When I go to the farmer’s market on Saturday’s I get a little over zealous buying berries. I buy way more strawberries than I know we’ll use, but I also get a little nuts with the blue, black and little red ones, too. May is our peak month but, here in California, we are fortunate to enjoy beautiful berries all year long. I get really frustrated when my berries go bad before we have a chance to eat them. So now I make jam! Sometimes just strawberry, other times I mix it up. The point is I make a lot of jam!
Making jam is one of those arts that is actually pretty easy. If you make it with lots of love, like I do, it’s a great gift. I have been trying to keep some in my freezer and take it as a hostess gifts.
The basic recipe is always the same, but you can get creative with flavors. You can play around with spices. How about adding some ginger? Then use it as a glaze over pork tenderloin as it’s grilling. Adding a little fresh ground black pepper gives a surprising flavor profile when used in a Croque Monsieur. I sometimes stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter for a creamier texture. If you’re, really, looking to jazz it up, try adding orange liqueur or champagne. Be sure to remove the jam from the heat to add liquor. Just stir in about 1/3 cup, then boil again for about 5 minutes to set-up.
Homemade jam is always appreciated and what can be better than a dab of fresh jam on toast in the morning or even a midnight snack.
Wash and hull strawberries. Give them a rough chop.
Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, over medium heat.
Reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes.
Use a brush dipped in water to brush down any sugar crystals on side.
Once jam has thickened, remove from heat. I use a immersion blender to puree it a little.
At this point you can add 1/3 cup of your favorite liqueur (I like Grand Marnier). Just be sure to remove from heat before adding. You may need to bring it back to a boil for 5-10 minutes, if it thins out too much.
Cake for breakfast! Yes it’s a thing and it is all over the Internet. It’s actually not a new thing. It started popping up in my feed in every blog I get, recently. So, I decided to do a little research of my own. Before I get to a really good chocolate cake recipe, that you will probably over indulge in, let me give you some of the Kisses and Nibs of it all.
The original study came out in 2011 and was conducted in the UK. It did say that eating cake for breakfast was a good thing and that you might lose some weight. However, it turns out the study was more about eating a big hearty breakfast than it was about eating cake. It also pointed out that if you’re going to eat sugary unrefined carbs, maybe you want to do it earlier in the day, rather than later. Finally, the UK study was a closed study, meaning that the participants were living and eating in a dorm facility. So the facilitators noted that perhaps the social nature of eating together might have had the participants eating less. Be more social when you eat breakfast, if you can. Talk more, eat less.
The second study was done at Tel Aviv University in 2013. This study suggested that the brain works better when it is stimulated immediately in the morning and that chocolate cake was a great conduit for that. The long and short of this is that chocolate has flavonoids and caffeine; both can act as a stimulant. Flavonoids are also a great antioxidant. Both supply energy to the brain and in my honest opinion are a great way to start your day.
I did the MOST official study of all in 2017. It shows that if you make a chocolate cake, somebody will eat it for breakfast!
Okay, enough with the science! Here is a great chocolate cake recipe. I put it together from several different recipes. Make a double batch of the frosting; one is just not quite enough to frost the whole cake.
Really Good Chocolate Cake
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This is three full layers of cake, not one cake cut into three layers! With lots of rich milk chocolate frosting between and all around. Oh yeah!
I don’t think there is a perfect snack that teenagers, foodie husbands and moms trying to cook healthy for their families would agree on. I do think I tried one in France that might suffice; Panisse!
You can find many snacks made with chickpea flour, such as Socca chips and Panisse, in Nice and Southern Italy. They are delicious and are most often served with a healthy sprinkle of fresh ground pepper. They have a crispy exterior and a creamy interior almost like a polenta French fry. I tried these when I was in France and have been searching for a way to serve them ever since.
So now my worlds have finally collided. I’ve been spending all my time working on a fundraising cookbook for an organization I am involved in personally. It is a Jewish Holiday Cookbook and honestly the recipes are knockouts! I will let you know as soon as it is available.
The other piece is my wonderful family. I have a 17 year old that is a senior in high school and having so much fun with her senior activities, a sophomore in high school that is starting her second season of club water polo and a sports fanatic husband that is in the throws of March Madness. “Calgon take me away!” remember that commercial of a frantic mom looking for some relaxation? In all the craziness I was feeding everyone snacks that were quick, easy and quite frankly, not very good, or healthy. So I thought I ‘d give you all the chance to benefit from my haste.
These batons (fancy name for steak fries) are fried, yes I said fried, but the fact they are made with chickpea (garbanzo) flour offsets the fry, in my book. Chickpea flour really packs a punch. It is naturally loaded with protein, high in fiber and gluten free. If you or any family members are vegan or vegetarian this is a nearly perfect food. I fry in a cast iron skillet in about ½” of olive oil so you are not deep-frying. Another justification for “its not so bad” and you get the benefits of cast iron, too. When you taste these you have a nice crispy exterior and creamy interior, almost like a polenta french fry. As I said above, a good sprinkle of pepper is good; you can also try Parmesan or some Marinara sauce, for dipping.
Heat the broth with oil, garlic and salt in a heavy saucepan. You can use water, I like to use chicken or vegetable broth for building your flavor.
Once the liquid is hot, but not boiling, slowly whisk in the chickpea flour. Whisk over a medium heat until it thickens, about 3 minutes.
Switch to a wooden spoon and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes until batter becomes very thick and it holds its shape.
Scrape dough/batter into oiled pan and let cool.
To fry panisses, unmold solid mix onto cutting board and slice into batons/fries.
In a heavy or cast iron skillet heat 1/4' to 1/2" of olive oil. When the oil is shiny hot, but NOT smoking, fry the panisses, in batches. Do not overcrowd. once the bottoms are nicely browned and crisp turn, carefully, with tongs, cook until you have a deep golden brown color on both sides.
Remove from pan and drain on paper towels or brown paper bag. Sprinkle with a lot of coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper. Dust with grated Parmesan cheese, too. You can serve with marinara sauce for dipping too.
In case you haven’t heard it’s been raining here in California, A LOT! So it was a great weekend to stay home and make all sorts of comfort food. It doesn’t get more comfortable than homemade pasta.
I love that you and I both probably have everything we need to make pasta, already, in our kitchens. Are you ready for the long list; Flour, salt, eggs, water and olive oil. I have a hand cranked pasta roller, but you really don’t need it. Pasta has been made for centuries, certainly long before standing electric mixers were adding attachments and even before my hand-cranked roller. If you have a wooden roller pin and a knife you can make your own pasta.
Keep in mind you can search for basic pasta recipes and find dozens of variations. Start with mine but if it s not a good fit, you can play around. Add more water; use just all-purpose flour, more oil (not too much). I did make mine in a standing mixer, with a dough hook; you can do everything by hand in a large bowl.
I want to say that, even not so great, homemade pasta will taste better than any pasta you will ever buy in a store. Once you get this pasta made, go over to March 1, 2015 and make the Marinara Sauce!
In a large bowl combine flours and salt. Make a well (indentation) and add eggs. If you are doing this by hand, start to fold your flour over the eggs and mix, adding water and oil, until you have a stiff dough. I used a standing electric mixer with the dough hook attachment. I used a spatula to scrape down the sides.
As you are mixing and adding water & oil, keep pinching the dough. When it starts to stick together easily, its ready. You do not want it too sticky.
I used Durum Semolina, which is traditionally Italian. It has a coarser texture, almost like corn meal, it will need more water and olive oil. The texture smooths out in rolling and cooking. All-purpose flour will NOT need nearly as much liquid.
Once the dough is all mixed. Knead for 3 - 4 minutes on a lightly floured board. Then form a disk and wrap in plastic and let rest, in refrigerator, for 30 minutes.
When ready to roll, cut disk into quarters and flatten. If you are using a pasta machine or roller, start on a zero setting and run the dough through once or twice and fold in half and lightly flour each side and run through again. Repeat this process gradually increasing setting to higher numbers and ultimately increasing to desired thinness and length. Or follow the directions provided, with your machine.
If you are hand rolling, lightly flour a board and use a rolling pin to roll dough out to desired thinness and length. I like to roll between two pieces of parchment or wax paper. Too much flour can make the pasta too chewy.
At this point you would switch to the cutting shape, you want on the machine. If you are cutting by hand use a knife or pizza cute to cut your dough.
Once your dough is cut, it is IMPORTANT to let it dry/set for a while before storing or cooking. If you don't it might be gummy. If you have something to hang your pasta over, even a towel rack will do, that's ideal. if not just let it lay straight on board or parchment lined pan. Don't let it sit bunched up, like in the picture.
Once it is a little dry you can store it, folded, in an airtight container, with a little semolina or cornmeal, to keep it separated.
To cook, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it, liberally. Add you pasta and cook 5 - 7 minutes. Do not over cook. Serve with your favorite sauce or none at all. It's that good,
For most of my life I heard about “Granny”. My Great-Grandmother. By all accounts she was an amazing cook, great seamstress and she was feisty! My Great-Grandfather was 27 years older than her and had come from a family of privilege in Georgia. My Great-Grandfather was “one of the most sought-after bachelors”. By all accounts he was a bit of player and drove a flashy “rubber-tired buggy” with a “trotting horse”. Today that might be compared to a little red corvette. Granny was a schoolmistress that came from a hard working, “good” family. In the 12 years they were married, prior to his death, they had 4 children and she was pregnant with the 5th when he passed. While the story is told of their love at first sight, I’m guessing there was a certain amount of satisfaction in catching the un-catchable.
In 1900 $18,690 would have been the equivalent of approximately $430,000 today. In 1900 that would have meant that you were wealthy. This is how much the savings passbook shows my great grand parents had in the their bank account when Granny started using it to write recipes. That is a lot of money for the time. While they lived a somewhat grand life with servants and a large plantation home, they also were very conscious of using what they could from their own land. They had crops such as watermelon and their own patch for growing fruits and vegetables. They also raised several different types of chickens and had milk, butter and cheese from their own cows.
A grandchild’s imagination can run wild and mine is no different. At first, I imagined my “feisty” Granny getting mad at Ab, my great grandfather’s nickname. Perhaps he had asked her to run ANOTHER errand to the bank on a day when she had sick children and chores to do on the Plantation. I can see her running into a friend and asking for her Watermelon Rind Preserves recipe. When she realized she has no paper, maybe she thought, “I’ll show him the value of his money!” and scratched out the recipe right there on the 4th page of the passbook. I say this because the recipe is quickly given. There is no list of ingredients and amounts, then instructions. It’s all on continuous sentence.
I sometimes fantasize that maybe she really didn’t have any paper and thought it would be “just one recipe”. However, it became her go to for writing recipes when she ran into friends. Eventually, the recipes did evolve and have a list of and amounts ingredients and instructions.
Today we don’t have passbooks and most of our recipes are shared via email, the Internet or pinterest. Having those recipes written in my grandmother’s handwriting is invaluable. As the years passed, after my Grandfather’s death, times got hard for my great-grandmother and her family. She was able to turn to her Brother in law for help and keep her family together, during the depression, World War II and a great cyclone. I still imagine that she would have been teaching us that the value of a rich family history has more value than today’s $430,000.
My favorite recipe was the Jam Cake. This is a traditional southern cake that came out of Tennessee or Kentucky, depending on what website you are looking at. I have searched high and low for a jam cake recipe that was made with wine instead of buttermilk. I’m not sure why Granny made the substitution, but it sure is good!
I’m giving it to you as written and then my version. How lucky was my Granny to be able to bake with such a limited recipe. I hope you enjoy it too.
Beat eggs and sugar together until light colored and ribbony.
Sift flour and baking powder together.
Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add to eggs and sugar.
Slowly add flour & baking powder mix to butter/eggs mixture.
Once flour is completely added, add spices and lastly wine. Blend until just combined.
Pour into 8 or 9 inch cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350°F for 30 - 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
For frosting I make a cream cheese frosting and use a good store bought caramel sauce to make a caramel frosting. Divide the layers. I put an extra layer of jam in between cake layers with the frosting and then frost the whole cake.
You can find my cream cheese frosting recipe in my May 8, 2015 post of Red Velvet cake.
Winter knows how to hook you. That first nip of cold air gets you excited and all the sweaters come out. When you are sick of rain the snow starts and when you think you can’t handle the grey skies anymore, Peonies show up and the citrus is ripe for the picking.
The Peonies I had to find in NYC while looking at colleges for my daughter. They were a welcome sight on a slushy, grey street in Chelsea. The citrus, in the form Cara Cara oranges greeted me when I came home to Los Angeles. They were bursting with juice and practically leapt off their trees when I went out to pick them.
Cara Cara oranges are wonderfully sweet and have specks of dark red hinting of a relationship to blood oranges. You can juice them and cook with them. This year they were too sweet not to use in everything! First, I peeled, sliced and served them on a beautiful platter on their own. Delicious! Then I tried a variation on lemon curd. It is literally sunshine is a jar. You can use any way you would lemon curd or, like me, just eat with a spoon.
Bring the orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan, over a medium high heat and reduce to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and stir in zest. Cool to room temperature.
In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in cooled juice mixture. Once combined, pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken and it reaches a temperature of 180°. This should take 6 - 8 minutes.
Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl and stir in butter, until it is completely melted. Cool completely and place plastic right on surface of curd, to prevent skin forming. Place in refrigerator until well chilled.
Store in airtight in refrigerator for 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator, before use, if frozen.
When I read a post where the first thing the author does is make an excuse, I have to admit it is a huge turn off. Julia used to say something to the effect of don’t make excuses for your food whether it’s bad or good, everybody already know’s. Well, Julia, true that but sometimes life just rushes by and you get behind. The ironic thing is I have been writing like crazy, because I have so much to say! It’s the cooking and picture that seem to set me back. So here I am to catch up and I think this first one is a good one.
We finally got a little cold snap her in Los Angeles. I love to think that means we can have a fire in the fire place and snuggle up. I mean what else can you do when it is 50 degrees out (pause for groan from the east coast)? A fire in the fireplace almost always means S’mores. So tonight it meant making my own graham crackers.
I don’t know why I wanted to make my own graham crackers. There was something so intriguing to me. I imagined it would be very complicated so it never occurred to me that I would share it here, under try something new. It was super easy!
I went looking for “Graham” flour. Guess what? Its really just whole-wheat flour that is not sifted during the milling process and is ground coarsely. You can find graham flour in some health food stores. For my purposes I used plain whole-wheat flour. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour Company. I made the first batch exactly as directed. One of my daughters is not a big cinnamon fan and I thought it could be a little more “wheaty” so I made some adjustments and the following is my recipe. It really is simple.
My advice is to be patient when rolling out the dough. You do want to get them very thin. You also will want to have a ruler handy, if measuring out as squares, which is the proper graham shape. I admit I got bored of that and made some squares and some circles with a biscuit cutter. Finally don’t forgo the pricking with a fork. This helps them keep their shape, without puffing up.
As a young mother, MANY years ago, I was very idealistic. My children were not going to eat chocolate, too early. High fructose corn syrup would never pass their lips and they would never have frozen or processed foods. Ha! Last summer we vacationed in Lake Tahoe, and were concentrating on the simpler pleasures. We hiked and spent days on the lake. Our nighttime activities were nothing more than dinner out and a movie in the hotel room.
One night, while we were waiting for our table, at dinner, my kids and husband were playing beanbag toss. I must have been in a dreamlike state, when I had a vision of those little girls and the meals I use to make for them. I don’t think there is a kid out there that doesn’t like chicken tenders or nuggets. In an effort to get my kids to be happy campers at dinner I developed my own recipe for chicken nuggets. It was a hit! I always served them with whatever fresh fruit was in season and some sort of potato. I admit that I was too lazy to make my own French fries so I often used a wholesome frozen variety.
As we get back into the busy days of fall, I hope you and your family will take a moment to slow down and enjoy a simple pleasure like homemade chicken nuggets. Oh and we are planning our next Lake vacation.