating separate the bok choi steams and leaves. Chop in to bite size pieces. Place in two separate bowls. Chop up the mushrooms. Once the wok is hot add 1 tbs olive oil and then the bok choi steams. Cook for about 2 minutes then add the leaves. Cover with a lid and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Remove to a plate. In the same hot wok add the last tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms and cook for about a minute. Add the soy sauce, beer or wine and mushrooms and cook for another minute. Mix the corn starch with 2 tablespoons of cold water making sure it all dissolves and then add to the mushrooms. Stir till the sauce if thick, about another minute. Pour the mushrooms and sauce over the bok choi. Serve with rice.

Baby bok choi and mushrooms. Filling, healthy and vegan!

Flourless chocolate cake

There are some days that nothing will help except for a big dose of chocolate.

Flourless chocolate cake

In this case it was both cocoa powder and what was left of my Pound Plus belgium chocolate bar.

Are you a dark chocolate person? We can still be friends if you aren’t but I’m in the darker the better camp. Also will you scream sacrilege if I tell you I think I like this better than brownies? Brownies have their place but this cake is a dense chocolate hug while not being super sweet (as brownies can often be).

Flourless chocolate cake

Chocolate delivered perfectly. Just my not so humble opinion.

This is my second foray in to gluten free baking. If all recipes are as easy as this one and the peanut butter cookie recipe this is a cause I could get behind. Both recipes have been dump, stir, bake, shove in face type of baking.

Not that I don’t appreciate 14 step ice cream cakes but there is something lovely about one bowl, one spoon, one tiny mess, less than 5 minutes, and done.

Flourless chocolate cake

Flourless Chocolate Cakes (serves 1 or if forced to share serves 8-10)
Adapted from Epicurious

4 ounces fine-quality dark chocolate (not unsweetened)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance to also make it dairy free)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Chop chocolate into small pieces and place in a microwave safe bowl with the butter. Melt chocolate with butter in the microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until smooth. Whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate. Dust cake with additional cocoa powder if desired.

Flourless chocolate cake