Friday, August 19, 2011

Blast from the Past: Cherry Almond Jam

I've decided to label all posts with pictures taken Pre-Fancy Camera so that everyone will know they're consuming an outdated recipe. That said, this jam doesn't even taste stale! Plus, it's joined wild raspberry jam and wild strawberry jam as my favorite.

4 cups pitted, crushed-- not pureed-- sour cherries (should measure 4 cups after crushing)
1/2 tsp. butter
1 tbsp. lemon juice
5 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1- 1 and 1/2 tbsp. almond extract

4/5 cup pectin (or slightly more than whatever your pectin directions instruct for one batch of sour cherry jam because this jam can be runny if a bit more isn't added)

I assume that if you're making this, you've made jam before, so I won't go into great detail. (It's super easy, anyway, so if you've never made it, go for it!) Combine cherries, pectin*, butter, and lemon juice in large sauce pot. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar. Bring to a rolling boil a second time. Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Stir in almond extract, to taste. Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 head space. Adjust caps. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath or turn upside down for about a minute to seal before inverting. *Prepare jam per your pectin instructions (i.e. follow correct sequence for liquid or powdered pectin).

Spread over muffins in the middle of winter and wonder at the beauty of eating rubies.

Spicy (or Not-so-spicy) Summer Stirfry a.k.a. You Should Make This Tonight!

I think we just ate my favorite stirfry yet, probably because it's a garden-harvest-vegetarian riff on Martha's beef bulgogi recipe from five years ago, and with the addition of sesame oil. (I'm sorry for the weird color cast; I took this picture at dusk because I was too busy eating beforehand.)

This is a sweet-spicy-sesame-y stirfry that smashing! So lame, I know. Sometimes I have alliteration spasms. It's a disorder. (ASD.)

Cook up some brown rice. During the forty minutes you wait for it to cook, gather

a few tablespoons olive oil
one onion, chopped
about 4 carrots, thinly julienned

1 small-medium zucchini, thinly julienned
1 small-medium yellow summer squash, thinly julienned*
about 5 cups sugar snap peas (the eat-the-pod-and-all kind), strings removed
2 tbsp. freshly minced garlic (about 12 cloves)
1 and 1/2 tbsp. finely chopped or grated ginger
3/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil (or more, if you like a really heavy sesame flavor)
6 tbsp. brown sugar (a bit more or less, to taste)

1 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in a few tablespoons of cold water
ground cayenne or red pepper flakes or fresh hot peppers (ribbed, seeded, and chopped), to taste

In a few tablespoons of olive oil, saute the onions and carrots until the onion is translucent and carrots are nearly crisp-tender (if using fresh hot peppers, add then in, also). After mixing the soy sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves, add the next eight ingredients with 1/3- 1/2 cup water to the pan and cook over medium heat until vegetables are crisp tender. Stir in the cornstarch/water mixture and cook until sauce thickens. Add cayenne or red pepper flakes to taste.

We loved this, especially the sweet crunch of the sugar snap peas.

*A mandoline slicer really does beat all. John picked mine up for ten bucks several years back, and I've been using it to slice and julienne like one obsessed, which is probably because I am obsessed. Mine looks similar to this, except that it didn't cost forty dollars. If you find one for a reasonable price, grab it! They are just about as handy as hands.

Gooey Hot Fudge Sauce

I don't remember from where I copied this, but I'm willing to bet it was a Martha Stewart cookbook from the library when Millie was a baby, and I'm not just saying that so you'll trust me when I say it's divine.

It's divine! (Even Martha thinks so.)

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

Combine cream and syrup in a pan. Stir to combine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until incorporated and smooth.

Spoon warm (but not hot) over ice cream, cake, or straight into your empty mouth. The unused sauce can be stored in the fridge and will harden enough to be eaten in large, chewy spoonfuls. (Even Martha does this!)

Here's An Idea

Surprise your children by baking a tablespoon of cherry almond jam into their morning muffins!

(I suppose another kind of jam would work equally well.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oven-baked Zucchini Fries (Are Not Really Fries)

I don't care how many people call them such, zucchini fries are not fries. They are, however, very tasty zucchini sticks. Actually, they're not sticks, either.

Solid straws?
Skinny planks?
Thin logs?
Thickly julienned portions?

I've never deep-fried these before, but given my admiration of fried foods, I can't imagine it would hurt. Does frying ever hurt anything?

Anyway, here is your recipe* for oven-baked zucchini, skinny-sliced-planky-strawed-fries. NO! NOT fries. Whatever. Just eat them! (They are really, truly delicious.) They are, in fact, quite similar to my non-recipe for breaded zucchini slices, only better.
*Here's a confession. I can't find the scrap of paper I jotted the ingredient amounts on as I tossed them in, so the ingredients aren't accurate, but I think they're pretty close. If I find the paper, I'll edit this, but, for now, just use your judgment. It's not rocket science, after all.

If you want enough zucchini for your entire family to eat for lunch (paired with nothing else but dipping sauce), as well as a few handfuls for your mother and sister, as well as a plateful to stick in the fridge, then take

2 medium-large (okay, leaning on the "large" but not yet "baseball bat") zucchini and cut them into "fries."

They can be as thick or thin as you like. I cut more thick than thin because I was in a hurry, but thinner sticks will be crunchier in the end. In a large bowl, mix about 1 cup all-purpose flour with some salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, mix about 4 eggs and a few tablespoons of milk.

In a large bowl dump
about 4 cups of bread crumbs (I make my own from stale Italian bread, which of course makes plain bread crumbs. If you use seasoned crumbs, decrease spices to suit your tastes.)
about 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
a dash of ground cayenne
a bit of ground paprika
any additional spices you desire
(ground rosemary, Italian seasoning, basil, thyme, etc.).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and drizzle a rimmed baking sheet (or two or three) with extra virgin olive oil.

First, dump the zucchini sticks into the bowl with the flour mixture and stir until the sticks are coated. Second, dip the zucchini sticks into the egg mixture. Third, dredge the sticks in the bread crumb mixture until well-coated. Fourth, place them in a single layer on your oiled baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until browned on the bottom. Flip them and cook for a few additional minutes until browned on all sides and crisp-tender. The total time will depend on how thinly or thickly you slice the zucchini.

While making these, I thought that they'd probably also be yummy flavored with lemon pepper and dill weed paired with a garlic-y tzatziki sauce for dipping. Yum. And then I thought I could dip them in a butter/honey mustard mixture before dredging them in bread crumbs and serving them with more honey mustard, of course. Double yum. I guess I think too much about food when I'm cooking food.

Oh, yes. I made a quick red sauce for dipping by pureeing one quart jar of home-canned tomatoes with one small can tomato paste, salt and sugar in nearly equal amounts to taste, and then rosemary, basil, oregano, parsley, and thyme, to taste.


And because food pictures just wouldn't be the same without the Hand of Mystery, here's Luci.

Cheesy Zucchini Fritters

Of course, they're healthy. Why do you ask?

These are extremely flavorful, and they use quite a lot of zucchini, which is good news to all of you gardeners around this time of year. Quit leaving zucchini on people's doorsteps and in unlocked cars, already! You should make piles of these greasy fritters, instead.

I gleefully ate four or more of these for lunch and then felt sick for the next hour. They were that good. I'd like to try zucchini fritters that are like potato latkes, except made with zucchini and extra spices, but my first attempt was a bit more...indulgent. The cheeses turn the fritters into royalty, and spices can easily be adjusted to suit your tastes. I recommend serving a pile of fresh vegetables alongside these for lunch. I did not do this, but I bet if I'd tempered the fritters with something less decadent, I would've been fine with my gluttony.

(And once again, I showcase my stellar photography skillz with a cloth napkin and a zucchini blossom. Someday I'll be original, but that day is not yet here.)

2 medium-large zucchini, about ten cups grated
1 large onion, minced
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves or about 1 - 1 and 1/2 tsp. fresh chopped thyme
1 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. black pepper
1 and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground cornmeal
2 eggs
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese

Grate the zucchini with a medium hand grater (or whatever you want to use) into a large bowl until you have about ten cups worth and then squeeze out as much excess fluid as you can. Stir in the cheeses and eggs. In a small bowl, mix dry ingredients together and then stir into the zucchini mixture.

Heat a few tablespoons of canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat (until flour sizzles) and drop batter into pan in amounts small enough to make fritters about the circumference of an orange. Fry until the bottom side is golden brown, flip, and cook the remaining side until golden brown and cooked through.

The only downside to these cheesy fritters is that it might take a fritter or two to get the knack of flipping them without them falling to pieces. Once the mozzarella cheese melts, the stability of the fritter is shaky until it's cooked enough to gain a bit of firmness, and I found smaller fritters easier to flip than the big ones. I like the zucchini ratio to be equal to or greater than the pancake amount, but if you're really struggling, just add some more flour, cornmeal, and spices, to suit.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mildred's Roaring Twenties Spice Cake

I don't remember where I found the recipe for this cake, but I do know it was when Millie was a baby, and we were house-sitting a country mansion for the year. Since that time, I've never made it. Not once!

It took that baby Millie, now grown to the esteemed age of eight, to actually mix the ingredients together-- not once, but twice in the last two weeks. And may I just say how fitting it is that she picked this particular cake to make? The Roaring Twenties may very well have been the last time her name was popular with the general population. Thoroughly modern.

This dense cake is rich and flavorful, and it would be the perfect accompaniment to a steaming mug of autumnal spiced cider. (It's also good on very hot summer days, but while the taste is the same, the ambiance suffers.)

When Millie had finished the cake, I came in and whipped up a cinnamon-butter frosting. I rarely use recipes for buttercream, but I can tell you that this one was wonderfully heavy on the butter. Cream a stick or so of softened butter, add several cups of powdered sugar and mix until smooth, add vanilla extract and enough milk to reach desired consistency. Dump in a bunch of fragrant ground cinnamon.

The End.

p.s. I made the frosting on the thin side so that it would drizzle over the edges of the cake before hardening slightly.

Roaring Twenties Spice Cake

1 and 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
pinch salt

1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. water
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
*The second time she made this, Millie also mixed in about 1/2 cup of crushed walnuts because she was making it for Mopsy, who loves nuts.

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes; remove from heat. Dissolve baking soda in 1 tbsp. water. Stir into raisin mixture along with the flour and baking powder; mix well. Spread in a greased 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake and 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (In our oven, it only took about 15 minutes.)

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. When cake has cooled about ten minutes, invert it onto serving platter, let cool several more minutes before spreading with frosting. Serve warm or cold.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Double Chocolate Spiced Zucchini Muffins with Cayenne A.K.A. We Love Zucchini!

So, one might think that two zucchini recipes in one day is enough. Try telling that to the zucchini plants, will ya?! Here's a recipe I created this morning. It's a twist on the traditional and decadent chocolate zucchini cake, only more muffin-like, and with the addition of cayenne, because I like the complexity it adds and the lingering hint of heat. If you don't like these things, then omit it, and the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves will step up.

We also like to call this

Dessert for Breakfast.

3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter or canola oil
3/4 cup buttermilk (I've never in my life used real buttermilk. It's tacky, but you, too, can substitute 1 tablespoon vinegar and enough milk to equal one cup for buttermilk. Let sit for five minutes until curdled.)
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 and 1/2 cups grated zucchini (with any excess liquid left at the bottom of bowl after grating)

3/4 cup baking cocoa
2 and 1/2 cups flour
a generous 1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
a few shakes ground cayenne, if desired, to taste
1 - 1 and 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Cream together the eggs and the sugar before adding the remainder of wet ingredients. Stir in shredded zucchini. In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients, stirring until moistened. Spoon into greased (or papered) muffin tins, and then sprinkle the tops with a layer of semisweet chocolate chips. Bake in a 350 oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. (My oven runs hot, and it took about 12 minutes; bake these as long as it normally takes you to bake muffins.) Yield: About 1 and a half dozen

Eat them warm.
Eat them cold.
Eat them with your trousers rolled, Mister Prufrock.

Garden Pasta Salad with Garlic, Basil, and Red Wine

Okay, fine- so this doesn't have red wine in it, even though it sounds classy. It does have red wine vinegar, however, which counts!

This chilled pasta salad is summery and yummy. Yummery. Summy. (Enough!)

The End.

But, wait, there's more!
I usually make lots of the vinaigrette because the vinaigrette soaks into the pasta if you don't eat it all at one meal, which makes the leftovers more bland than I like. Enter extra vinaigrette! (Also, I need to correct my confidant statement of "I usually, etc., etc., etc." That's a farce, because I created this just last week and have only eaten it the once!)

-Petite pasta of your choice; something small and sassy is nice, about 16 oz., cooked, drained, and chilled (just run cold water over it)

To the chilled pasta, add
-3 cups julienned raw zucchini (matchsticks)
- 1 cup diced red pepper
- diced tomatoes, as many as you desire
- 1/2 cup chopped cucumbers, or more, if desired (If you grew them yourself, please do leave the skin on. No poison and more vitamins! PSA over and out.)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped green onion tops
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan


In a small bowl, whisk together the following:
- 1/4 cup fresh, flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
- 6 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
-1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. black pepper
-1/4 + 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
-1/8 cup + 1 tbsp. lemon juice
-1/2 cup canola oil
- a bit of sugar

(Sorry for the weird measurements. I was making this off the cuff and will adjust to normalcy the next time I make it.)

Lastly, if you're lucky enough to have feta in your fridge, go for it!!!!!!!

Please don't question the known fact that feta cheese deserves seven exclamation points.

Or more.


Crispy Kale, Or, Oven-Roasted Kale

I've talked about this before, hence this short zip-a-dee post. The girls gobble bowls of crispy kale like they're bowls of potato chips, and, truth be told, their mother does, too, though she wouldn't dare admit it in the public forum of a blog. (So shhhhh.)

Steps 1-5:

1. Step outside, walk to your garden, and pick some kale.
2. If it's large, tear the leaves from the stem; if small and tender, leave them whole
3. Toss kale in a large bowl with several drizzles of extra virgin olive oil and many shakes of salt
4. Broil in your oven for several minutes, stirring midway, until slightly browned and crispy.
5. Watch your children eat it all in one minute flat.

And just because I've also talked about this before, here's Luci's hand.

And Luci herself.

*A few tips:
1. Kale does not take long to scorch and burn. It can take seconds, really, so keep a close eye on it.
2. Kale shrinks considerably in the oven, so what you may think is a giant's portion is truly only a 3 year-old's portion.
3. Crispy kale does not taste like potato chips, but it doesn't have to in order to be yummy.

A Delicious Mess of Pottage

...or thereabouts, Esau.

A mess of faux pottage is prepared similarly to kale and beans, only with a mixture of pinto and black beans, the addition of diced tomatoes, beet greens in place of the kale, and ground rosemary, to taste, added to the onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Important, as well, is the addition of 2 small links of sweet Italian sausage I found in the bottom of our freezer. Cook the sausage at the same time as the onions, and proceed from there.

I used more water in the pot than usual in order to make a flavorful broth. Chicken broth would taste good, as well.

The broth necessitates some buttered, crusty bread for mopping. Don't forget!

Here's Another Idea! Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Pizza (with Garlic and Basil, Because It's a Pizza)

Here's what it looks like before it's baked, when the basil looks green and inviting instead of dark and withered. (My cookie sheet is loaded with cornmeal because it's my pizza peel; it works like a charm, thank you for asking.)

Anyway, prepare your favorite pizza dough crust. I use this one, because a thin crust couldn't handle the boatload of toppings. This time, as I often do, I substituted whole wheat for half of the flour.

Now, you should also prepare your favorite pizza sauce. Do you want my recipe that's not a recipe and that changes according to my mood or the weather? Here you go.

1 quart of home-canned tomatoes, drained
1 small can of tomato paste
a healthy splash or two of white cooking wine
1-2 tsp. salt
2-4 tsp. sugar
a whole mess of freshly minced garlic (and I do mean a WHOLE MESS-- usually at least 1/2 a head of garlic)
depending on the pizza, I add one or more of the following, to taste
red pepper flakes
whatever fresh or dried herbs I desire (basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, etc.)

The End.

Oh, wait. I was showing you a pizza with toppings, wasn't I?


So now you should have your favorite dough prepared and your favorite pizza sauce prepared. On to the toppings:

-Roast about 2 red peppers, then remove the ribs, seeds, and skin, before cutting into strips. (I broil mine to roast them. If you've got a gas oven, you can roast them directly over the flames. If you've never done this, please google a real cook who isn't too lazy to give you a tutorial in pictures.)

-Cut an eggplant into slices, about 1/4-inch thick.
Toss the slices in a bowl with some drizzles of olive oil, and then roast in your oven until soft and nicely browned, about 15 minutes, turning once (I quickly broil mine to cut down on time spent.)

-In a pan over medium-low heat, pour a few tablespoons olive oil, a few cloves freshly minced garlic, and a few shakes of red pepper flakes, if desired. Warm until heated through and set aside.

Okay. Shape your pizza dough, top with red sauce, sprinkle with mozzerella cheese (and parmesan cheese, if desired), and then layer on the eggplant slices. Layer the roasted red pepper strips on top of the eggplant, and then drizzle the olive oil/garlic/red pepper (if desired) mixture on top. Place 10-12 fresh, torn basil leaves on top and slide off of your cornmeal-dusted fake pizza peel onto a five-dollar pizza stone (it works like a charm; thank you for asking). Bake in a preheated 500-degree oven for as long as it takes. If you've made pizza before, bake according to your oven's quirks, taking into account the fact that this is a thickly loaded pizza. I have a quirky oven and hesitate to give baking times, for fear that I'll ruin the meal for people with normal ovens.


The End. For Real This Time.

A Non-Recipe: Cherry Lemonade with Mint- For Fellow Canners Especially

What's a body to do with cherry juice syrup leftover from canning?! Make this, of course!

When canning sour cherries, I made a medium syrup to pack the cherries in and used sugar, water, and the leftover sour juice that was left in the bottom of the bowl. I had a quart jar of syrup left over, and because I hate to waste things, I popped it in the fridge. I made this a week later, when it soothed our souls on a 100-degree day. I think it would be awesome with lime juice, too, but lemon is what I had on hand.

4 cups cherry syrup (rough estimate: about 1 and 1/2 cups sugar, about 2 cups sour cherry juice, and about 1 cup water)
8+ cups water, to taste
1-2 cups ice
1-2 cups lemon juice, or more, to taste
fresh wild field mint leaves, lots, to taste (you, of course, may purchase mint, but look outside first!)
*add a tad more sugar, water, or lemon to your liking

It's even better the next day, after the mint flavor has diffused through the rest.


Chilled Canteloupe Soup (Drink)

John made this for the girls and I one morning for breakfast. I took the liberty of calling it a drink because it's more practical to serve it to one's children in cups than in bowls with spoons, and all the mess that would entail. It's a delicious twist on cantaloupe, but if you don't like cantaloupe, I don't recommend making this, 'cause even with the orange juice and spices, it remains a canteloupe soup. I think if one froze this concoction, it would make refreshing popsicles, too.

Here you are!

  • 1 cantaloupe - peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Peel, seed, and cube the cantaloupe.
  2. Place cantaloupe and 1/2 cup orange juice in a blender or food processor; cover, and process until smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in lime juice, cinnamon, and remaining orange juice. Cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour. Garnish with mint if desired.
(John found the recipe here.)