Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Port Wine Jelly - Really, truly, very good....

Even jerks have good ideas sometimes.  I went on a few dates with a guy who ended up being weird, but I was telling him about my hobby one day (with a bit of embarrassment, people in Southern California think canning your own food and making jam and jelly is a bit hokey) and he being a self-important, self-described "oenophile" suggested I try making jelly out of port wine (Imagine him saying this whilst sipping on a Pinot Noir with his pinky pointing outwards and his jaw clenched as he spoke).  Now, I am not much of a port drinker, but I thought with its sweetness that it was a great idea.  And it was.  I thought I was rather clever, in fact, making port wine jelly.  Then a quick google search brought me down to Planet Earth when I discovered dozens of recipes for port wine jelly.  Well...la-dee-dah!!  Mine turned out amazing, I must say I am quite proud of it!
I used the recipe from Mes Confitures, by Christine Ferber, "Pinot Noir Jelly."  I simply substituted the port wine in place of pinot noir.  I am wondering if other people have tried some of her recipes?  The apple juice never seems to be enough pectin for the jelly to gel.  I always end up having to add commercial pectin.  Thoughts?  Can I save a bunch of time by just using pectin in the first place?  Skip the whole apple-cooking, straining, waiting overnight thing?  I have a feeling it wouldn't taste as good or be as delicate...but I don't know.  At any rate, this jelly is one of my favorites, the port is on the nose as soon as you open the jar, but berry flavors take over with the perfect amount of sweetness on the lips.  It went great with whole grain toast.  I believe this would also be delicious on dinner crackers with a mellow cheese and a glass of red wine.  I could credit Mr. Jerk-face with this recipe, but I won't.  It's way too good for that!  Enjoy! xo, AB

Monday, December 26, 2011

California Cutie Marmalade (Clementine Marmalade)

Every year, I look forward to Cuties coming in-season.  I love eating them as snacks; I buy a whole box and eat them whenever I feel like it.  They keep well for a couple weeks or more, and they peel very easily.  I thought they would make some amazing marmalade, and after having success with a couple different kinds of lemon marmalade earlier this year, I couldn't wait to try it.  I used a recipe from Mes Confitures, about as straightforward of a recipe I've seen in this book.  As I was cooking the mixture, I tasted it, wasn't in love with it...added a bit of cinnamon, it tasted better for sure. 

This marmalade turned out beautiful, rather thick for my taste, however, and I just am not in love with it.  Is it the marmalade itself I don't like?  The recipe?  I'm not sure.  In this recipe, you keep the entire peel, so that could be it.  I bought two boxes of clementines, so I may try another marmalade recipe...or, I may just enjoy as is, like the perfect little natural candy they are. xo, AB

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wild Idaho Huckleberry Jam-Filled Muffin Mix

Dorothy's Wild Huckleberry Jam-Filled Muffin Mix, from Boise, Idaho, is a fabulous idea.  Dorothy's has made muffin-making easy, scrumptious, and quick.  And she did it by filling it with jam.  Grandma Irma and My Little Daddy sent me a stocking full of goodies, (including Rosetta Stone Espanol Levels 1 through 5, how do you say "jam" in Spanish?) and the muffin mix was inside.  Yippee!
I still drink large glasses of milk with breakfast.  Sometimes at restaurants.  I actually got asked once, "What *are* you, 12?"
Making huckleberry jam is on my agenda for next Summer when they are in season.  Huckleberries grow all over Idaho, and it is the Official State Fruit.  Yes, my friends, it is.  What is a huckleberry?  A wild blueberry.  That's it.  But...the huckleberries in Idaho are very special.  They are sweeter and smaller than your average blueberry, and they have never been successfully commercially grown.  They rely on snowcover to protect their growth cycle, and grow as high as 11,000 feet.  Sadly, when hopeful, greedy horticulturalists try to transplant the bushes, they die.  Every time.  It's just another way of Idaho saying, "Come, visit, fall in love...and then kindly leave.  Please."
If you'd like to try Dorothy's Wild Huckleberry Jam-Filled Muffin Mix, click here to buy:  http://www.idahotaters.com/index.php?main_page=products_all&disp_order=2&page=6  They also have a website, but I didn't find the Muffin Mix on their actual website.  You can probably google it and find it no problem.  And...you can probably try this yourself with your flavor of choice, right?  I'm going to.  xo, AB
BTW, it doesn't say on the packaging, but the 12 oz. bag only makes 6 muffins.  6 perfect muffins.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bacon-Wrapped Sausage + Jalapeno-Onion Relish

It's official.  The Jalapeno-Onion Relish is really an awesome thing.  This hot dog was amazing, and I invented it!  :)

Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Sausage with Jalapeno-Onion Relish
Cheese-stuffed turkey sausage
Sandwich Buns
1 TBSP Olive Oil

Use 2 strips of bacon and wrap around hot dog.  Cut open sandwich bun lengthwise like a hot dog bun.  Heat olive oil in a frying pan on medium-low heat.  Place hot dogs in the pan, cook slowly, rotating about every 2 minutes for approximately 15 minutes.  Place dogs in the bun, spread relish over it with mustard.  Very easy...and I'm not claiming this to be healthy but at least they are turkey sausages and you know exactly what's in the relish!  xo, AB

Quince - Red Pear Jelly...Mmmmm!

    "They dined on mince, and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon.
           And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon."
                  ~Edward Lear

I've been wanting to make my own quince jelly for awhile now.  I've seen recipes on other blogs and websites, and more often now while they are in season -it cooks up beautifully in taste and color.  I have seen quince jelly at farmers markets and specialty grocery stores, and there are several recipes in Mes Confitures that I thought I might try.  To look at, quince (a quince?  Quinces?  Quincees? ;) ) looks like a cross between a lemon and a pear and is about the size of a pomegranate.  They are bright yellow on the outside, but inside the flesh color is similar to that of a pear. 
Once cooked, quince turns to a gorgeous orange-red and makes exquisite jelly.  Quince is typically too hard and sour to eat raw, although I took a bite of one of mine and I thought it tasted okay, just not great.    Quince are high in pectin and are used all around the world for variations of jams and jellies.  China and Turkey are the highest producers of the world's population of quince, but most of the quince in North America comes from Argentina.

I purchased my quince at the grocery store, as well as a few other fruits and veggies.  After researching recipes, I realized that I didn't have enough quince to make a full batch of jelly, so I used Red Bartlett pears to add to the recipe due to their similarities.  I think it turned out great!
Go to this web link for the recipe I adapted.  I used 2 pounds of quince (3 quince, cored) and 1 pound of Red Bartlett pears (4 pears, stemmed, cored)...yummy! xo, AB

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Temescal Farmers Market - Oakland, CA

Spend a day in the Bay Area, and you can't walk one block without finding inspiration for your own foodie adventures.  I spent this past Sunday with my brother J and SIL C in Berkeley and Oakland.  I've never had a bad meal at a restaurant here, and I'm here often.  Of course, J & C probably filter the bad ones for me, but I'd like to believe that I could blindly walk into any hole in the Bay area and potentially be blown away by the food.  Brunch at Restaurante Dona Tomas was lovely, authentic regional Mexican food that I loved.  And though it may seem oxymoronic, I am a Mexican food snob so I am not easily impressed by your average burrito.  I had the Carnitas Hash...I looooove pork in all of its iterations, so this great carnitas made me very happy.  You should go there and eat some.  Other fun places are Gather (seasonal, local, gourmet - it may be my favorite restaurant I've ever been to--order the vegan charcuterie, another oxymoron but just get it, you will not be disappointed), Jupiter (craft beer and gourmet pizzas are the highlights), and Chez Panisse (*of course*), all in Berkeley.  Also...a grocery store like no other you've ever seen unless you've been there is Berkeley Bowl.  If we had something like this in Hermosa Beach, I would never have to go to a Whole Foods ever again.  Berkeley Bowl blows WF away!!  I wish Southern California had options for good, healthy food like the Bay area is so lucky to have.  It's way too hipster of a term to call myself a foodie (because I'm neither hipster nor a foodie, of course - this can be deadpan or sarcastic, whicher you choose), but the East Bay is a foodie's play land that some San Fran residents may be too cool for school to admit.
But...today my goal was to check out the Temescal Farmers Market in Oakland....
A jaunt through the small but lively Temescal Farmers Market was a source of inspiration for me.  I loved seeing these canned heirloom tomatoes because next Summer I plan on jarring LOTS of tomatoes and I had the idea of trying heirlooms and also other varieties - yellow, green, tomatillos, and I haven't seen anyone else do it before.  Well, Happy Girl Kitchen Co has done it and although I didn't buy any (kinda kicking myself now), I think they look delicious and I'm definitely going to do this on my own when tomatoes are in season next year!
Also, I acquired some quince recently that I will be making into jam or jelly - haven't decided which yet - and Happy Girl had some quince jelly that looks amazing as well:
This is not supposed to be an ad for Happy Girl Kitchen Co, in fact, I had only just heard about them through a google search and coincidentally saw their booth at the farmers market.  I'm just talking about inspiration here, people.  And it appears they put out beautiful and tasty products.  I'll have to order some online and see for myself.
Another interesting item I had never heard of:  Buddha's Fingers!  So cool to look at, but not so cool as something I would deem as useful unless you want to spend $18 on lemon zest and pith.  Seems kinda silly to me, but novel and fun nonetheless.  This is my brother making an offering to Buddha....

Another small company that specializes in artisan jams and jellies that sells their wares at Temescal is Blue Chair Fruit, and they are located in Oakland.  I've read about them and know that their book is pretty popular, but again I'd never sampled their offerings until today.  We had a little taste of the Blood Orange - Chestnut Honey Marmalade and Bourbon Lemon Marmalade...it was delicious.  I didn't buy because I live in Los Angeles and thought it would be better to order some online for delivery rather than attempt to travel with a jar.  I am all about carrying on - checking is for high-maintenance women - and at $12 per jar I don't want to chance a mess!  I loved the creativity of Blue Chair Fruit's flavors, very inspirational.
This picture is from bluechairfruit.com, it's not mine.
If you live in the East Bay, definitely check out this small but fun market.  There are yummy food vendors and plenty of variety ~ we also saw potatoes, about 15 varieties of squash, onions, and one booth even had some tomatoes for roasting.  Temescal Farmers Market is open on Sundays from 9 am - 1 pm and is located at 5300 Claremont Ave in Oakland, CA (the DMV parking lot).  xo, AB
OH, P.S...
Winter Squash
Ha, get it?
After a day of gastric gorging in the East Bay, burn it off in the best yoga class in Berkeley - Yoga to the People taught by Catherine!  http://yogatothepeople.com/berkeley/  - A fantastic, donation-based, non-judgemental yoga experience.  xo, AB

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cranberry Cocktail

With the help of my friend Mandy, we invented a new cocktail using the leftover juice from the pickled cranberries I made for Thanksgiving.  This delightful little concoction is perfect for the holidays, I highly recommend it!  Recipe is below.  If you'd like a non-alcoholic version, just use 7-UP or sparkling water and don't add rum - it's really yummy!
Cranberry Holiday Cocktail
For one drink:
2 oz. leftover cranberry juice from pickled cranberries recipe
2 oz. spiced rum
2 oz. 7-UP
1 oz. or splash of freshly-squeezed lime juice
Stir with ice in a tumbler (if you shake with the 7-UP, it squirts everywhere, ha!)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Onion-Pepper Relish

I had some extra jalapenos after making escabeche, and I knew I wouldn't be able to use them all while fresh, so I googled "jalapeno canning" and found some interesting ideas.  I found this wonderful recipe on the National Center for Home Food Preservation web site:  Pickled Pepper-Onion Relish.  I more or less followed it, except I changed the peppers based off of what I had at home.  I still used 6 cups of finely-choped peppers, but I had 1 yellow bell pepper and a bunch of jalapenos, which miraculously chopped up to be exactly 6 cups.
Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe exactly.  It looked beautiful while cooking (I'm glad I used yellow pepper instead of red), and as you can see, the five 12-oz. jars I created are also beautiful.  Just know I made this 3 days ago and my apartment still smells like onions and jalapenos - not very sexy.  I can't wait to try it on hot dogs, and it will also be great to use as a salsa, I think!  xo, AB

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pickled Jalapenos (aka Escabeche)!

Yum, yum, yum!  I am over the moon excited to eat more of this.  On Tuesday, I received another produce shipment, and for the first time, I felt a little overwhelmed about how to go about eating it all.  This tiny little box seemed to be like a clown car, I'd pull something out and it was still full.  I still have the 2 heads of garlic from a few weeks ago, carrots, an onion, greens, celery...one can eat only so many salads.  I started searching for recipes.  Most of my produce won't be canned, but I thought I could find a recipe or two that would allow me to use a large chunk of it so it won't go to waste. 

I came across this recipe on simplyrecipes.com and I just had to make it.  Grandma Irma always had a jar of escabeche in our fridge; she would eat the veggies straight out of the jar, or put it in a tortilla with refried beans.  I never quite paid attention to it myself, but I should have.  This recipe turned out great, and since one jar didn't seal in the water bath, I already opened it and sampled. It's delicious!  You can see I used White Pearl Onions, and I went against the recipe and I did peel the garlic.  This decision was purely for aesthetics, but after reading the comments under the recipe, I'll make the next batch without peeling.  Any creative suggestions on how to eat escabeche?  xo, AB