Monday, October 24, 2011

Organic Fall Veggie Stew

Look at my fun assortment of organic fruits and vegetables that I received in my recent CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery from Farm Fresh to You!  I especially love that this collection is completely different than my last one, and the garlic is going to last me quite awhile.  I traveled for work last week so I wanted to use as many of the vegetables at one time as I could; a fall vegetable stew seemed the natural decision.

I chose the Buttercream potatoes, Delicata Squash, radishes, garlic, and added canned whole tomatoes that I had in my cupboard and onion to create a simple, tasty, healthy stew.

Grandma Irma's Canned Roma Tomatoes

Fall Vegetable Stew

1/2 c. diced onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped
1/2 Delicata Squash, cut in one-inch cubes
8 Buttercream potatoes, one-inch cubes
1 pint canned whole tomatoes
8 red radishes, chop stems and roots and slice in half
1-1/2 c. chicken broth
2-3 c. water
salt, pepper, ground cumin spice to taste
1 Tbsp. olive oil


In a large pot, sautee garlic and onion in olive oil until the onion is clear.  Add chicken broth, water, and canned whole tomatoes.  Stir contents and use your spoon to break up tomatoes into smaller pieces.  Add salt, pepper, and cumin.  Bring to medium high heat.  Add potatoes and radishes, put the lid on the pot and cook for 10 minutes.  Add squash.  Cook for another 10 minutes or until potatoes and squash are soft enough for a fork to break apart easily.  That's it, easy, healthy, tasty.  xo, AB


Friday, October 21, 2011

Jujube Butter

 I've been discovering all kinds of exotic, fun fruits to create treats...jujubes were one of these discoveries that I made at Fentiman Farms, another little gem that I had never heard of. 

The clerk at the farm store encouraged me to take a bite because I didn't know how to eat them.  Jujubes are also called Asian Dates, and you can eat them like you would eat an apple.  They are similar to an apple in texture and taste, although they are not as sweet - to me, they have a nuttiness to their flavor - and they are much drier than an apple.

Posing for her close-up
Because of their dryness, I decided to attempt a butter.  Like apple butter, this is a thick fruit spread, and has no butter in it at all.  I've never made a butter before, but I figured 'how hard can it be?'  I looked up how to cook jujubes, and everything I found said to cook the jujubes in a pot in covered water until soft (can I get a timeframe here?) and then to mash them with a spoon in a colander or sieve to separate the seeds and skin.  This does not work.  I cooked them for 45 minutes.  They were soft.  I took a handful of them and put them in a colander.  Mash.  Mash.  Mash.  What happened was nothing.  I just smashed them, the seeds didn't work themselves out and the skin just mashed up with the flesh, and I had to pick out the pieces.  Ay de mi! 

I ended up letting the jujubes cool slightly and peeled them individually, by hand.  Wow.  That took about an hour.  Then I smashed them by hand and squashed the seeds out with my fingers.  About another 30 minutes.  I asked myself again for about the tenth time in the last couple months, who writes these directions/recipes?  Does nobody actually TRY them?*

Once the flesh was sufficiently smashed and somewhat smooth, I cooked it with vanilla extract, cinammon, sugar, and ground cloves, all to taste.  I cooked on medium-low heat for an hour and a half**.  I poured the paste in jars, then boiled the jars in a water bath for 20 minutes (because of its thickness) and let the jars cool.  It made 4 half-pints of jujube butter.  It resulted in a unique hazelnut flavor, perfect for spreading on whole wheat toast and butter.  This would be a fun one to give as small gifts throughout the holidays!  xo, AB.
*I read about making apple butter after-the-fact and found that this process would have been much easier if I had a chinois sieve (I have no idea what this is) or an apple grinder.  Okay, next time.

**Turns out this might have been too long.  I cooked it to the consistency that I wanted the finished product to be, but since the high pectin content will further thicken/harden the butter, I recommend cooking it for maybe 1 hour.  My jujube butter is very thick.  I heated it slightly to make it easier to spread on the French toast.

Sharing is Caring

Sometimes the best part about toiling to produce your own jam is that you get to share.  And sometimes, the people you share with share back.  Pictured are some beautiful jams that my SIL - C made.  I'm not sure my Happiness in a Jar and Pacific Coast Black Plum Jam will hold up.  Hopefully she won't feel like it was a bad trade!

xo, AB.

C's Orange Marmalade, Peach Jam, and Strawberry Jam

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dragon Fruit-Mint Jam

I took a detour on my way home from work on Friday to visit Fentiman Farms in Escondido.  I've been patiently waiting to make perfectly-Autumnal blood-orange jelly out of persimmons.  Unfortunately, I arrived only to find that persimmons aren't ready yet due to last week's rainstorm.  My disappointment disappeared, however, as I looked around the store and saw amazing avocados, chemoyas, giant yams, perfect pomegranates (at only $1.25/lb - yeehaw!), an assortment of other fine vegetables, large and small jujubes (?), and these crazy creatures:

 Dragon Fruit. What ARE these?  The young girl that worked in the store sliced one open for me, and I felt like I had just met the Easter Bunny.  This tasty, unique, exotic beauty made my eyes pop out.  Thought to originate in South America, Dragon Fruit have been cultivated all over the world, and proliferate in Southeast Asia. The taste, flesh, and seeds resemble kiwi fruit, but perhaps not as sweet.  They come in red and white varieties (the flesh is either red or white).  They are about as large as a pomegranate, and have a soft, spongey, pink, scaley skin.

To pick the sweetest ones, look for the brightest pink skin, otherwise they are not very sweet. You can easily slice through the middle of a dragon fruit, and the flesh peels easily from the skin, so the preparation for jam, jelly, and other fun desserts is pretty quick and easy.  I tried a piece with a little bit of honey...tasty!  But I enjoy the mellow flavor of the fruit itself as well. 

I scoured the internet looking for recipes for Dragon Fruit Jam or Jelly, and the few I found, although they looked beautiful, required ingredients that I don't have access to (agar-agar, isn't that used in chemistry experiments?) or just don't know what they are (pandan leaves?).  They also didn't seem to be recipes designed for canning, but rather for desserts
you would eat shortly after making them. 

I designed my own recipe: 
Dragon Fruit-Mint Jam

1 lb. peeled, cubed Dragon Fruit (about 1-1/2-2 DF)
1 cup sugar
1 box pectin
5-6 fresh mint leaves, slightly muddled
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. water
Red food coloring
Place fruit, water, lemon juice, and mint into preserving pan.  Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat, stir in pectin and make sure pectin completely dissolves, 10 minutes.  Remove mint leaves.  Add sugar slowly, stir until dissolved.  Bring to a roiling boil, add 2 drops of food coloring, then turn off heat,
continually stirring.  Skim off foam if necessary.  Fills the equivalent of 20 oz.  I filled 2 half-pint jars and one 4-oz jar.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pom Syrup & Autumn Pom-arita

Little beads of garnet sweetness.

I am brimming with excitement to tell you about my pomegranate syrup....

As a girl, Grandma Irma always had pomegranates in the Winter.  We rarely got a taste because she hoarded them for herself, but now I don't blame her.  Those suckers are $2.99 a piece, and I probably won't make anything else with pomegranates this season unless I can get a better price than that.  Lest you think the price is because I bought organic produce at a fancy-schmancy store in Manhattan Beach, let me just say that I didn't get enough juice to fulfill my recipe (which I halved) and I shimmied over to Vons in Hermosa to buy more thinking they would be cheaper ~ and they were the same price.  Although, admittedly...the poms from Vons were juicier, redder, sweeter, and prettier.  Maybe...sometimes...once in awhile...there is something to be said for fruit grown with science.  But I digress.  Just look at this beautiful syrup:

I made much less syrup than I had originally planned because squeezing the juice was fairly time-intensive.  I adapted this recipe from's Pomegranate Sauce, but I increased sugar to make it thicker and more syrup-y.  My plan is to use this in vinaigrettes and cocktails.

Pomegranate Syrup:
2-1/2 cups pomegranate juice (5-6 Pomegranates)
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Directions:  Mix pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice in a preserving pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, dissolving all of the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture is thickened.  It will be thicker than juice but less thick than syrup.  Makes 2 half pints.

Turned out beautifully - visions of holiday cocktails dance in my head...CosmoPOMitans...POMtinis...POMaritas...yummo! 
If this weren't taken with my BlackBerry 3.2MP camera you could totally tell how awesome this really is!

Autumn's I Just Made This Up Today POM-arita
2 oz. of your favorite Silver tequila
1 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. fresh lime juice (it's ok if you get pulp in it), about 1 lime
1 round slice of lime
2-3 Tbsp. Pomegranate Syrup
2-3 slices of 1 jalapeno
4-5 leaves fresh mint
a few pomegranate seeds

 Directions:  In a martini glass, muddle jalapeno and mint leaves.  Mix tequila, simple syrup, lime juice, and ice in a separate glass or martini shaker.  Stir or shake.  Pour the mixture from the martini shaker into the glass with jalapeno and mint.  For looks, I removed the mint leaves prior to pouring the tequila mixture.  Add 2 Tbsp. of pomegranate syrup.  Add 1 more Tbsp. according to taste and color.  Drop 4-5 pomegranate seeds into martini glass.  Use slice of lime and slice of jalapeno for garnish.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mes Confitures Gewurtztraminer Wine Jelly

Heaven on Earth.  Once it is done, and you have exorcised your jam and jelly demons, that is.  For my birthday last month, my beautiful friend Midget gave me a lovely book called Mes Confitures by the renowned pastry chef, Christine Ferber, who is equally well-known for her exquisite jams and jellies.

It is a good thing that this jelly turned out stunningly beautiful and absolutely the most interesting and tasty jelly I have ever placed on my tongue because if it hadn't...I may have cried.  But it did and it was.  This recipe popped out to me (and I will be using more of the elegant recipes from Mes Confitures to experiment and learn) because it sounded fresh, crisp, and delicious, just like the apples and white wine required to make it, and because...who can go wrong with some good wine as an ingredient?

The recipe called for 1-3/4 pounds of Granny Smith apples, wine, water, sugar, orange zest, and juice from one lemon.  Sounded easy enough, but after cooking 1-3/4 cups of apples and sifting them through a sieve laced in cheesecloth, I had exactly 1/2 cup of juice and the recipe goes on to say you need 2 cups + 1 ounce of juice to complete the recipe.  I went back to the store twice to get enough apples to create that much juice...3 days later, I make my mixture. 

Apples cooking
Next day, it hadn't set.  In fact, it looked like liquid.  Argh!  I worked too hard to make another syrup, so I popped off the lids, threw them away, re-boiled the mixture with pectin, re-sealed the jars...and voila!  8 perfect half-pints of paradise...okay, second time around it only filled seven 8-oz. jars + one 4-oz jar and I ate the remaining 2 ounces with a spoon like it was Jell-O.  Mmmm....

You know you want some.
In re-hashing my experience with Grandma Irma, she informed me that if I had just left the poor little jars alone that the jelly would likely have set and I wouldn't have wasted my time or my lids or pectin (Granny Smith apples have a very high pectin content).  I chalked it up to a learning experience.  I am no Christine Ferber, and I am surely no Grandma Irma. 

My only suggestions if you undergo this recipe are these:  1)  Buy at least 10-15 Granny Smith Apples.  If you have more than enough, bake a pie with the remaining or eat with hot caramel; and  2)  Buy 2 bottles of wine, not 1, and drink one while you work.  This will keep you calm when things don't go as planned.  xo, A.

One for me, One for you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Ha-ha -- Get it?  Log-JAM?  LOG-jam?  Truth is, I am backed up with projects.  I have perhaps become overzealous about Fall fruits and went to GROW in Manhattan Beach (a wonderful little market that sells organic produce and meats) and bought the first of their pomegranates, Granny Smith apples, & a bottle of Guwurtztraminer...really, truly, the wine IS for jelly.  I promise.  I still have frozen fruits I would like to use to create more space in my freezer, and of course pumpkins are all over the place and I almost bought some today on a whim. 

But first...a little story about apricots.  Apricots are about 6 weeks out of season, but I had frozen 8 cups in early September and I've been dying to do something with them. 

Happy Golden Suns

Admittedly, I may have waited a bit too long to use the 'cots and when I chopped them prior to freezing them, I noticed some slight browning on the inside, around the pits.  They looked pretty on the outside, but they had begun to ripen a bit too much. I cut those parts off and froze what I was able to salvage.

As I cooked the apricots, I noticed some major bubbling (not foam) and I couldn't do anything to get rid of them.  Also, the sugar seemed to take longer to dissolve than it normally does.  Could it be when I removed some of the browned flesh that I also removed a lot of the fruit's water?  I think that's exactly what happened.  A short search on the internet led me to believe that nobody knows why this happens, I will probably have to do further reading to figure it out for sure.  Grandma Irma (my mom) thinks the apricots might have started to ferment.  Thinking about how they sizzled in the back of my hot, sunny car for a day and then in front of my kitchen window for 2 days after that...hmmm...she might be right.

Tiny Bubbles....
A typical apricot jam doesn't require adding water to the mixture as it cooks, but I probably could have added water when I noticed the sugar wasn't dissolving easily.   I loved, however, how thick and chunky this batch was shaping up to be, so I funneled it into the jars and sealed the lids and crossed my fingers.

Just look how scrumptious this jam turned out in spite of the bubbles.  I may not be sharing this with anyone based off of looks alone, but I don't mind hoarding this sunburst batch for myself.  If Grandma Irma is correct, maybe I'll get lucky and get a little tipsy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

And the Beet Goes On...

Turns out that using all of the fruits and vegetables in my CSA Box was not difficult. beets almost went bad.  I only got 4 tiny (yet tasty) beets, and all of the recipes I found for beets were for 2 pounds or more.  So, I cheated and bought a few more at my local grocery store to complete a recipe to can some beets.  I further cheated in that the recipe was an insert in my CSA Box.  While I've made bunches of jam before, I'd never canned fruits or vegetables on my own, and I didn't want to mess it up.

Speaking of messes, beets are a hot mess, literally.  My fingers are still purple.  But look how beautiful they look - I can't wait to have these canned beets for soup and other yummy appetizers later this Fall!

Beet Still, My Heart
You'll notice that the jars are full of beet slices only.  Know that the stalks are edible, too, and are quite tasty.  Earlier this week, I chopped Swiss chard (including the stalks) and sauteed it with garlic, lemon zest and juice from one lemon, and a bit of salt.  Tossed with pasta - delicious!  This was not my idea, my little brother said his wife makes it this way sometimes.  I tried this dish again, but used the beet stalks and leaves with some remaining Swiss chard, and tossed in chopped heirloom tomatoes.  This made quite a bit of food; I fed two of my friends and had leftovers!
Sautee Swiss chard and/or beet stalks with garlic first...

...then add greens, lemon zest & juice, tomatoes...toss with cooked pasta and serve immediately.  Yummy!