Jam Strawberry, Jam!

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There have been so many strawberries in the stores recently. I thought it might be strawberry season!  Well not quite, I’m not sure where these came from but it seemed the perfect time to make some jam and practice for when the local ones get here. That being said….Strawberry jam is not my favorite….it’s Jason’s favorite.  I’m pretty sure if you placed all the different types of jam in front of me my last choice would be strawberry and I might be too full to get to it.  Don’t  get me wrong, I adore fresh strawberries.  So why in the world am I making strawberry jam?  One word….LOVE.  He loves it and I found a recipe interesting enough to get me excited about it!

This is what got me so excited!  Lemon and lemongrass are added to the jam!!!!! You probably know that I love lemon.  If you don’t know….I love lemon. Adding it to strawberry jam sounds so right. And lemongrass has the word lemon in it, and smells heavenly and like lemons, so that has to work well, doesn’t it?  Oh and this is based on a Christine Ferber recipe.  She is a well known jam maker who has unusual flavor combinations, which of course appeal to me.  I believe she also makes pastries, so….a woman after my own heart.

For the jam:

  • 2 qts chopped strawberries (8 cups or 2 liters)
  • 3-4 cups sugar
  • 2 Tb lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 10 paper thin slices of lemon
  • 10 lemongrass leaves cut in half
  • 15-20 tellicherry peppercorns (optional)

I, of course, used Meyer lemons (they are my latest obsession until I get my hands on some buddha palm or yuzu!)  I chopped the strawberries into the size I wanted in my jam. I poured about 3 cups of sugar over them, crushed the peppercorns and added them, stirred it all well, covered the bowl in plastic and put in the refrigerator overnight.  You can skip this step if you don’t have time but I think it combines the sugar & strawberries really well, releases alot of the juice and just works!  The pepper is very subtle. You can add more but it will change the flavor a bit.  The amount here just adds hints of undertone to the strawberry flavor. You can also leave it out.

I could eat this whole bowl.

Slice your lemon paper thin. Add the lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar and water to a pot that will be big enough to hold the strawberry mixture (about a 6 qt pot).  Bring to a simmer and add the lemon slices.  Simmer until translucent, about 15 mins.

Add the lemongrass and the strawberries.

WARNING:  People who have experience canning are very particular about how they prepare the jars and they sometimes pressure cook them etc.  I am not so particular.  This is the method I used, you can use it or do the more complicated way.I washed my jars & tops in the dishwasher, spooned the hot jam into them, screwed on the tops and placed the jars into a pot of hot water.  The water covered the jars by about 1 inch or so.  I then boiled them for about 5 minutes, removed the jars from the water with tongs and let them cool.

How did it turn out? Fantastic!  So delicious!  Jason thought it was the best strawberry jam he’d had and I thought so as well.  My favorite part is coming across a slice of lemon in the jam, it adds a slight tartness but tempered by strawberry sweetness.  The lemon enhances the strawberry perfectly.

I gave a jar or two away but now we are going through this rather quickly.  I will be making more with the local berries. I can’t wait!  There are local berry farms where you can go pick your own if you want.  I’m also going to have to find a blackberry jam recipe as this is my favorite.

In My Kitchen

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Please join Celia, who blogs over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, by sharing with us what is in your kitchen!  I thought this was a fun little “get to know other bloggers better” little post to participate in.  After all we spend alot of our time in each other’s kitchens as it were.

My pride and joy....Bosch mixer.

Jason got me this Bosch mixer for Christmas and I love it. It can go from whipping egg whites to kneading bread in a flash!  I used to do everything by hand or with a small electric hand blender and sometimes I still forget to use this!  Old habits die hard…..

Since you are all my friends I will let you see my messy fridge! There’s pie dough in there waiting to be made into dinner, a package of Meyer lemons waiting for inspiration,  some peppers waiting to be roasted, a half a dragon fruit and everything else!

This is waiting to be made into dinner….Roasted Cauliflower & Onion tart  it has some brown parts starting which I will have to cut out.   The tart/pie dough is already in the fridge, Jason actually made that!  He’s a great pie dough maker.

I’ve been dying to make a Pandan Chiffon cake which Alan from Travelling Foodies posted.  I found the Pandan essence and paste but unfortunately no fresh Pandan leaves.  Now I just need to find the time!  I hope you enjoyed this little trip through my kitchen and I look forward to seeing yours!

Diets and cake…a cautionary tale…or why my cake fell flat!

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So……….I’ve been dieting. UGH.  All my life I’ve been able to eat whatever, and yes I am aware that I’ve been lucky that way. I’m not a skinny person by any means, just regular. But lately…well I’ll put this in the order I believe it should be in….1. I haven’t really exercised in about 3 years and 2. I’m getting older.  And I don’t like it.  About 3 years ago I stopped taking Tae Kwan Do or going to the gym, or going hiking and kinda stuck around home more….and possibly started baking more.  My sister thinks the weight gain is mostly due to age but I’m fighting against that.  So I’ve gained about 20 pounds if I’m being honest.  The first 10 were no big deal, this last 10 however are another story altogether!!!  I can see them! I can feel them in my clothes!  So diet it is.  Here is the problem, it’s not easy to change years of eating habits! I don’t eat badly, just probably too much for my current metabolism.  So I went low carb.  Thinking that way I can still eat sweets on the weekends!  Low carb all week, dessert on weekends. Logical eh?  A friend gave me fresh eggs from his chickens and pheasants. I can eat all I want of eggs on this damned diet.

Farm fresh eggs

Except after about a week and a half on this damned diet nothing seemed to be coming off.  I’m not going to starve myself (hardly) if it doesn’t even work.  Last night was my breaking point.  I found a recipe for Kasutera Cake (a Japanese sponge cake) and decided what the hell, it’s a small recipe, it’s not too sweet, I have matcha powder and it uses eggs!  I can eat eggs….green tea cake it is!

Lovely tea fragrance

Jason only chuckled, diet over already?  Well, no, just a break.  Besides a light, not too sweet little tea scented cake couldn’t really hurt that much right?

There are many Kasutera also known as Castella, recipes out there. I chose this one because I thought it would be small enough that I wouldn’t completely blow the damned diet.  You can make it in many flavors and  Matcha is a green tea powder that can be used to flavor many things including ice cream, cake etc.

Matcha Kasutera

  • 2 Tb milk
  • 2 Tb honey
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 1 Tb matcha
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 c sugar

Prepare a small 9 inch rectangular pan with parchment paper.  Combine the honey and the milk and warm it up. Sift together the flour & matcha powder in a bowl and set aside.  Whisk the eggs and slowly add the sugar, place this bowl over a simmering pot of water, (very low simmer) and continue to whisk (I used a hand mixer.) The mixture will grow in size, get thick and get very light colored, it takes at least 10 minutes.

The egg mix at the start.

You want to reach a point where the mixture is very thick and reaches what is called the “ribbon stage”. See the picture below, when you take the whips out, the mixture will form what look like ribbons on top and slowly melt back into the rest of the mixture.  If you’ve ever made Zabaglione, this is the stage you are looking for.

Ribbon stage

So far so good, right?  It sure seems to be going great.  Stir in the milk/honey mixture and preheat the oven to 360 F.  Sift the flour/matcha into the batter and fold with a spatula, you want to fold gently so that you keep the light fluffiness of the egg mixture. Pour the batter into the pan and tap lightly on the counter to get any big air bubbles out.  Bake for 10 minutes at 360 then reduce the temperature to 300 and bake a further 40 minutes.  If a toothpick inserted comes out clean, it’s done! Then remove from pan, cool and blah blah blah.

My cake was doing fine, it had risen and looked good.  When I checked it about 20 minutes after I had lowered the tempurature….disaster!  The middle had collapsed!  What in the world?  I started racking my brain, did I beat it too much/hard?  Oh I added food coloring paste at the end and it may not have blended that well, was that it?  Ugh, this is what happens when your stomach has no carbs and takes over in a panic demanding cake.  I did an internet search with the query “Why did my sponge cake collapse?”  The very first hint made me realize my mistake….I had opened the oven door when I reduced the tempurate, thinking that would help get rid of some of the heat.  WRONG MOVE.  I guess sending in a rush of cold air causes sponge cakes to collapse, unless it’s more than 3/4 of the way done.  I’ll never make that mistake again.  The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.  This may be an elementary mistake to all you sponge cake makers but I’ve never been a big fan of cake until I discovered sponge cakes.  When I was little we mostly had box cakes, or bought cakes with waaaaay too much super sweet frosting.  Here’s another example of one more thing I will conquer!  My next attempt will be a Pandan Chiffon cake, similar I believe to a sponge. So… I definitely won’t be opening the oven door.

Poor cake.

We let it cool a little bit and then cut a piece.  It tasted delicious with crispy edges.  Jason loved it and kept eating.  I told him I knew how to replicate this exact cake now!  I’ll just never be taking it anywhere!   Oh and when I got on the scale this morning I had lost two pounds!  It’s working!!!!!

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Just made this tonight and it is fantastic! Did it in my slow cooker and had to use canned hominy.  I roasted half of the tomatillos while roasting the chilis because I like that smoky flavor.

Oh so good and Oh so easy! I even have some leftover for tomorrow and I can tell the flavor will be even better then, it will funkyfy I call it!

Back Road Journal

How about a nice steaming bowl of pozole verde? Haven’t heard of it…what if I said pork and hominy stew with green chilies. This traditional dish is the comfort food of Mexico. There are many varieties of pozole using different meats but the classic is made with pork. Their color comes from the different chilies which are used and will be called white, red or green pozole, which happens to be the colors in  the Mexican flag.

Throughout the state of Guerrero in the southwest part of Mexico bordering the Pacific, every Thursday the locals sit down at pozolerias where all they serve is this dish. I just had to try something that famous. I can tell you that I could definitely eat pozole once a week also, it is that good.

Pozole Verde ( Pork and Hominy Stew With Green Chilies)

The word pozole actually means hominy in…

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Ethiopian cabbage – quick and easy!

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A few years ago my office had a pot luck and Mr. A’s wife brought in some dishes from her home country, Ethiopia.  I love collecting recipes from around the world, from people that I’ve actually met. Well at least until I started reading blogs, I’ve truly made some wonderful dishes from some of these blogs around here!  Anyway, I fell in love with this dish. She also brought a lentil dish that was ok and those flat breads that many African countries make. I can’t think of the name off the top of my head but they are flat and have bubbles, almost like when a pancake is ready to flip it has bubbles in it?  Hang on….let me look  up a picture online.  It’s called Injera.

Injera

It’s kind of spongy and I don’t remember much else about it. I do remember that she wouldn’t give me the recipe for Injera, she said it would be too difficult…she didn’t know me very well but for the sake of peace in the office, and because I wasn’t that impressed with them, I didn’t push it.  I wish I had pushed it and Mr. A is long gone so….I’ll have to find a recipe online.

The thing I think I love the most about getting recipes from people from other countries who are cooking a family recipe, or people who have been cooking for years, is that they don’t really measure the ingredients.  I remember when I was a child, my aunt had a woman who was a housekeeper and cook (this was in Greece) and I used to watch her cook.  It was a teacup full or a coffee cup full, or a water glass etc.  Then it was a big spoon or a small spoon or an amount poured into the palm of her hand. Watching her was like magic and wonderful smells and dishes flowed from her kitchen.

Mon petit chou

Anyway, that is how I was told this cabbage recipe and I tried to write it down as best I could.  This recipe is so simple and yet so good.  I posted this recipe on the AllRecipes site and people there made suggestions and added things.  So the recipe below is as close to the original as possible.  Oh and many of the cooks on allrecipes suggested the spices should be doubled so I will write the double amount in the recipe that follows…..

Ethiopian Cabbage

  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 4 carrots sliced
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (or more)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 head of cabbage
  • 3-5 potatos cubed into bite size (any kind of potato works) 
The start

Heat the oil in a skillet or a dutch oven on medium, Cook the onion & carrots about 5 minutes.  Add the spices and then the cabbage and cook another 15- 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and cover, turn the heat down a bit and cook until the potatoes are soft. About 20-30 minutes.Sooo good.

I don’t know why this dish tastes so good, there’s not much to it.  But the combination of flavors is really wonderful. I make it fairly often.  You can serve it with meat or a flat bread but I usually have it alone.  I made it the other night with almost an entire small cabbage and only 3 potatoes and I was hoping for some leftovers but we at it all up!