Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fresh Homemade Strawberry Jam

Because we live in Florida, strawberry season begins in December and runs through March.  We have a favorite u pick strawberry farm we visit each year, and we love to bring them home and immediately process into jam to share with friends for Valentine's Day, and eat throughout the year.
  I've had many friends ask me to teach them how to make this jam.  Ultimately, for quantities, you have to follow the recipe on your pectin.  That's rule number 1.  The rest, you learn as a kitchen slave to your mother and grandmother, year after year, in the middle of summer in a burning hot kitchen and wonder why anyone would be crazy enough to want to do this (until you taste the final product of course) :)  

Here's a general recipe that will yield between 8-10 half pints: 
3.75 - 4 cups strawberries
7 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package liquid pectin
1 teaspoon butter
8-10 half pint jelly jars, lids and rings
tongs & jar lifters


Keep the following in mind:   
It will take time. More berries = more time, but it depends on how much you are making, and finding your groove. At low altitude, one batch can be done in less than 30 minutes.
It will be messy (but not too bad).
Never EVER double the recipe. EVER. Unless you enjoy failure. I've done it - against better advice. 
Don't do it. Enough said.
It will be totally worth it.

Make sure you have paper towels on hand, lots of kitchen cloths, and an electric kettle comes in super handy. Jar lifters are a great tool also - I've dropped some jars just with tongs, and had some mishaps. Jar lifters are awesome - a $5-$10 investment that is worth it.
Find the ripest, freshest strawberries (or other fruit) around. 
At home, fill a large bowl or pot with water, and allow berries to sit for 10-15 minutes.  This helps remove soil - it drops to the bottom of the bowl.  
Pare off any bad spots, as well as stem and leaves. 
Place berries into another bowl.

Make sure that jam jars are washed (sterilized - they can stay in dishwasher on dry cycle to keep warm)
Place lids inside of rust free undamaged jar rings and submerge in boiling water.  Keep submerged, and keep water at a low boil constantly.  


Use the hot pack recipe found in the pectin box. Using a food processor or high powered blender, blend berries.  Pour into a pan, and add sugar and lemon juice as directed. Cook as directed until it comes to a boil. 

In the meantime...we multi-task
While fruit mixture is coming to a boil, line counter with clean dishcloths, and place 8-10 sterilized jam jars about an inch apart on dishcloths (this allows you to pour more quickly).
Still multi-tasking...
Heat a deep pot of water to boiling on stove. 
Make sure that the jars can fit into the canning pot (depth), and still have 1-2 inches of water cover them, boiling (electric kettles come in handy here with boiling water in just a few minutes, the microwave works too, but because boiling water evaporates, it is needed for lids and for the canning).     

Once fruit mixture boils, add 1 teaspoon butter - this will reduce the foaming later on. 

Add pectin as directed on package, and cook as needed. Usually a minute or two more after it comes to another rolling boil. 

Working quickly, remove from heat. 

Use a metal spoon and skim the foam from the top of the fruit mixture, depositing it into a bowl. This won't be processed, so you can eat it as soon as you want!  



Pour jam into the ready jars on the countertop. 
Use a clean rag (or dampened paper towel), and clean off the rim of each jar, removing any sugar or jam so that a proper seal can be achieved.  

Using tongs, remove rings and lids from boiling water (they need to boil a minimum of 10 minutes to soften the gum that will help them seal), and quickly place on lids.  Only tighten rings finger tight.

Place in boiling pot of water, and process as directed on pectin instructions - making adjustments for altitude. 

Remove from water - no need to dry lids, they are so hot, the water will evaporate. 
Place on dishtowels on countertop and do not disturb for 24 hours.  
If the jars have sealed, you will hear a "pop", and the center of the jar lid will be pulled down in a vacuum.  

After 24 hours, jars may be wiped with soapy water, or a rag with vinegar to make them shine and remove any residue on top of lid from evaporated water.  


"Souped Up" Hearty Multi Grain Pancakes

My family loves hot pancakes for breakfast, however I'm not a fan of premade "just add water" pancake mixes. I like the fluffy thick made from scratch pancakes - but they are a tougher sale at my house as time is a commodity in the mornings.
So, I've come to a compromise - we use the mix, but I get to add "healthy things" to the pancakes, and to make up for it, I'll usually throw in some blueberries or chocolate chips to make sure the kids will actually eat them.  It's a vicious cycle.
I'm on a huge omega 3 oils kick right now, and anywhere I can throw them in, they are included. These are full of protien, and fiber, and the omega 3 oils - so they are healthy, and they fill you up and keep you going.   I've also been adding freshly grated and toasted coconut to everything.  As in, I use my machete to break it open, and then put it into the food processor to shred, then toast in the oven.  It isn't sweet, but I feel like it is important and it isn't noticeable.   

1 Tablespoon amaranth seeds - lightly toasted or popped 
2 Tablespoons flax seed
2 Tablespoons chia seed
1 Tablespoon natural coconut - shredded and toasted (unsweetened)
1/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
dash of cardamom

Mix ingredients together, then add 2 cups of pancake mix, and water to reach desired consistency.  Allow to sit for a few minutes so that the oats soften, and the flax and chia will begin to thicken.    
Stir, then pour onto hot griddle, and add berries or chocolate chips if desired.  Turn once bubbles appear and begin to pop. Serve immediately, with a pat of butter, and 100% maple syrup or my Blueberry Syrup.
 


  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Superfood Orange and Date Protein Power Bars - Gluten free

(Photos coming once they've cooled)
I am so excited about this recipe for protein/power bars!  
Besides being super yummy, they are rich in super foods/nutrients, (google flax, chia, quinoa, sesame, anise, and amaranth), 100% natural (no processed ingredients), and gluten free - yay! Made from nuts and seeds and so full of those healthy Omega 3's that we all need more of, but rarely get. I'm a proponent of 'made from scratch', and love that these are made with home ground nut butter, and my own shredded and toasted coconut. And did I mention that they are yummy?  

Filling and perfect for a morning when you don't have time for breakfast (I have a lot of those), after a run or bike ride, or as an afternoon snack for the kids after school.  Crunchy, nutty goodness, and totally versatile for whatever you might have in your pantry, to suit your taste.   
Heat oven to 350*
Mix the following together, spread on a cookie sheet, and toast in oven for 15 minutes - stirring occasionally. 

1 c. uncooked quinoa
1 c. uncooked oats
1 c. uncooked amaranth seeds
1/2 c. flax seeds
1/2 c. chia seeds
1 T. sesame seeds
1 T. anise seeds

Remove from oven, and place mixture in a large mixing bowl.

Add following fruit and nuts to mixing bowl with cooled grains: 
17-20 chopped (pitted) medijool dates (or any dried fruit - raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries)
3-5 chopped dried figs
1 c. shredded, unsweetened, lightly toasted coconut 
(Shred whole coconut, and toast in oven for 60 minutes at *225)
1/2 c. cashews
1 T. chia

Grate zest from 2 valencia oranges into a small bowl, and set aside. 

Binding mixture: 
1 c. unfiltered raw honey
Juice from 2 valencia oranges
2/3 c. nut butter (peanut, almond, or cashew)
(blend 3/4 c. raw nuts in high power blender until it turns to paste)
1 t. kosher salt
1.5 T. coconut oil

Heat honey in saucepan, over low heat.  Add orange juice and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for a few minutes so that it reaches a syrup like consistency. Stir in nut butter and whisk until smooth. Add salt and coconut oil.  Stir constantly and bring mixture to a boil.  Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat before this reaches a nougat like consistency.  

Immediately pour over grain/nuts/fruit mixture, add grated orange zest, and quickly mix together. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 pan.  Use hands or spatula to compress, and smooth down, and bake at 350* for 20 minutes. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 hours.  
Cut into bars. 

Optional - Melt 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips with 1 T. coconut oil.  Dip bottom of power bars into chocolate, and allow to cool on parchment paper. 

Individually wrap in plastic wrap.  
These store well in the cupboard, or refrigerate or freeze.  






Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Copycat PF Chang's General Tso Chicken

I made this copycat PF Chang's General Tso Chicken for dinner last night and it got RAVE reviews - "Better than a restaurant, mom" kind of reviews. My pickiest eater had three servings - she stocks up on the stuff she likes, and picks at the stuff she doesn't, so that in itself is a recommendation on it's own.



Sauce:
4 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
3 minced garlic cloves
3 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger - strings and all
1.5 cups white sugar
2 Tablespoons molasses
3 Tablespoons sweet soy sauce (thick, and found at Asian stores)
4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon onion powder

Mix Sauce together, cover, and set aside in the fridge.

Chicken:
3-4 cups diced chicken breasts (no skin or bone, raw)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups oil for frying
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3-4 red chili peppers - optional (there are many varieties - whatever is on hand)

Place flour, pepper, salt and pepper flakes in large ziplock bag.  Add chicken, seal, and shake until coated. 
Heat oil in wok, and place coated chicken pieces into hot oil.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, frying until cooked through, and as they begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oil, and drain on paper towel.  Repeat until all chicken pieces are cooked.  

Drain all but 1 Tablespoon of oil from wok (chicken debris is ok), and add chili peppers.  Heat for a few minutes, so that their skin can soften, and release the pepper oils.  Remove sauce from refrigerator, and slowly add to wok, stirring constantly, until it boils and thickens and combines.  
Remove from heat, and add chicken - stirring to coat. 
Serve over hot rice

Serves 8

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Eggs on a Goldenrod

 Eggs on a Goldenrod


I learned how to make this when we were first married, as it was one of my husband's favorite breakfasts. This pulls together in a pinch (about 10 minutes) when hard boiled eggs are on hand. This warm and creamy comfort food, offset with crunchy toast, brings a welcome break from breakfast monotony. 

4-6 hard boiled eggs - reserve one yolk
Toasted bread (butter is optional)
Basic White Sauce

Basic White Sauce
4 tablespoons Corn Starch
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Stove Top: Combine corn starch and milk in a small saucepan; stir until smooth. Add butter, salt and pepper. Stirring constantly, simmer over medium heat for 1 minute.


Microwave: Combine corn starch and milk in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl; stir until smooth. Microwave on HIGH (100%) for 2 minutes; remove and stir. Microwave 1 to 2 minutes more, or until mixture thickens and boils for 1 minute. Remove from microwave. Stir in butter, salt and pepper.


Once the white sauce has thickened, use an egg slicer to dice 4 hard boiled eggs - reserving one cooked egg yolk. 
I use one like this, and hold the egg in my hand, and cut criss cross.  This can also be done with a knife and cutting board. 

Add diced eggs to white sauce, and stir to combine. 

Spoon sauce over toasted bread. 

Gently push the reserved egg yolk through a small sieve, to produce a fine egg yolk powder.  Sprinkle over the creamed eggs and toast as a garnish and serve.  




Serves 6-8

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lemon Meringue Pie

It is Thanksgiving Eve, and as I began making my pies, I realized that I couldn't find my staple lemon meringue pie recipe, (my all time favorite pie...next to rhubarb) and that it wasn't on my blog.
So I frantically went to my cookbook cupboard and looked through everything -without avail.
To my catch all recipe drawer, nada.
Then my sister called and as we chatted, I began leafing through other cookbooks hoping to find something that would work in a pinch.  Finally, out of the corner of my eye, I spied the hot pink cover, with the black plastic binding roll.  Grandma H's cookbook.  Under my pasta maker and bucket of spools of thread.  Of course!
Grandma had 7 children, who in turn also had very large families, and every Sunday, we'd head to grandma's house for family dinner, and many fond family memories have come from food around grandma's table.  Later in her life, grandma became a caterer.
During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, grandma's garage would begin to fill with pies (a second refrigerator/freezer in the cold mountains). Her meringue tips always crested, and drops of sugar dew taunted me as I anxiously awaited grandma's lemon meringue pie.
My Thanksgiving just isn't complete without this pie

Sift and set aside
1.5 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup flour (sifted)
1/4 tsp salt

2 cups boiling water
3 eggs - separated (save whites for meringue)
1.5 tsp grated lemon zest (rind)
6 Tablespoons lemon juice

Separate eggs and place well beaten yolks into a medium sized saucepan.
Beat in dry mixture of sugar, cornstarch, flour, and salt.
Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and boiling water and cook over medium heat in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil and thickens.

Pour into a baked pie shell and allow to cool.

Meringue
Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry.
Add 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and slowly add 6 Tablespoons powdered sugar, adding one tablespoon at a time.
Whip thoroughly.

Spread over cooled lemon filling, taking care that meringue seals all of the edges of the crust.
Bake at 325* for 20 minutes.

Cool before serving, and keep refrigerated.


Blueberry Meringue Pie

Our friend Ruthann has MS, and is in a nursing home.  Each Thanksgiving, she requests that we bring her some of this pie, that she remembers from her past.

This year, I experimented a bit, and came up with this no bake version.

4 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 baked pie crust

Pour 2 cups of blueberries into the bottom of the baked pie crust.

In a medium pan, mix sugar and cornstarch and salt with wire whisk.
Add milk, and heat over medium heat.  Once the mixture is combined, whisk in lemon juice.
Add blueberries and cinnamon.

Cook stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil and thicken.
Use a bean smasher, potato masher, or bottom of a glass, and smash berries.

Add butter and vanilla.
Pour over blueberries in pie shell and allow to cool.

Top with meringue.

Beat 2-3 egg whites until stiff.  Add 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar and 6 tablespoons of powdered sugar, adding 1 tablespoon at a time.  Whip thoroughly.
Gently spread over blueberry filling, sealing edges.
Bake at 325* for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool prior to serving.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Easiest Ever Garlic and Rosemary Pork Roast

Here it is - the easiest, and amazingly tastiest pork roast ever. 
Make with your slow cooker or crock pot, a pork roast and two other ingredients. 
Fresh rosemary, and fresh garlic. 
6- 8 hours. 
The end. 

Okay - here are the explicit instructions:

1 pork roast - size doesn't really matter.  I actually usually start with a frozen roast, yes, as in a chunk of ice...plunk, it goes into the pot. (I use a meat rack at the bottom of my slow cooker though.)

Spread 4-5 (for a 2.5 lb roast) sprigs or branches of fresh rosemary over the roast.

Peel 4-5 large garlic cloves, crush them (place a wide knife/spatula/cutting board over them, and bring your hand down hard on top to smash them) and place on top of the roast, using the rosemary to keep them in place.

Salt and pepper if desired.

Cook for 6-8 hours, until meat is tender and falls apart.
Easiest Ever...Tasty as can be...And my kids love it.


  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Multi-Grain Honey Whole Wheat Bread

I love to make whole wheat bread.  I'm a 'grind the wheat to make her bread' kind of gal.
For years, I've relied on my trusty "Fool Proof Whole Wheat Bread" recipe, and haven't been let down.  
As I was making it today though, I thought I'd add a few more ingredients, to make it more of a multi-grain whole wheat bread, and I substituted coconut oil for the olive oil.  I was surprised at how much lighter and softer this came out, and my family might have even loved it a bit more than my standard recipe.  

  This recipe takes 2 hours from start to finish, with 30 active minutes 

5 ½ cups warm water
2 1/4 T. dry yeast
2 T. salt
1 cup oil (olive or coconut)
2/3 cup honey
8 cups whole kernel wheat
3 Tablespoons chia
2 Tablespoons flax seed
3/4 cup oats

Combine 5 ½ cups warm water, yeast, salt, oil, and honey in Bosch or large mixer bowl. Let stand 5 -10 minutes to activate yeast.
While yeast proofs, using a wheat grinder, mill 8 cups whole kernel wheat to yield 12 cups of whole-wheat flour.  (The wheat will be warm, and perfect for the yeast if ground at this point). 

Add 8 cups of whole-wheat flour to mixing bowl. If using a Bosch, use the ‘spring-loaded’ position (turning to the left instead of the right) button the switch first to blend the ingredients, or mix on low speed until well blended.
Add 3 – 4 cups more flour, 1 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. (The amount of flour required will vary according to the moisture and protein content of the wheat and your atmosphere/altitude etc. The stickier the dough, the moister the bread, but it should clean the sides of the mixing bowl).   Knead dough on low speed for 10 minutes.
Add flax seeds, chia seeds, and oatmeal, and mix thoroughly.

Oil hands and working surface. Remove dough from mixing bowl and with oiled hands, spread into a large rectangle.  Divide into 6 equal portions.  Starting at one end, begin rolling each section, one at a time, into an oblong shape.  Pinch the ends together and turn underneath.  Place in oiled, metal 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 5/8" bread pans (this size seems to work the best, and metal works better than glass).  If desired, oil the top of the loaves for a soft crust.  Cover with a damp cloth, away from drafts, and let rise 1/3 in bulk, or approx. 35 minutes.  

Bake at 425* for 8 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350* for the remainder of the baking period (27 to 32 minutes). Remove from pans when done, and allow to cool on baking racks. Brush tops with butter or oil immediately.  

*Notes:  I specifically use a Bosch mixer with this recipe.  I've tried it with a Kitchenaid mixer, without the same results.  My guess is that it relates to the Bosch's cover retaining the heat perhaps?  

White Bean, Chicken, and Kale Soup

This is a simple white bean and chicken soup with lots of fresh herbs, and kale.  
Perfect for fall.  
Except that I live in Florida and fall doesn't really exist here.  
We compensate though, we still eat soup, and then swim in the pool. 
It's a tough life. 

Did I mention that this soup is picky teenager approved? 

1/2 large onion (chopped)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4-1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or white)
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
Chicken bouillon to taste if desired
1-2 teaspoons salt
4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
4 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 sprigs parsley, chopped
1 small bunch (8 leaves) oregano, chopped
1 medium jalapeno diced (optional)
Black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cans Great Northern Beans (white) (undrained)
1 can Garbanzo Beans/Chick peas (undrained)
12 stalks curly kale leaves, washed and leaves torn away from stalks (discard stalks)
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced

Heat coconut oil in saucepan. Once hot, add onions and garlic, (and jalapeno if you feel daring).  Sautee until tender.  Add flour and stir to coat.
Allow to cook for 30 seconds to make a roux, then slowly add broth and stir until roux is dissolved.
Add water, salt, and beans.  Use the bottom of a cup, or potato masher to smash beans slightly - not all of them, perhaps a third.  This will also help to thicken the soup.
Add spices, and diced chicken.
If using a pressure cooker, cook for 15-20 minutes.  If using a regular soup pan, cook for 30-40 minutes until chicken is tender, and everything is well combined.

Add kale, and allow to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes prior to serving.
Salt and pepper to taste.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Herbed Butter, Herbed Garlic Bread, & Herbed Butter Pats

An easy and delicioius twist on garlic bread. 


Use the freshest herbs possible.  Mince herbs, and adjust flavors according to your personal taste preferences.   
Gently mix herbs into room temperature butter. 

Variations: Spread onto a french bread loaf, wrap with foil, and heat for a zesty garlic bread - see below 

May be made ahead as fancy butter pats for rolls and breads, by spooning mixture into a frosting piping bag with a large tip, and piping the butter into pats on a piece of wax or parchment paper, and freezing to sabilize shape.  Keep frozen in a ziplock bag until needed. 

Use butter pats used in pastas, rices, soups etc.       


Fresh Herbed Butter Garlic Bread
Mince and combine the following
1 T. Fresh Parsley
2 T. Fresh Basil
1/2 T. Fresh Rosemary
1/2 T. Fresh Chives
2 Garlic Cloves

Mix into 1 stick of room temperature butter, and season with Kosher salt to taste. 

Slice a loaf of french bread into 1 inch vertical slices, not quite cutting through the bottom crust. Spread herbed butter onto each slice, then wrap bread in foil.  Place in 350* oven for 10-20 minutes - until butter is melted and bread is steaming.  
Serve immediately


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Crispy Tortilla Strips with a Popcorn maker

Last week I made our favorite Chicken Tortilla Soup.  One of our favorite facets of this soup are all of the a la carte toppings that can be added.  Especially the tortilla strips.  Thin, salty, and crunchy mmmm. 


Except that I dislike how long they take to stir, and turn, and stir again, waiting for them to brown. 

And then I saw the pop corn popper on the counter - just begging to be used, and had an epiphany.  
I couldn't believe how easy these were, and the popper took care of everything! 
Note, a "Stir-Crazy" or similar pop corn machine is required for this recipe. 
Tortilla strips - as many as desired, in stacks of 12-15 (corn or flour)
3 Tablespoons Coconut oil, or oil of your choice
coarse salt

Place tortillas in a stack and cut them into 1/2 x 2" strips with a large kitchen knife.  
Turn pop corn popper on, and add oil.  Once oil is heated (seconds), add tortilla strips. Take care not to overfill.  The bottom wire must be able to move the weight of the tortilla strips.  

Note the motion from the blurred parts of the image
Sprinkle with coarse salt, cover with lid and walk away. Check intermittently, and remove when crisped to satisfaction.

Carefully remove with slotted spoon or tongs, and allow grease to drain on a paper towel, over a bowl.  Salt and season to taste. 
Sprinkle over soups or salads

Variation - For a sweet taste, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and serve over ice cream 
  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tropical Tapioca Pudding with Guava, Cinnamon, and Vanilla Beans

Today, I boiled guavas in a simple syrup, blended the fruit and syrup in my high powered blender, and strained out the seed granules.  It made an amazing nectar.  While my daughter and I thought about just drinking it right then and there, I felt a little guilty about it (I guess it couldn’t be worse than downing a pitcher of koolaid??) so we set off on a quest to figure out how to use this delightful concoction.



In the end, this recipe turned out to be an aromatic treat that my family found comforting with a tropical flair.  I hope you’ll love it as much as we do. 

Tropical Tapioca with Guava, Cinnamon, and Vanilla Beans
3 cups milk
2/3 cups sugar
6 Tablespoons Minute Tapioca
2 eggs, beaten (or substitute 1 Tablespoon of chia for each egg)
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla, plus scrape the seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean.  Add bean pod to tapioca for flavor while cooking, but discard prior to serving)

Mix milk, nectar, sugar, and tapioca and eggs/chia in a medium sized pan.  Add cinnamon stick, vanilla bean seeds, and pod. Cook on medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. 
Cool 20 min. Stir. Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla bean pod.  
Spoon into dessert dishes and serve with a dollop of whipping cream and a vanilla bean sliver, lightly dusted with cinnamon.
Serve warm or chilled. 


  

Fizzy Guava Refresher, Guava Nectar, and Guava Syrup

While living in Central America, I fell in love with several tropical fruits - one of them, the guava. While delightfully aromatic and sweet, they full of tiny seeds that are as hard as rocks...as in really, a mouthful of gravel.  Each time I find them at my local asian produce market, I take some home with hopes of figuring out how to really use these for something more than just boiling for the amazing smell.  I won't catalogue my failures, but here are some of our favorite guava successes.    

There's not much that beats the smell of ripe guavas boiling on the stove in a simple syrup with a cinnamon stick. Here's how to make it into something that tastes great too.

Guava Syrup
4-6 ripe guavas
6 cups of boiling water
1.5 cups of sugar
1 cinnamon stick

In a medium sized pan, add sugar, then boiling water.  Stir until combined.  Rinse and trim ends of guavas, then quarter, and add with a cinnamon stick to the sugared water.  Boil for 30-45 minutes until guavas are very soft and the mixture has reduced to a light syrup.

Strain through a tight seive. Discard fruit and cinnamon stick.

Syrup can be used to flavor baked goods, puddings, frostings, ice cream, glazes, salads, etc.
Thicken with 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon butter for a pancake/breakfast syrup.

Guava Nectar
Prepare the simple syrup as above, except prior to straining mixture, remove cinnamon stick, and pour fruit, seeds, and syrup into a high speed blender and blend thoroughly.  Strain and discard seed granules with a tight sieve, or a layer of cheese cloth.

Use in smoothies, cakes, puddings, asian cooking bases etc.

Fizzy Guava Refresher
Guava Nectar (above)
Seltzer Water, or Ginger Ale
Ice
Mint (optional garnish)

Mix equal parts of the nectar with seltzer water or ginger ale for a fizzy, refreshing tropical drink.  Serve over ice, and garnish with mint.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Smoky Baba Ghanoush

 I first had babaghanoush at a Turkish restaurant, and totally fell in love with it.  
What is it you may ask? 
In a nutshell - roasted eggplant, tahini (a sesame based paste), garlic, lemon juice, salt, parsley, and olive oil.   
 For any of those eggplant haters out there - I'm with you.  My mom made it when I was a kid - hated it.  I tried it several different ways as an adult, and just hated it.  Then I had babbaganoush, and am totally in love - it tastes nothing like eggplant to me this way. 

The babaghanoush gets a smoky flavor from being roasted, as in roasted to a char. 

Lightly spray grill with cooking spray for easy turning. 
Place two medium sized egg plants on the grill (some recipes say poke them, but they fill with steam and cook better without holes).  While they can be roasted on a gas range, or in the oven, a grill really brings out the smoky flavor.  
Grill for 15-20 minutes, and then very carefully turn. Roast an additional 15-20 minutes, until the eggplant is so charred that you are completely sure that it is inedible.  

Remove from grill, wrap in foil and let it steam for 15 minutes.  
Carefully make a lengthwise slit in the eggplant and open.  With a spoon, scrape out all of the flesh from the inside of the eggplant. 



Place flesh into a salad spinner and gently spin to remove excess liquid. 



Place in a bowl, and add three minced garlic cloves, and two Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.  Mix until it becomes creamy. 

Mix in three Tablespoons of tahini then, while mixing, slowly drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil into mixture.  Continue to mix until it is thoroughly incorporated.  
Stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsely. 
Season with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt (to taste).   


Serve with lavas(h), naan, roti, or pita chips/bread, crackers or veggies. 

Smoky Babaghanoush
2 medium sized egg plants
3 Tablespoons tahini
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste

Roast egg plant on gas grill for 30-40 minutes, until blackened and charred, turning once.  
Enclose in foil and allow to sit for 15 minutes. 
Carefully scoop out flesh (discard charred bits), and place in a salad spinner, and gently spin to remove excess liquid. 
Place in a medium sized bowl and mix until creamy with lemon juice and garlic. 
Add tahini, and while mixing, slowly drizzle in olive oil.  
Stir in parsley, and add salt to taste. 
Serve with lavas(h), naan, roti, pita chips, veggies, or crackers. 




Friday, September 12, 2014

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe comes from my friend Freddy, from an old church cookbook. Perfect for fall, to fill up your home with all fragrant spices.



1 c. softened butter
4 eggs
1.5 c. flour
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 c. sugar
1 c. cooked pumpkin
1.5 t. pumpkin spice
1 t. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar, then beat in eggs, then, pumpkin, and vanilla.
Sift in the flour, and spices, and mix well.

Pour into a greased 9x13 inch pan, and bake at 350* for 30-40 minutes.

Cool before frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (6 oz.) package of cream cheese
2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. softened butter (1 stick)
1.5 c. powdered sugar.

Blend the room temperature cream cheese with the butter, then add the vanilla and powdered sugar.
Beat well, and spread over brownies.

*Baker's note.  These do not freeze well.    

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rosemary Butternut Squash

Just in time for Fall.  
If you are a Butternut squash and rosemary fan, this is a must try. 
It was amazing tasting, aromatic, and my kids loved it. 


2 butternut squash, peeled, gutted, and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
3 Sprigs of fresh rosemary
Sea Salt to taste

Heat oven to 425*.  Place squash and two sprigs of rosemary in a large mixing bowl, and toss to coat with 1.5 Tablespoons of coconut oil. 
Place uncovered in oven in foil lined baking dish or sheet with edges. 
Bake for 15 minutes, stir, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until squash is fork tender. 

Heat remaining coconut oil in a small frying pan, and once hot, add rosemary.  Cook until just before the rosemary begins to crisp.  Pour over cooked squash, salt to taste, and gently toss.  Serve warm. 

Eight Grain Meatless Meatloaf, or Meatless Tex Mex Base

This recipe uses eight grains, and natural ingredients. While it can easily be classified as "vegan" or "vegetarian", it is basically, "grain loaf and black bean burger meet Mexico".
While I originally served this as a tex-mex style meatloaf, I very quickly realized what an amazing non-meat base this can be used for in hispanic cooking (which I love).  A perfect meatless base for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, taco salad...you get the point.  

One beauty of this recipe is that as there is no raw meat, everything can be adjusted according to taste and preference for flavor, even prior to baking.  Taste as you go! 

1.5 cups cooked black beans (recipe here)
1.5 cups cooked, then blended wheat berries (wheat berry recipe)
1 cup cooked black rice (other rices may be substituted)
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
2 Tablespoons chia
2 Tablespoons ground flax seed (garnish)
1.5 Tablespoons chili powder
1.5 Tablespoons cumin
4 diced garlic cloves
1/2 medium onion, diced
1.5 cups corn
1 - 1.5 cups broth (vegetable, or any other if not going vegan or vegetarian) or wheat berry juice
1/2 cup salsa or pico de gallo (recipe)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 mini peppers diced
2.5 teaspoons key lime juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
JalapeƱos (optional - to taste) 
Sour cream & cheese for garnish (not vegan)

Heat oven to 350* F. 
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix all ingredients except flax seed.  When adding the broth, take care not to add too much.  The mixture should be moist, but still hold its shape.  
Divide mixture and place into two greased/oiled bread loaf pans (9x4 or 5). 
Cover with foil and bake until heated through (approx. 25 minutes) 
Remove foil and allow to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes to allow outside to harden and form a bit of a crust.  

Serve with chopped jalapeƱos, pico de gallo (recipe), salsa, freshly diced onion, sour cream, or cheese etc.  Sprinkle with crushed flax seed (it loses its nutrient value when heated). 

May be served on a bed of lettuce with tortilla chips, fresh tomatoes, olives, pico de gallo, and cheese as a rice and beans component for a taco salad, or used as the 'meat' base for enchiladas, tacos, or spread upon tostada tortillas.  
  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Jack Fruit: Nuts and Smoothies



Every time I go to the Asian market, we buy something new, and jack fruit was this week's experimental fruit.
Now, the owner of the store said that it is sweeter than pineapple and really yummy.  We bought it last night and left it on the counter overnight.
They sold it cut in half and in retrospect, I realize that it was on the edge of expiration, But I didn't know that when I was buying it.
It wasn't cheap, and we really liked it-the parts that weren't rotten that is.
While it is great in fruit salads and also by itself, we also boiled the nuts for 25 minutes. ( until fork tender) peeled off the outer shell and enjoyed the nuts by themselves.
Since we live in Florida, we decided to try our hand at growing one ourselves- then we can enjoy it green or ripened!
Here's a recipe for a fantastic smoothie using jack fruit.
My kids even liked this one :)

1/2 cup Jack fruit
2 sprigs fresh mint
2 sprigs chocolate mint ( if you can find it)
2 sprigs stevia
1/2 cup creamed coconut (found in the asian market refrigerator)
2 Tablespoons fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground
3 fresh figs (kombota if you can find them)
1/4 fresh pineapple cut into chunks
2 cups of ice
1 cup of cold water as needed for desired thickness

Blend and serve immediately
No additional sweetener is necessary if the jack fruit is ripe