Thursday, March 23, 2017

I Made Jelly #fijchallenge

Lavender Wine and Concord Grape Jellies
We are now in the third month of our year-long food preservation Mastery Challenge. Our mission for March is Jellies and Shrubs. For this event I made two liquid based jellies, with two completely different flavor profiles and finishes. Now a jelly for the purpose of this challenge is a made with a flavorful liquid. Examples of this would be a fruit juice, vinegar, or wine and there should not be any bits or pieces of the fruit, pulp, herb or spice in the jelly.

Brie cheese with Lavender Wine Jelly
I first started with a lavender and white wine jelly. The recipe is from, “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving”. The recipe instructs you to starts out with a large stainless steel pan but since I was making a small batch, (enough for two 8-ounce jars) I used a nonstick sauce pan. I also substituted dry pectin for liquid and followed the cooking time exactly per the cookbook. The jelly never set-up and what I ended up with was a beautifully tasting syrup. After 24 hours I decided to reprocess the jelly. This time I used a large stainless pan; added another tablespoon of pectin and cooked the jelly an extra minute longer. Once again the jars were processed for 10 minutes and left on the counter to cool. This time the consistency was perfect. The next day I spooned Lavender Wine jelly over a slice of brie cheese for a late afternoon snack and it was heaven.


2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon dried lavender
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoon dried pectin

To prepare:

Bring to a boil in a large stainless steel saucepan the wine and lavender. Cover and remove from heat and let steep. Set timer for 20 minutes.

Steeping Lavender

In the meantime, prepare canner, jars and lids. Check out this website for more info.

Set-up layers of cheese cloth into a mesh strainer over a medium-sized deep bowl, let drip for another 20 minutes.

Measure 1¾ cups of the infused wine and transfer to a clean large stainless steel saucepan. Stir in sugar, then cook on high heat stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir in pectin, boil hard for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, do the plate test. If okay pour jelly into prepared jars leaving ¼ inch at the top. Wipe rim, add lid and screw on band until you reach some resistance.

Place jars in canner, bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, let set for 5 minutes. Remove the jars, let cool on counter. Wait for the popping noise you will hear it soon.

The second batch was a different story. I followed Marissa’s, Tart Red Cherry Jelly recipe using 100% concord grape juice. The problem this time was that I overcompensated and cooked the jelly too long. When pouring the jelly into the jars I noticed the consistency was different from the wine jelly. Early that next morning we tried to spread the Concord Grape jam on toast, it was clumpy and tough, let’s just say even tougher than jello, see picture below. As you can see this was inedible.

Concord Grape Jelly Disaster
Verdict: jelly making is a lot tougher than I imagined. Jam preserving was much easier for me, not sure why. Maybe it is more forgiving. Will try the Concord Grape version again. It’s been a humbling learning experience but totally worth it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream
There’s nothing better than a springtime farmers market. The morning air is crisp, the food trucks are cranking out food and there is the pervasive smell of coffee. It’s a safe place where everyone can let their guard down and be pleasant to one another. Many times I hear people exchanging recipes and laughter. The market becomes even more lively when the local band starts playing. I never know what veggies or fruits will be there from week to week but I know with a certainty that they will be fresh.

It’s strawberry season here in the southwest and we are having way too much fun. Take this strawberry basil ice cream for example. We infused the ice cream base with fresh basil creating a delicate savory essence if you will. The custard is cooked again and then cooled. Fresh and frozen strawberries were added and refrigerated until completely chilled and then churned in an ice cream maker. I used frozen berries in conjunction with the fresh because I wanted more juice to help “color” the ice cream. Chunks of strawberries were also added for their texture and flavor. The only thing I would do different next time would be to cut the strawberry chunks smaller. This strawberry basil ice cream is sweet and savory with a sophisticated touch!

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream in the Making
This recipe is from Fine Cooking website, simple formula to create your own ice cream flavor with infusions and add-ins recipe by David Lebovitz.

*Read directions completely before beginning. Also an instant-read or digital thermometer is needed.

print recipe

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

Strawberry basil ice cream is made with fresh and frozen berries and infused with basil creating a delicious sweet and savory flavor. Makes a wonderful treat anytime of the year.


  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup coarsely torn basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 pound strawberries; 1/2 pound fresh strawberries, ½ pound frozen strawberries, trimmed, pureed and mixed with 1/2 cup sugar


Begin by infusing the basil.
  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine 1 cup of the cream with the milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves and tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge, 3 to 4 minutes. Now stir in the basil leaves. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 1 hour. (at 1 hour the flavor was strong enough for us, let sit longer for a stronger flavor).
Setting up an ice bath and the rest of the instructions
  1. Prepare an ice bath by filling an extra-large bowl with several inches of ice and water. You want to be able to set a smaller bowl preferably metal inside, I used glass. Pour the remaining cup of cream into the inner bowl. Set a fine strainer on top.
  2. Whisk egg yolks in a medium bowl, set-aside.
  3. Rewarm the cream mixture with the basil over medium-high heat until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, this should only take about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour half of the mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. (this will prevent the eggs from curdling).
  4. Now pour the egg mixture back into the same saucepan and cook over low heat, stir constantly using heatproof rubber spatula until the custard thickens. Custard should be thick enough to coat the spatula. The test here is to draw a line through the coating with a finger; approx. 4 to 8 minutes. Custard should read 175° to 180°F at this point. (we used an instant-read thermometer)
  5. *very important to watch custard carefully if it overheats it will curdle.
  6. Immediately strain custard into the cold cream in the ice bath. For more flavor press the basil leaves against the strainer.
  7. Stir custard in ice bath to cool custard until below 70°F. then stir the strawberry puree into the cooled custard.
  8. Refrigerate the custard until completely chilled, at least 4 hours. Then churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to an air-tight container, and freeze up to 2 weeks.
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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Crab and Asparagus Pasta #Sunday Supper

Crab and Asparagus Pasta
Asparagus officially signifies spring regardless of the weather. Here in the southwest we are having a bit of a heatwave and from what I see on the news it is freezing on the east coast, gotta love this time of year. The flavor can best be described as intensely green, a little like broccoli and can be served raw, steamed, grilled and roasted. This persnickety little veggie can be hard to grow in some regions and needs a year round dedicated space.

Crab and Asparagus Pasta Dishes

Today I paired asparagus with lump crab, another personal favorite. The flavors were brightened with lemon zest, juice and fresh herbs. There is no butter or cream and you can use fresh or dried pasta. I used rigatoni pasta but there are so many different shapes or even flavors that you can use. In this recipe I blanched the asparagus which helped preserve the beautiful green color. The pasta water was reserved to help loosen up the pasta and create a light sauce. Happy spring everyone!

This week the host of the #SundaySupper Movement  group is Anne; of Simple and Savory, thank you Anne! Today’s event is all about Easy Spring Recipes.

yield: 2 to 3print recipe

Crab and Asparagus Pasta

prep time: 15 MINScook time: 20 MINStotal time: 35 mins
Crab and asparagus pasta marks the beginning of spring. This lovely dish has been lightened up with lemon and fresh herbs. Great for entertaining.


  • 1/2 lb of dried pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 8 ounces of lump crab meat
  • ½ bunch of asparagus, removed the tough ends and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated


  1. Cook the pasta per package instructions, making sure to season the water with sea salt. Retain 1 cup of the pasta water for the sauce.
  2. In a medium sized pot of boiling water, add asparagus cook for approx. 2 minutes. Drain in colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat add shallots to the skillet. Cook shallots about 2 to 3 minutes then add the lemon juice, zest and white wine to the pan. Let liquid simmer and reduce until half.
  4. Add the drained pasta to the pan along with the crab, asparagus, Parmesan cheese, reserved pasta water and parsley. Mix the ingredients until evenly coated and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Enjoy
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Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Kale Puree Polenta

Kale Puree Polenta
Green seems to be the theme this week on social media. Since St. Patrick’s Day is this Friday I thought it would be a good time to talk about my Kale Puree Polenta dish. Both kale and polenta really has nothing in common with Irish food besides the fact that this dish is a gorgeous shade of green and would pair very nicely with corned beef.

Saint Patrick’s Day commemorates the death of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and celebrates the heritage of the Irish in general. When I was in elementary school many moons ago it was very important that we wore or had something pinned to us that was green or the boys would chase and pinch us. Do you all remember that?

Begin today’s recipe by making the Kale puree first. You will have extra puree, it is fantastic on veggies, eggs, pasta, pizza and meats. The flavor is garlicky and addicting.

Don't forget to wear something green;-)

yield: 3 to 4print recipe

Kale Puree Polenta

This healthy Kale Puree Polenta is delicious and comforting and makes a wonderful side dish.


Kale Puree
  • 1 bunch Kale ( I used dinosaur) washed, stems removed, roughly chopped
  • 3 medium cloves garlic (peeled)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water, if needed
  • Flaky salt
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (grated)


  1. In a large pot boil water, add salt, now add kale and garlic. Cook until kale is tender about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain kale and garlic into colander. Rinse with cold water, when cool set aside garlic and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
  2. Combine kale, garlic and olive oil into food processor. Pulse until mixture is smooth, add water if needed. Set aside.
  3. In a medium sized heavy pot add water and salt, bring to a boil. Slowly stir-in grits. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until mixture is fairly thick, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat, add-in butter and then Parmesan.
  4. Oil bottom and sides of serving dish, scoop in polenta, swirl in kale puree a couple of tablespoons at a time, I used 4 tablespoons. Enjoy!
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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Vegetarian Celtic Curry Pie

Vegetarian Celtic Curry Pie is rich and satisfying, everything you would expect for a St. Patrick’s Day meal. These pies are bursting with carrots, parsnips, golden raisins, pinto beans, corn, mushrooms, celery, onion, and garlic in a savory yellow curry cream sauce, and topped with puff pastry; an orchestra of flavors. Serve with a crisp green salad and a pint of ale.

Vegetarian Celtic Curry Pie
The first time I had Celtic Curry Pie was a few years ago when we were in Newport, Oregon. There is a little gem of a restaurant called Nana’s Irish Pub that is located few blocks from the ocean with outside seating. The inside is exactly what you would expect with the dark wood walls and neon signs. The place is always noisy and bustling with tourist and local flavor. Our first visit was with another couple that we befriended and we had the best time. There were Reuben sandwiches and bangers and mash and an amazing Celtic curry pie. All were extraordinary, and the Smithwicks Red Ale from tap…... that was wonderful too; and I hardly, ever drink beer.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here is a Irish blessing for you;

“Here’s to me, and here’s to you. And here’s to love and laughter. I’ll be true as long as you. And not one moment after.”

Vegetarian Celtic Curry Pie

*Du Four pastry was first recommended to me by David of Cocoa and Lavender. Thank you, David; Dufour is everything you said it was; flaky, buttery and crisp; a restaurant quality puff pastry.

Before you start, the puff pastry should be defrosted in the refrigerator at least 2 to 3 hours beforehand.

yield: 6print recipe

Vegetarian Celtic Curry Pie

Vegetarian Celtic Curry Pie is rich and satisfying. These lovely pies are bursting with carrots, parsnips, golden raisins, pinto beans, corn, mushrooms, celery, onion, and garlic in a savory yellow curry cream sauce, and topped with puff pastry; an orchestra of flavors.
prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes cook time: 25 minutes total time: 1 hour 55 minutes


  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 celery stock, sliced thin
  • 2 parsnips, sliced thin
  • 3 carrots, sliced thin
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup corn (I used frozen)
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 2 teaspoons curry
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 package Dufour Puff Pastry
  • 1 whole egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • Enough flour to roll out dough
  • Maldon, or another type of flaky salt for a light sprinkling


  1. Prepare 6 ramekins (I used 8 ounce) by lightly oiling sides and bottom with olive oil.
  2. Into a large skillet on medium-high heat add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Now add onions, celery, parsnips and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until crisp-tender about 8 to 10 minutes. Scoop veggies into another bowl, set aside. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and then mushrooms, cook until just brown; about 3 to 5 minutes, add garlic, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Scape pan and add veggies to same veggie bowl as before.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter, add curry, turmeric and coriander, stir constantly. Now add flour, keep stirring until mixture is incorporated. Next add broth, stir to incorporate. Taste, if needed salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, and then add the cream. Cook until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, divide the veggie mixture evenly into the ramekins. Fill each with the curry cream sauce and then top with fresh parsley.
  5. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to 15 inch long and 10 inches wide. Cut into 6ths. Place on top on ramekins and brush each puff pastry top lightly with egg wash. Place ramekins in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 400°
  7. Place ramekins on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Cut 2 slits in the top of each one and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving.
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Harvest, Unexpected Project Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants, A Book

Harvest, Unexpected Project Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants, A Book
Spring is a beautiful time of the year, a time of chilly morning air and new beginnings. Here in Arizona the citrus fruit is mature and begging to come off the trees while at the same time the same branches are sporting new buds. Everywhere I look there are delicate shoots poking through my flowering pots. There are many new weeds too. These seasonal changes can bring a welcomed practicality to our kitchens and homes. From herb salads to edible-flower pressed cheeses I found a great resource.

Branch Arrangement
"Harvest", a book written by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis is just the seasonal treasure to help guide you throughout the year. The book is divided into three gardening seasonings, Early being the first, which is late winter to spring; Mid, which is summer to early fall and late; which is late fall to early winter. My favorite chapter was the one on Branch Arrangement. Since fruit trees need to be pruned in the Early season, this practice makes good sense and the budding branches make a beautiful centerpiece.

Warmed Olives with Black Cumin Seed
Another favorite noted was Black cumin seed. (see picture above). Here the seeds are dry pan roasted and set aside. Meanwhile olive oil, zested orange peel and a mix of olives are in a separate pan on low heat, just warming for 6 minutes. This warmed olive dish with black cumin seeds is a phenomenal way to enjoy and highlight these seeds. Makes a great appetizer for entertaining and the black cumin seeds are easy to grow and harvest as well.

"Harvest", is a wonderful book for anyone that enjoys plants, gardening and cooking. Also many great idea for gifts, including petals, flowers, herbs and seeds.

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Monday, March 6, 2017

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Herbs and Spices

Whole Roasted Cauliflower
We are in the midst of all things Spring. Seasonal wildflowers dot the landscape, farmers markets bursting with colorful veggies; and the longer and brighter days are here. The news media is even predicting weather in the high eighties next week. With all these wonderful new changes I am feeling a little stuck. Normally I cook and hike my way through these various emotions and this time is no exception. The spark is still there.

Now can we talk about this meal. A real showstopper if you will. When this gorgeous orb is removed from the oven your guests will be definitely be impressed; I know I was. The flavors you season it with depend on you. Since I was roasting chicken with sumac and thyme, that is the flavor profile that I stayed true to.

A Whole cauliflower was trimmed and cored, and then rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs and spices. The cauliflower was placed in a large cast iron skillet and then covered and roasted in the oven for approx. 20 minutes. The aluminum foil was then removed and the skillet was placed back into the oven for another 45 minutes. My husband who slightly grimaces every time he hears the name cauliflower loved this dish. He thought it was “creamy and comforting”.

A peak inside the whole roasted cauliflower