Category: blog awards

Blackberries are not just smart phones.

Nowadays, it seems everyone has a “smartphone.” I came late to that party, finally caving in last July when Jay insisted on replacing my busted up old 2002-looking cell phone with an iPhone for my birthday. Honestly it has proved to be almost indispensable; especially when I broke my camera soon after and came to rely on it for blog photography purposes in addition to the convenience of on-the-go correspondence & the occasional GPS usage (and of course, addictive games, I admit; Alec Baldwin, I feel your pain). The further we move away from traditional means of communication, the more we become cavemen it seems. People can’t write a decent letter anymore, let alone spell properly. People grunt at one another instead of saying “Excuse me” or “Thank you.” We’re constantly looking at our phones to avoid human contact… and I freely admit I do it as well. Do you know how many times I’ve been hit in the ankles or butt by someone’s shopping cart because they’re looking at their phone playing Hanging With Friends or something? A LOT. And there’s never even an “I’m sorry”… it’s just a grunt. As if I’m supposed to understand that with a heated word game comes some casualties. Come on people! We can do better than that. I know this isn’t just a New York thing, either. I have a feeling this a global thing. I have a phone that’s supposedly pretty smart, as do we all, and yet we’re kind of becoming dumber & more rude instead of letting our smart phones help improve us. Ah. Humans. This is just another reason why I hate most of them.

Present company excluded, of course. My readers are exceptions to the rule. Especially since I’m feeling particularly happy; see I was just nominated for an Illuminating Blogger Award. It’s exciting to me, because any time someone recognizes you for something and takes time out of their day to acknowledge you, it’s flattering. So thank you, CJ, for the nomination on my story in this post. I, in turn, nominated the following blogs: Tania - Love Big, Bake Often, Yoyo - Topstitch, Xenia -Raised by Culture, Dana -Hot Pink Apron and Ariana -The Remi Project. This group of ladies have inspired me so much in recent months. From the three I’ve known the longest (over 8+ years), Yoyo, Ari & Xenia, who are three of the most kind, generous, loving and talented ladies I know, to Tania whom while I only know her for 3-4 years now I’ve seen that she is an amazing example of a strong & loving Military wife & mother, to Dana who I just found recently via Instagram who’s inspired me with her strength, grace & positivity after being diagnosed with/operated on for Thyroid cancer… they all deserve this award, maybe even more than I do.

So save for a few select people, it seems most of humanity has lost their sense of politeness and lost touch with reality in favor of the internet reality or reality TV. However, I for one still send thank you notes, handwritten Christmas cards and sometimes random little cards just to say “I’m thinking of you.” Yes, I own real pens and real stationary, and sealing wax and return address labels too. And some fancy rubber stamps. Writing is a lost art, it seems, and I’m determined to not completely become a technologically dependent freak. Don’t let the nose ring and partially shaved head fool you- I’m pretty old fashioned. I’m an old soul. I still go to the actual store to buy things more than I order them on the internet, and I like actual bookstores. Yes, I still write out checks too. Not everything has to be done online!

Perhaps that’s a silly thing to write on a blog, where people are coming to find recipes… online. *cough* Anyway.

Where were we? Right. Blackberries. So I’m fully aware most people today think of phones when you say ‘blackberry’ and not the fruit. I probably would myself, were it not for this blog & the boxes of assorted Ball® jars in my kitchen. A few years ago, I most certainly associated blackberries with AT&T as opposed to Mother Nature. But things have changed, my friends, things have changed. Blackberries now to me represent a variety of options for pie fillings, jams, jellies, yogurt toppings, etc. And when you’ve got those plump black pretties above and these round green pretties below…

Well then things get interesting. So why not combine the two? The lime cuts through the sweetness of the blackberries and adds something new to a plain old jam. Plus, I’ve been lurking around Hitchhiking to Heaven for a while now, admiring her recipes & wanting to try one.


SMALL BATCH BLACKBERRY-LIME JAM (adapted from Hitchhiking to Heaven)

Yields about 2 or 3 8-0z. or half pint jars; I got only 2 but I used not quite 1 ½ lbs of berries

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed blackberries (roughly 1 ½- 2 lbs. of whole berries)
  • the zest of 1 lime, minced
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions:

  1. Zest the lime and finely mince the zest. Squeeze the zested lime and set aside 2 tablespoons of juice.
  2. Add the 2 cups of the berries into your jam pot. Add the lime zest & lime juice to the berries in your jam pot. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Fold in the sugar. Stir the mixture vigorously for 1-2 minutes. Return to the mixture to a boil and remove it from the heat. Test for set. It’s most likely perfect; blackberry seeds have a ton of natural pectin, you don’t want to make it like glue by cooking it relentlessly.
  4. Ladle the hot jam into your sterilized jars, leaving ¼”-inch head space. Process 10 minutes in a water bath canner, or refrigerate and use immediately.

Note: I do not seed my blackberries. I use them seeds & all. I think the added texture is kinda interesting. But if you’re using wild blackberries apparently the seeds are crazy crunchy and you might want to get rid of ‘em. If I see any large seeds or funky stuff when I’m mashing, then I remove it. If you remove all your seeds, I’d suggest adding some pectin. I think loose jam is just fine, anyway, but if you like a firmer set you might want to use Pomona’s Universal pectin, 1 ½ teaspoons pectin powder and 1 ½ teaspoons calcium water, as per the original recipe author’s directions.

Like I said above, I got two half-pint jars, and one came up about a ¼” short of the allowed headspace. If you use a full 2 lbs. berries you’ll get a little more. Just to be on the safe side, I’d sanitize three half-pint jars and one 4-oz. jar. That way you’re ready for anything. Also, have some brown paper lunch bags around. Those things are handy for anything!

I cut ‘em up and use ‘em to spruce up jars, I bake in ‘em… you name it. They’re so versatile.

There seems to be a bit of a conflict among canners re: using commercial pectin. I’m fairly new to canning, so maybe my opinion on it doesn’t mean much. But that never stopped me before. The way I see it is, one of the greatest things about advancements in canning (aside from no more paraffin wax sealant) is commercial pectin, and how it’s available in low-sugar or no-sugar varieties, or, like Pomona’s, varieties that can be used both ways. Its pretty great. Our great great great great grandma’s, when they made jam or jelly (if yours did, which most of mine probably didn’t), had to stir and cook it for hours and hours to get a set. They had to use apple cores and citrus seeds/pith and slave over boiling fruits that used pounds of sugar to gel. But we don’t have to, and I don’t see a reason to. So take advantage of it. Unless you really have a high sensitivity to it & can taste it, there is no reason to avoid it like the plague. I love advancements. I mean, if we all went back 100% to the old ways of doing things… none of us would be using the internet, either. And I don’t exactly see that happening anytime soon. Just because something is old fashioned or “original” doesn’t make it better. So yeah. Go ahead and use the damn powdered pectin, or the Certo. No one’s going to kill you, or really care. And if the final product tastes good it’s especially a moot point either way. (Pssst.. if you’re really still against it, go get the recipe & make your own natural apple pectin)

But more important than a conflict over pectin… let’s all promise to be a little better to our fellow humans. I know it’s hard, and you’re busy- we all are. But how about we put down the phones and actually interact a few times a day more than usual, k?

Minty Green tea & honey granita.

That’s a mouthful, innit?

Before I continue with this recipe, I want to remind you not to forget to enter to win a gorgeous Shabby Apple apron! Yep, if you’re a U.S. resident you’re eligible to win this super adorable Wildberry Pie apron. The giveaway ends July 2nd, so make sure you go here, read the details, and enter. Also, a few days ago Michelle (from Kissed by Sweets) gave me a blog award! Thank you, Michelle. Lil’ ol me getting a blog award! Mama always said I was special. Anyway it’s called the Versatile Blogger Award, and with this award comes responsibility. I must give the award to other blogs I’m currently loving, so here goes:

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I happen to be THE WORST commenter ever, so if you’re the owner of one of the aforementioned blogs, don’t expect to see many from me. But I really do read them all the time and love them. So with this award I’m also supposed to tell you a few things (like 7) about myself…  and you all who I mentioned, are in turn, supposed to do this same thing. Although I’m not a stickler for rules (ha!), so I won’t whip any of you with wet noodles if you don’t. Let’s see, 7 things about me, which is kinda rare here. I mean, I talk about myself all the time, but not in minute unrelated-to-baking detail… so I’ll just wrap this up quickly: I’m sunburned (for one of the few times in my born-&-raised-in-NY life I could be called a ‘redneck‘), I have my natural haircolor for the first time in like 8+ years, I’m currently wearing a NOFX t-shirt, I’m currently listening to (very old) White Zombie, I’m planning on making Meyer lemon curd & cream cheese pound cake later on this week, my nail polish is currently Velvet Voyeur by Essie and last but not least… I’m awesome.

So here’s the deal with this recipe. I don’t like Green tea (more on that later). I don’t like Mark Bittman; yeah, sure he’s got some good recipes but he’s such a whiny sourpuss bastard (I’m sorry Mark but you are, and the curmudgeon bit is getting old). The entire time I watched Spain… on the road Again, and the scene featured him, I wanted to slit my throat with all of his bitching & complaining. I don’t really like honey; it’s good in honey cake or some kinds of tea but I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan. I’m more into raw sugar/German rock sugar in my tea. I do like mint, though, and I grow it in my garden. There’s a whole lot about this recipe I’m not a big fan of, but as they say, the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Plus- it’s hot, granita is easy to make, and I’m lazy. I’ve made it before & I have to say, there’s probably nothing simpler. And when it’s so hot out the devil himself knocks on your door & asks if you’ve got central air, you don’t want anything complex.

Granita is an Italian dessert, specifically Sicilian, traditionally made from sugar, water, and flavoring. The most popular in Italy being lemon and almond, it has expanded into chocolate & other flavors. The texture can run the gamut from sorbet-like to snow-cone-like and everything in between. This one is a chunkier, icier one. I like all the different textures, myself, my favorites being the smooth Italian ice kind and the really ice crystal-y kind.

So like I said above, if I can be brutally honest (and when am I ever not?)… I love tea. I really do. I love all kinds of teas; herbal, chai, black, white, oolong, etc. However… personally, and pardon my French… but I think Green tea sucks hardcore balls. It’s not good, at all. And if it is good, it’s because it’s combined with other flavors & sweeteners (i.e. honey, lemon, orange, pomegranate, etc). But I totally get the health benefits of it (source):

1. Lowers your risk of cancer. Although the studies of how green tea affects cancerous cells are still in their infancy, there have been human trials which indicate that it does inhibit cells from developing cancer. EGCG in green tea regulates and inhibits cancer growth by killing cells that are growing inappropriately. In Japan, a study of 500 women with Stage I and Stage II breast cancer found that increasing their green tea consumption before and after surgery significantly lowered the risk of recurrence. Another analysis of 22 studies of the correlation between green tea and lung cancer concluded that by increasing your intake of green tea by two cups a day may reduce the risk of developing lung cancer by 18%.
2. Eases the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Study results reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that polyphenol antioxidants in green tea benefits suffers of arthritis by reducing the incidence and severity of the disease. EGCG protects cartilage destruction and reduces joint swelling and pain. This leads many scientists and health professionals to recommend green tea as a legitimate remedy for treating arthritis.
3. Stabilizes your cholesterol levels. Researchers believe that green tea lowers your cholesterol levels by reducing its absorption in your digestive tract and increasing the rate of which it is excreted. However, your body does need cholesterol to build cell membranes, insulate nerve fibres and create hormones. For this, green tea benefits you by preventing the conversion of LDL cholesterol into it’s more dangerous, oxidized form. Oxidized LDL is one of the main factors in the development of atherosclerosis (the build of plaque that blocks your arteries as LDL gets sticky and clings to your artery walls) and increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. The amazing antioxidant effects of green tea protect this, helping to keep your arteries clean.
4. Prevents cardiovascular disease. A Japanese study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed significant reductions in deaths from cardiovascular disease among green tea drinkers. The study found that over an 11 year test period, individuals who drank more than 5 cups per day had a 16% less chance of mortality and mortality related to cardiovascular disease when compared to individuals who drank less than one cup per day. They also found that green tea was especially beneficially in preventing strokes, due in large part to the antioxidants and how they prevent clogged arteries.
5. Boosts your immune system. Catechins, the antioxidant polyphenol compounds, have been shown to have a major impact in your immune system. Research conducted by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2003 revealed that theanine, found in green tea, boosted the activity of the gamma delta T cells that form part of our adaptive and innate immunity. The study followed a group of coffee drinkers and a group of tea drinkers who each drank 600ml of their drink daily. Blood samples taken four weeks later quite clearly showed that production of these anti-bacterial proteins were five times higher in those drinking tea.
6. Promotes weight loss. Both green tea and green tea extract have been shown to fight obesity and lower LDL cholesterol – both of which ultimately lead to a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. The polyphenols in green tea are extremely useful for dissolving triglycerides, a substance in the liver and small intestine made up of mostly sugar and fat, and this is thought to be the reason green tea benefits fat loss. EGCG is also known to stimulate your metabolism and accelerate weight loss. When combined with the caffeine in green tea, this causes your central nervous system to release fat into the bloodstream to be used as fuel which burns your body fat off.
7. Reduces tooth decay. Antibacterial properties found in green tea are also used by your body to kill the bacteria that causes plaque on your teeth. Research by the Journal of Periodontology has also shown that for every cup of green tea you drink, there is a decrease in indicators for gum disease. Fluoride is also found in green tea which helps to protect against cavities.
8. Effective in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. In 2007, Dr. Orhan Aktas from the Institute of Neuroimmunology conducted a study of how green tea benefits sufferers of multiple sclerosis. While current patients do not have many options to prevent tissue damage and disability, he found that the flavonoid EGCG found in green tea could have a huge impact on multiple sclerosis. He concluded that EGCG is capable of directly protecting against neuronal injury in living brain tissue and that EGCG constituents may open up a new therapeutic avenue for treating MS by combining anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective capacities.
9. Slows the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A recent report published in the journal Phytomedicine has found substantial evidence that the enzymes found in green tea protect your brain cells from damage. Another study conducted by the University of South Florida looked at the effects of antioxidant EGCG. It was shown to be a protein blocker which prevented the chemical reactions that can lead to nerve damage that can lead to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
10. Fights the cause of allergies in your body. Methylated epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has been shown to block a cells receptor involved in producing an allergic response. By blocking the production of histamine and immunoglobulin E (IgE), two compounds in the body that are chiefly involved in triggering and sustaining allergic reactions, EGCG could very well be the compound which prevents you from having watery eyes, sneezing and coughing.
11. Helps to fend off infections. Again, as one of the main benefits of green tea, EGCG has been highlighted by a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology as being able to prevent infections, including the HIV virus. EGCG binds with CD4 immune system T-cell receptors and stops HIV from doing the same to reduce the risk of infection. While it is still way too early to peg green tea as a cure for HIV, an Egyptian study has shown that combining antibiotics with green tea significantly boosts the effectiveness of the antibiotic. In fact, when tested against 28 disease-causing microorganisms, green tea enhanced the bacteria killing power in every single case.
12. Reduces and prevents acne. Green tea benefits acne in a number of different ways. It’s antibacterial properties attack and kill the acne bacteria while the anti-inflammatory benefits of green tea reduce the swelling and redness. Antioxidants fight against free radicals which damage the skin and make it more susceptible to acne also help to balance hormone levels to help prevent future breakouts from happening.
13. Slows the aging process to prevent wrinkles. One of the latest benefits of green tea is the effect it has on your skin and the aging process. It is again down to the antioxidants that prevent cell oxidation and damage that can make you look older than you really are. Studies are mixed on this particular green tea benefit as new research has come to light which suggests the full benefits can only be had by applying green tea topically to your skin. However, many people have found that potent green tea extracts do have a positive effect on their skin, leaving it softer, more supply and younger looking.

So yeah, I see how it’s worth it to imbibe in it once in a while. For me, it’s easier to do so if it’s in a icy, sweet, minty & refreshing form like this granita.

Despite Mark Bittman being annoying, this recipe went over big on a super hot June day when I was at a loss as to what kind of dessert to make. Thanks Mark. Or actually, thanks to the real author of the recipe, Freya Bellin.

MINTY GREEN TEA & HONEY GRANITA

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 green tea bags, or 2 tablespoons loose green tea
  • ¼ cup fresh mint
  • ¼ cup honey, or more as needed
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Bring 3 cups water almost to a boil. Add the tea and mint, cover, and turn off the heat. Let steep for 10 minutes, then strain to remove the solids. Stir in the honey and lemon juice. Taste and add more honey if necessary to make a nicely sweet blend.
  2. Pour the mixture into a shallow glass or ceramic pan and freeze for at least 2 hours, stirring to break up the crystals every 30 minutes or so. It should be slushy and crunchy with ice crystals.
  3. If the granita becomes too hard, pulse it (do not puree) in a food processor before serving, or set it in the fridge for a bit and stir once in a while to bring back the desired texture.

Keep in mind, as it freezes it will lose some sweetness, so add the honey accordingly. Also, you could do this with almost any kind of tea, herbal or otherwise. Granita lends itself so well to almost any kind of flavor or liquid. I used fresh lemon juice to make lemon granita, and I used P♥M Wonderful pomegranate juice & orange juice to make pomegranate granita last year, just take off from that stepping stone. Next time I think I’ll try a black tea with some lemon & sugar. Or maybe the traditional almond… mmm.

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Garnished with fresh mint (as I garnish all the granita’s I make), it’s a deliciously refreshing summer treat, that you don’t need to sweat your balls off in a hot kitchen to make. Those cute little glasses are from Ikea & they’re drinking glasses, but a perfect size for serving granita, mini-parfaits or ice cream.

Yeah bitches, this is an uber amazing blog.

I recieved a blog award from Jayhawk Girl’s Kitchen this weekend, which is very flattering and kind of her! Thank you :D

Here are the rules for this award:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great attitude and /or gratitude
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog
5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award!

So, here I go, the recipients- IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

  1. TOPSTITCH
  2. Cilantro & Lime
  3. Boring History Girl
  4. Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes Bakery
  5. Karma Cooler
  6. textdrivebys.com
  7. Five Twenty Seven
  8. Fresh Princess
  9. Dolce Cakes
  10. Cakespy

These are some of my favorite blogs, and some of them are some pretty awesome friends of mine too. And I just want to tell these people that I may not comment much, but I ALWAYS read! I’m just too busy/lazy to comment a lot. :)

I can has award!

I’ve been sorta busy with my new domain, so I’m guilty of somewhat neglecting you all. But I do have some nifty baked goods and things planned for the day of Ol’ Saint Patrick so I promise I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth! While I was away in HTML land, courtesy of Slush @ quirkycupcake, I got an award:

award.jpg

Thanks so much! I’m really super flattered. As per blog etiquette: I’m supposed to pass it on to 10 people who make my day, so basically I’m going to leave it at this: anyone who reads this and enjoys it and gets something out of it… YOU make my day! So you get an award too!