Category: gluten-free

Haulin’ oats.

Use steel-cut oats to make an easy 'overnight oats' recipe flavored with maple pumpkin butter.

Bad pun. Sorry. For those of you born after the early 90′s, I was making a pun referring to Hall & Oates, a 1970′s/1980′s duo who’s songs “Maneater”, “Kiss On My List” & “Private Eyes” are insanely well-known. But yeah. It was a bad pun.

On the plus side? This is a great idea.

I first saw it on This Homemade Life & I thought it was genius. Problem is, I don’t like oatmeal. I like oatmeal cookies… but not oatmeal. But I still wanted to try it anyway. Jay loves oatmeal, my parents love oatmeal, the whole world loves oatmeal. I was starting to feel like a leper. Truth be told, I’m not a breakfast person. If I’m away on vacation, I can maybe get in the mood for a breakfast or two. Especially on the road at an awesome Mom & Pop style diner. Otherwise, nope. I mean, I love breakfast foods. I’ve been known to have a bowl of cereal or two, & I do enjoy a good breakfast-for-dinner now & then. But I don’t want oatmeal when I’m having it- I want a big ol’ stack of buttermilk pancakes or waffles with butter & maple syrup. And don’t forget: lots of crispy bacon.

So to avoid the stigma of being the only person alive who doesn’t like oatmeal, I thought I’d do my own, more seasonal spin on the “overnight oats” in a jar: maple pumpkin oats.

An easy way to make maple pumpkin overnight oats using maple pumpkin butter.

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Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream.

‎”Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.” —Voltaire‎

Kings County Distillery chocolate flavored whiskey.

One can only imagine what Voltaire would say about this ice cream in particular: a double whammy of both chocolate and chocolate-flavored whiskey from the Kings County Distillery, made for my favorite guy’s 32nd birthday. Yup, that’s right. Jay turns the big 3-2 today! Just so you know- he’s older than I am (by a whopping 2 months & 7 days, but let’s not get into that). See the thing is, usually I ask him what he wants me to bake for him for his birthday (as I do with everyone), then I bake it and give it to him on the actual day. But this year, Jay’s been on tour for over a week and he’s got a show tonight too. So tomorrow is his only day off and then Saturday it’s back to work. I decided to make something that would keep well and only get better with age (like Jay!).

What better than whiskey ice cream?

Chocolate whiskey ice cream. Made with two types of chocolate and chocolate "flavored" whiskey from Kings Co. Distillery.

I mean, the man’s been on tour for a week drinking probably nothing but bourbon & whiskey. Why not just keep the streak going?

Not to mention the fact that I believe it’s officially ice cream time. Memorial Day is next week, and the weather was a partly cloudy yet humid 75° F when I made this batch. To me, that means it’s the start of ice cream season. The whiskey I used for this is, like I said, from Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, NY. It has actual bits of dark chocolate floating around in it. It’s pretty strong, in my opinion it’s not a terrific “sipping whiskey,” more so one that’s best suited for mixing or baking. However it also has a strong chocolate aftertaste that makes this ice cream super special. But a regular whiskey or bourbon works just fine, too. And I can just imagine using that cherry bourbon chocolate sauce on this… lawdamercy. But the topping I used was pretty spectacular (keep reading for that).

This should probably be called ‘triple chocolate whiskey’ ice cream since there’s two types of chocolate PLUS chocolate whiskey. Call it whatever you want. Either way, it’s amazing.

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream made with two kinds of chocolate PLUS chocolate 'flavored' whiskey from Kings Co. Distillery.

Triple chocolate ice cream: the creamiest ice cream you'll ever make. Or eat. Made with Kings Co. Distillery's chocolate whiskey.I love the way the light reflected & made a halo around the bowls. Even Mother Nature loves this ice cream!

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE WHISKEY ICE CREAM

Recipe can be doubled

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup Kings County Distillery chocolate flavored whiskey
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 2 ounces chopped dark chocolate

Directions:

  1. Whisk together egg yolks, whiskey and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, whisk together cream, vanilla, chocolate and 1/4 cup of sugar. Simmer over low heat until the chocolate is melted. Temper egg yolk mixture by slowly adding hot cream mixture to the egg yolk mixture, with a ladle, a little at a time. Once egg yolk mixture is thoroughly warmed add to the saucepan with the warm cream mixture. Stir until thickened and remove from the heat.
  3. Strain mixture into a bowl over ice. Place the bowl into the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes. Spin in an ice cream maker for 25 minutes… it probably won’t get much firmer, but this helps “churn” it. Add to a freezer-safe container & freeze for 12-24 hours so it gets firm.

Peanut butter whipped cream!

For an extra special treat, for my peanut butter lover… I made some peanut butter whipped cream to top it with. I know. I know. Don’t even say anything. There’s nothing you CAN say, it’s ridiculous. If you use a creamy peanut butter, yours will look smoother. Mine was crunchy.

Oh. I almost forgot: there are chocolate sprinkles too. Can’t have a birthday without sprinkles.

PEANUT BUTTER WHIPPED CREAM (from Yes, I Want Cake)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter (chunky peanut butter works also, I used it)
  • 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it’s almost but not quite “stiff.”
  2. Add the peanut butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat for another minute & serve.

Triple chocolate WHISKEY ice cream. Two types of chocolate and chocolate whiskey come together to make the creamiest, smoothest, most chocolatey ice cream ever. Oh, and there's peanut butter whipped cream to go with it.

Yeah. Not much to say about that. Well, other than WHOA. This is literally the softest, most creamy ice cream I ever made. It’s super decadent, fudgy & delicious. But it also has a little whiskey bite. Not much, mind you, just enough. However… it melts fast! So be careful. Only take it out right when you’re gonna serve it. It does NOT have to sit out & soften. In my experience, it’s ready to go right out of the freezer. Of course, if you freeze it for weeks, it might get a bit harder, but it still isn’t going to take long to “defrost” enough to serve. I also wouldn’t serve it in cones, it’s far too creamy.

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream. Dark chocolate & semisweet chocolate combine with chocolate whiskey to make a smooth, creamy, rich ice cream that you'll LOVE. Add some peanut butter whipped cream & chocolate sprinkles to complete the experience.

On that note I’ll end this by saying…

Happy birthday Jay! And many more…

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream with peanut butter whipped cream!

Psst.. .the tiki mug giveaway is still going strong. You’ve got until May 27th at 11:59 p.m. to enter. So go!

Sources & credits: Arcoroc French made smoky-clear glass bowls; vintage, Le Creuset mini coccottes in “Twilight” (white shown).

That Earl, he really knows how to jam.

Well since Valentine’s Day is over, and we’ve got some time before the all the green starts (although if you go by Pinterest/blogs it’s already starting), that means some time to bake things that aren’t artificially colored. What fun is that, right? Well as much as I do love me some food coloring (and holy balls I really do), I have to say once in a while it is nice to bake something that’s just… whatever color it is. Something basic. Something simple. Something homey & warm & comforting.

Especially when, like last week, New York gets hit with over a foot of snow. Yes, we were spared the worst of it where I am, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

But I do love tea, and I love muffins, so I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch that I bake a muffin made with tea. I’m not a stranger to using tea in baked goods or jellies, specifically Earl Grey, so it’s not exactly something that’s foreign to me… nonetheless it’s always fun to try a new twist on an old theme. That’s why when I found a recipe for Earl Grey milk jam on Pinterest I had to make it to serve along with some Earl Grey muffins (which are not going to be posted here, because they need a little tweaking).

Side note: this is a short, lazy little post for a lazy little ol’ me. I haven’t been feeling very well lately, I think I’m in need of some more influenza granita. I’m sneezing like crazy!

The milk jam is a very curious thing. It’s like the consistency of dulce de leche, or Nutella, maybe just a bit thinner. It seems to be popular in Japan, although in France they apparently have some version of it as well. It’s excellent on these muffins, but it’s also equally good in tea or coffee. Basically, dulce de leche means “candy of milk” or “milk candy” or even “milk jam”, so it’s not surprising that in some places milk jam is indeed what we think of as a thick caramel sauce, or dulce de leche. But it can be flavored in other ways, not just made into a caramel-flavored substance.

I added more than 5 tablespoons of Earl Grey to mine, which might be why it’s darker.

I’m telling you, a spoonful of this version of it in Earl Grey tea not only sweetens the tea but amps up the Earl Grey flavor in a great way.

EARL GREY MILK JAM (from B for Bonnie)

Ingredients:

  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Earl Grey tea bag, steeped in 5 tablespoons very hot water

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring often to prevent scorching, for 20-25 minutes (you’ll know when it’s ready- it’ll get thick). Remove from heat and stir 3-5 tablespoons Earl Grey tea into it.
  2. Stir for a few minutes to combine. Pour into clean jar, cool and store in the refrigerator.

If you prefer to not use condensed milk, there’s a version at B for Bonnie using heavy cream & milk instead. The jam can also be made with vanilla beans instead of Earl Grey tea for a vanilla milk jam. That would be amazing in coffee, tea, or even over ice cream. For further instructions on that, visit Our Adventures in Japan.

As a matter of fact, it would make an excellent cupcake or cookie filling as well.

My bloody valentine.

Listen, I know I’ve been overloading you with cutesy, Valentine-y stuff lately. I know that. I don’t really care if you like it or not, though, sorry to say. Because I love it. I actually get more pissed at the people who bitch constantly about how much they hate Valentine’s Day than I do about seeing the hearts & candies in the stores starting on New Years Eve. If it really bothers you so much, pretend it doesn’t exist. Go celebrate something else like Chinese New Year or Mardi Gras & stop complaining. Just ignore it. Football bothers me- but I understand there’s some kind of sick obsession with it in this country so I just ignore it. Which is hard, because it’s everywhere, but I manage. If you like it, then good for you. I just don’t, so I spend my winter Sunday’s baking, cooking, blasting punk rock music or watching things like Inglorious Basterds instead of watching grown men in tight pants tackle one another in hopes of not becoming the next paraplegic on the news. I spent Super Bowl Sunday shopping, then eating homemade nachos supreme & watching Downton Abbey. Now, I don’t tell everyone else not to watch it. I don’t constantly spout off about how awful & boring I find it all day, every day. I just get on with my life. Just like the Valentine’s Day haters should do.

However… I do understand that if there was a blog that I read fairly regularly that posted non-stop football crap for a month I’d be tired of it & maybe a little bit turned off.

So today I’m here to make amends. I’m posting something that’s still appropriate, but yet not quite as overtly dyed-pink & cheerful & cheeky as heart cupcakes or rose tarts: blood orange curd. There’s a special place in my heart for blood oranges.

And I’ll tell you why: Blood oranges are like the citrus family’s dark secret; like the black sheep cousin of the Navel orange, you know the one… who hangs out in a dark room, smokes cloves & listens to death metal.

And that’s sorta something I relate to. Not that I’m a black sheep per se, not within my family so much. Yeah, I’m different… but I was always accepted & appreciated. However when you’re the Agnostic punk rock short-haired bleached blonde Catholic school girl who tells your Theology teacher (a nun) that you’re pro-euthanasia & don’t quite understand why women can’t be priests, there is some level of that, somewhere. In my uniform I (sorta) looked like anyone else in school… until after school, or until you looked closely and saw the Sharpie-written lyrics on my blazer, my spike collars and dog collars, safety pins in my ears, my too-many-earrings-according-to-the-student-handbook and numerous band patches & pins on my backpack. And so I relate to that metaphor, and the blood orange. It’s sinister bloody-colored inside is almost concealed by the bright orange skin, it almost tricks you into thinking it’s just like any other orange. Maybe one that’s a bit overripe? And then you slice it- BAM! Deep, dark red flesh and a juice to match. There’s a reason they use a blood orange (not a regular orange) in the opening sequence of Dexter.

They’re right up my alley, truthfully.

And they’re also perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Conveniently, they’re in season right now. And if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a few, well then you better make good use of them. They make beautiful marmalades, gorgeous cupcakes, they’re beautiful when candied. And of course, when made into a curd, it’s a lovely pink color… which is perfect for a Valentine’s Day breakfast. It elevates your average toast to something spectacular. (heart shaped toast or English muffins not required!)

Or use it for dessert. When used as a topping for vanilla or chocolate ice cream- or even yogurt, it’s amazing. Another idea? Make it into a tart. Or using an ice cream maker, swirl it into plain homemade frozen yogurt for blood orange yogurt. It makes an amazing cake or cupcake filling too.

When you’re picking the oranges, be sure to pick ones that aren’t bright orange. The outside color is usually indicative of the color of the flesh & juice, so pick one that has a darker flesh, or even a mottled orangey-red flesh. That way you’re assured a deep burgundy flesh, and juice, and therefore a bright pinky red curd. My oranges were Moro, so they actually have a darker flesh & stronger flavor anyway, but I picked middle of the range ones that weren’t too dark, but weren’t too light. Actually the outer skin of all of mine were bright orange on one side, and a deep red on the other. I could’ve gotten ones that were so dark maroon on the outside they looked almost alien. In retrospect, I should have!

The thing that’s great about this recipe is that it doesn’t use so many egg yolks that you end up with an orange-colored curd. Orange colored curd is great, if it’s plain orange curd. But blood orange curd calls for a reddish color, doesn’t it? At the very least, a pretty rosy pink, like mine. But if you choose darker oranges you can really achieve a really bright pinkish red curd.

Also… listen up. Curd is a terrible word. Let’s be honest. Everyone hates it, from chefs to home cooks to pastry chefs to bloggers. It’s horrible to say, it rhymes with turd and it turns people off completely from trying it. Although, in Southern America they call lemon curd “lemon cheese”… and as far as I’m concerned that’s not much better than curd. But I hope that doesn’t put you off from trying it. It really is something else. But here’s the deal: curd isn’t disgusting. I swear. It’s basically similar to a lemon meringue pie filling, or in this case substitute blood orange for lemon. It’s like a creamy, citrus custard. Like a citrus pudding, kind of.

BLOOD ORANGE CURD (adapted from Local Kitchen who adapted it from Rose Levy Beranbaum)

Makes slightly over 1 cup (8 oz.), it can be doubled

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium to large blood oranges, scrubbed clean and dried
  • 1 large egg and one large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • a pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Zest enough of the oranges so you end up with roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons of finely grated zest. Set aside in a medium bowl.
  2. Juice the blood oranges, making sure to get every last bit out of them! Strain the juice to get out any pulpy bits or miscellaneous sneaky seeds. In a medium saucepan, over low heat, reduce the juice to 1/2 cup and set aside to cool in a measuring cup. Be sure to stir often while it’s reducing to avoid scorching.
  3. Rinse out the saucepan and place the sugar, eggs and salt in it. Whisk them together. Add the butter and slowly whisk in the reduced orange juice.
  4. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes together and is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (roughly 15-20 minutes for me).
  5. Once thickened, strain the curd into the bowl with the zest in it. Then stir the zest into the curd to incorporate. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the curd into a clean jar. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Here’s a secret: if ALL you’ve got is a 1/2 cup of blood orange juice, you can just use that without the reduction. It’ll still work. It won’t be as concentrated, and the color probably won’t be as amazing… but the basic product will be successful. And best of all? EDIBLE! And some people don’t like zest in their curd. I know this, but the point of the zest is to impart even more flavor & the scent of the fruit to the curd. However if you’re one of those people, I’d add the zest into the mixture while it’s cooking then strain it out. That’s a matter of personal preference, of course.

Some people have trouble with curd. I never have- it’s always come together relatively quickly & easily for me, regardless of  whatever the recipe, or whatever source it’s from. If you have trouble, and it fails, rest assured you are not the first & will not be the last. But also don’t give up! If it scorches or it doesn’t thicken, etc, these are all just steps on a ladder. Learning the way. I know it sucks to waste materials, especially if blood oranges are really hard to find near you. But you’ll get it, I promise. Maybe try it out first with a plain lemon curd; those are cheaper and easier to find.

The recipe above made one cup, or 8 ounces, of curd. You might want to double it if you’re thinking of using it for a cake filling or a large tart filling. But I find one jar is perfect for a slow, sweet, laid-back breakfast.

Enjoy your Valentine’s morning with a little burst of pink sunshine, for you & your bloody valentine. (hey! that rhymed!)

Candy girl.

Did you ever get a craving for candy at like, 3 a.m.?

Sometimes I do. Sometimes I just decide at midnight that I want a piece of candy… and usually I never end up filling that wish, unless I have some in the house or I can convince someone to go get me some. Those are the lazy nights. And then there are other nights, nights when I have baking chocolate, sugar, & all the ingredients necessary to make my own candy… so I do.

I get asked fairly regularly some variation on the following theme: “Giiiiiirl, how do you make all this stuff and not weigh 600 pounds?” or “How do you stay so damn skinny when you bake all of this delicious stuff?!” or “OH MY GOD how can you exist in a home with all of this food & not EAT IT ALL ALL DAY LONG?” No joke, I think I get asked something like that at least once a day. And my answer is, in a word: moderation. All in all, I eat well. Yeah, I eat cake & cookies. And I eat a lot of cheese & carbs, too, as well as drinking an obscene amount of coffee (including lattes) and Coke Zero. And I absolutely love me some good red wine or good beer. However on the other hand I also eat a lot of broccoli, salad, carrots, etc… & I drink a lot of water. I don’t believe in restriction, I don’t believe in denying yourself anything or busting your ass in the gym because you ate three cookies instead of two. I don’t think a life where vegetables are your only food source is much of a life at all… but that’s just me. So yeah, in short, I eat good quality baked goods but I eat far more well balanced food. And as much as I F$#!ING hate him (and I really do) I agree with Anthony Bourdain’s quote: “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”

I mean, I’m not making broccoli in the wee hours of the morning. Jay is, not me. I’d eat it, though, if I was hungry. ‘Cause broccoli is friggin’ awesome.

Shit. Sorry. Got distracted. Back to the homemade candy…

Yes, folks, I made some homemade peanut butter cups! I had this massive tub of peanut butter left from those cupcakes… plus I had tons of chocolate left from Christmas. What else is a girl supposed to do!? They’re insanely easy. You can be finished with a batch in a half-hour, no joke. And there are a lot of recipes out there on the web, some more difficult than others, but mine is relatively simple & to the point.

It goes like this:

  1. Melt a bag of milk chocolate chips in a double boiler, or microwave, half of the bag at one time.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together 1 1/2 cups peanut butter, 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, 3 tablespoons melted (& cooled) unsalted butter and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Make sure it’s thoroughly combined & smooth. Fill a disposable plastic pastry bag with the peanut butter filling & set aside. If, for whatever reason, it’s not thick, add more sugar & peanut butter until it’s thick. You want a thicker consistency than regular peanut butter (so it resists melting in the warm chocolate).
  3. Line mini-muffin pans with mini cupcake liners or spray them well with PAM. Spoon some melted chocolate into the liners or the muffin tins, smoothing it up a little onto the sides with a small spoon or your (clean) finger to create the bottom of a “cup.” Place the tin in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to fully cool & harden.
  4. When it’s hardened, take it out and pipe a decent-sized ball of peanut butter filling into each cup. Once every cup has filling, use the back of a spoon or a finger dipped in water to push the balls of filling down more to make them a bit flatter. Then spoon more melted chocolate on top of each.
  5. Once the entire pan has been filled, tap it gently on the counter until the chocolate smooths out. Then put the pan back into the freezer for another 10 minutes or until hard.
  6. Repeat the process until all the chocolate and all the peanut butter filling is done.

Et voilà! Peanut butter cups. No preservatives, no chemicals, no additives.

Now in theory you could probably just use straight peanut butter instead of making a filling out of it. It would still work. I just think you need a sweeter filling for these, and regular straight peanut butter can be too “dry” or salty. Plus I think it’s just way too soft, and it’d probably melt as soon as the very warm chocolate hit it. But if you like it that way then hey, go for it. I think you could probably use chunky peanut butter as well, you just may need to make larger peanut butter cups (and a larger pastry tip too). Also, if you want to experiment with other nut butters- heh, I said nut butters- then you can probably do that as well. Just take into consideration the consistency of it, as long as it’s thick enough & not liquidy, you’re good. Same goes for chocolate; use dark chocolate or semi-sweet even, if you prefer. I’d actually like to make them with a white chocolate coating next time. And for Valentine’s Day, you could sprinkle some heart-shaped sprinkles on top! Or, make them in those heart-shaped silicone baking cups.

And speaking of peanut butter… I think I kinda wanna read this book!

Naughty, naughty.

;

No idea how this got started, really. But every year since we started “dating” (can it still be called that after 9 years?), my mother or myself or both of us in tandem have bought Jay a little bag or a little tin of coal and put it in his Christmas stocking. It was just an ongoing joke about him being naughty that we both found hilarious, and over the past 8 Christmases, the poor guy ended up with a drawer full of coal because he didn’t want to just toss it. I hated to give up the joke, because it really was funny to see him get halfway through the stocking & pull out ANOTHER container of coal… but I felt bad. That’s a lot of coal. And it really does just end up in the trash.

But it was pretty funny. My poor Jay. Picture it: he’s opening gifts, all happy and excited, and he gets halfway through his stocking and BAM! There it is. Another. Freakin’. Piece. Hilarious. Once I even stuffed the stocking with other random crap like weighed-down tissue paper instead of gifts, leaving just the coal at the bottom! Ohhh, Christmas coal. Providing laughter… and tears… for centuries.

The practice of giving coal to naughty children dates back to one of (at least) five possible origins:

Sicily

One of the many origin stories begins in Italy where they believe in La Befana (a witch who delivers presents) instead of Santa Claus. When Jesus was born, La Befana saw a bright star in the sky and gathered some toys and other presents to give to the baby Jesus, but she couldn’t find the stable. Every year she goes around looking for Jesus and leaves toys for good children, and coal for bad ones. These days, Italians use a candy, called Carbone Dolce, to turn the legend into a joke. The dark, rock-like candy looks exactly like lumps of coal.

Holland

Some people say that the lumps of coal story started in Holland in the 16th century. Before Christmas, children would put their clogs by the fireplace before stockings were used. When a child was bad they got a lump of coal, but if they were good they got a small toy, cookies or candy.

England

In the 19th century, most of Europe was powered by coal, and most household furnaces were coal burning. A pan of hot coals would often be kept under the bed to generate heat in the middle of the night. In England, while the children of rich families got candy and toys in their stockings, those who were poor (believed to have been made poor by God, as punishment for their family’s bad deeds) would get coal, if they were lucky.

The Nobleman

A proud but poor nobleman had three daughters ready to marry. The problem was, he had no dowry to give them. Saint Nicholas secretly gave the family enough money so their daughters could start their lives out with their new husbands. He did this by placing the money in some stockings that were drying by the fireplace. When word spread about this miracle, everyone started hanging their stockings by the fire in hopes that the secret benefactor would visit them. He did visit those houses, but for those who Saint Nicholas knew to be bad, he left them with a lump of coal instead of gold.

Krampusnacht

Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish bad children during the Christmas season, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards nice ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair. The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in parts of Europe on December 6. In Alpine countries, Saint Nicholas has a devilish companion named Krampus. On the preceding evening, Krampus Night or Krampusnacht, the hairy devil appears on the streets. Sometimes accompanying St. Nicholas and sometimes on his own, Krampus visits homes and businesses.The Saint usually appears in the Eastern Rite vestments of a bishop, and he carries a ceremonial staff. Unlike North American versions of Santa Claus, in these celebrations Saint Nicholas concerns himself only with the good children, while Krampus is responsible for the bad. Nicholas dispenses gifts, while Krampus supplies coal and the ruten bundles. 

-eHow.com

So it’s been around a long time, and a lot of people have been getting a lump or two of coal in their stockings in the last couple of hundred years. But this year, I think Jay will be far more pleased to find a big ol’ jar of it in his stocking. Because this year it’s not real coal, just chocolate cookies that look like coal.

;

What a great offbeat- and a little bit edgy- Christmas cookie idea. You know I have a tendency to lean towards a dark side. And this time of year, there really isn’t a lot of room for that, unless you do the Nightmare Before Christmas angle which is a bit overdone (I love the movie, but seriously…). These cookies, however, have a bit of a sinister twist to ‘em. Especially given the history of the coal, but also because they’re black. You don’t see a lot of black around Christmastime, do you?

What I did was I baked up some dark chocolate cookies, shaped ‘em all rough and then put them in a jar I decorated with a label I designed and topped with a black-painted lid. Super easy. I just took one of my mason jars, glued the two-piece lid together, and painted it black. But you could also use an old, cleaned-out spaghetti sauce jar and paint the lid, or buy a mason jar with a one-piece lid at a craft store. I just made a 2″ x 2″ round label & printed it out, then used Elmer’s glue to attach it to the jar since Elmer’s is water soluble & will come right off. You could also print it out on a self-stick jar label if you’ve got ‘em (Attention fellow geeks: the font I used in the label is called ‘Stamp Act’). You can also download a printable label from eighteen25.blogspot.com if you’re not as savvy with Photoshop as I am.

Another gifting idea for these? Use a little cheesecloth/muslin/burlap bag instead of a jar. There’s a little how-to at chicaandjo.com that can help you out with that. But, you know I love anything in a jar. Especially cookies.

;

And… this little coal concept also takes the edge off taking photos of misshapen dark chocolate cookies. You know, they either look like poop or, well, lumps of coal! Might as well capitalize on it, right? Thanks so much to Make Bake Celebrate for the idea, and to The Salty Spoon for the (adapted) recipe. Also these cookies are gluten-free, so they’re perfect for anyone you may know with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

It’s such a cute idea it makes you wonder why you never thought of it yourself. Unless you have.

LUMP OF COAL COOKIES (adapted from The Salty Spoon who adapted it from Bon Appétit, June 2008)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder- preferably dark (I like Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black food coloring (probably less if you’re using Americolor)
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover a large cookie sheet with parchment or a Silpat. If you have more than one cookie sheet, prep another as well. This recipe makes more than a single sheet’s-worth of cookies and will necessitate baking in two batches. If you don’t have two cookies sheets, don’t worry about it – just let the sheet cool down a bit between batches.
  2. Measure 1 cup of the chocolate chips into a glass bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, stir, then zap for another minute while watching closely. When things start to look really shiny, pull it out and stir again until the chips are completely melted. Stir in the black food coloring. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric (or stand) mixer. Leaving the mixer running on medium, sprinkle in the sugar in three or four additions so you work it in gradually. Crank it up a notch and keep beating until it looks thick and creamy.
  4. In another medium bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. Crank the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients in a few batches until fully incorporated.
  5. Stir in the (now slightly cooled) melted chocolate and the remaining chocolate chips. If the dough seems stiff at this point, proceed to the next step. If not, set it aside for 10 minutes or so – it will continue to gain body as it sets up.
  6. Plop them by the teaspoonful on a prepared cookie sheet, 2″ apart. Bake 10 minutes, until they are puffy and the tops have cracked.
  7. Once you pull them from the oven, let them cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Then, take each cookie and smoosh them into a “coal shape” (basically a rough, uneven, lumpy ball). They might still be hot inside, so put them back on the rack for another 5-10 minutes once they’re shaped.

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DON’T OVER BAKE THESE. If you over bake them, they’ll be too hard once you form them into “coal” and your children will break their tiny little teeth.

I used my hand mixer to make these, from the egg whites all the way through to the final dough, but I will say that most of you should opt for using a stand mixer. The dough gets very stiff when it “sets up.” That means it might be too much for the average hand mixer. My hand mixer- also known as “He Who Must Not Be Named”- happens to be a beast: a KitchenAid digital 9-speed Architect model. But if you’ve got a not-so-powerful one, you might want to just go right for the big guns. I’ve ruined many a hand mixer overestimating it’s power. Learn from me.

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And there you have it. They taste just like brownies, look like lumps of coal, but they’re cookies. Figure that one out, Santa!

Quick & dirty chive vinegar pickles.

Oh, pickles.

You come into my life oh so quickly this time of year… and get eaten up oh so quickly. And then I’m hounded for more pickles by the pickle monsters that plague my existence. Good thing I love them. And that I’ve got plenty of jars to fill.

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Yeah, I’ve got a lot. That’s just the tip of the iceberg- there’s a load of stuff in my fridge that needs to be cleaned out and those jars will soon join these in awaiting their new fates. Remember my chive blossom vinegar? And the ensuing chive blossom potato salad & egg salad? Well, I knew I wasn’t finished with that vinegar. I had more ideas bubbling in my brain and this was one of them. I figured, why not try making pickles with it?

And I decided on making cold-pack refrigerator pickles. I’ve been on a pickle kick lately. And most of them have been fridge pickles, I guess ’cause it’s so hot it’s just easier.

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;When I say ‘quick & dirty’ in the title, I don’t mean they’re literally dirty, obviously. No olives in this martini. They’re just really quick to make, no processing time required. They do need a week or two to stew in the fridge before they can be eaten, however. But it’s a small price to pay for homemade pickles without the “canning.” Here’s my favorite quick version from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. It’s fun and easy and you can pickle just about anything this way.

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Some ideas for fridge pickles? Zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, okra, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, garlic, etc… or a mix of all of the above!

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And you can use any jar you want for fridge pickles. An old spaghetti sauce jar works just fine.

REFRIGERATOR CHIVE BLOSSOM VINEGAR PICKLES (adapted from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking’s refrigerator pickles)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chive blossom vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher or non-iodized salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of picking spice, dill seed, mustard seed
  • 2 pieces fresh dill (if using, use less dill seed, about half)
  • Cucumbers; as far as the amount you’ll need, I used about 2 and a half smallish/thinnish cukes for one pint jar… but she says:

Wash and cut up your vegetables and pack them into a clean jar.

The weight of your starting produce will vary depending on what you’re pickling. Eyeball it at the market, and if you end up with too little veg, just use a smaller jar (or make more brine to account for extra space in the jar).

Directions:

  1. Boil the vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, put your dry spices in the dry jars, and then pack your veggies in the jars. If you prefer a less raw taste, you can blanch them first or even cook them in the brine.
  2. Pour your just-boiled brine over the veggies in the jars. Wipe the mouths clean and seal.
  3. DON’T SEAL TIGHTLY. And I quote: “Don’t screw on the lid on as tightly as you possibly can or the lid might pop off when you go to open them in a couple weeks. Vinegar breaking down the veggies inside a jar causes a little release of gas, and leaving the lid loose will let that escape. [I know what you’re wondering and the answer is no. If your pickles have been stored in the fridge, it’s not possible for botulism spores to activate.]“
  4. Put them in the back of your fridge and forget about them for at least a week. “Two weeks is better, three is the best” according to her. They keep indefinitely, but if you’ve got some sitting around more than 6 months, I’d ditch ‘em.

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That beautifully colored tangy vinegar is going to make a chive-y, dill-y, super tangy pickle. A perfect compliment to potato salad or grilled stuff; burgers & hot dogs, etc. If you prefer a less chive-y flavor, or should I say, a more subtle one, then just change the ratio from 1/2-1/2 to 1/4-3/4 in favor of the white vinegar. But make sure you use half water, half vinegar and the full tablespoon salt. Any vinegar is fine to use as long as it’s 5% acidity. Red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or just plain old white vinegar.

I have to say I was surprised it wasn’t slightly more pink in the jar, as when it was boiling up it was a pale pink. Hm. I’m half tempted to just use 100% chive vinegar next time just to get pink pickles!

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In case you’re wondering, you can pickle anything this way: cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, peppers, etc. I have a bit more information on refrigerator pickles here. If you don’t have the equipment to do actual canning, refrigerator pickles & refrigerator jams are the way to go, as are freezer jams. You can make amazing stuff that way. Sure, it’s not shelf-stable and you need to put it in the fridge/freezer right away, but it’s a good way to get started. That way you can see if canning is for you. If you decide you want to explore canning further, you need a decent amount of background information and some important materials. A great place to get started is the USDA National Center for Home Preservation.

And speaking of canning, in a few days- on August 21st most likely- I’ll be blogging about the very basics of waterbath canning, I’m calling it “Canning for Dummies” to be exact. So if you’re interested in getting involved in basic canning, keep an eye out for that post. Not that you’re a dummy or anything. I’m just saying.

It’s cheesecake. It’s ice cream. It’s delicious. & ridiculous.

The last week or so, it was hot. Okay, let me rephrase: it was GODDAMN hot. So hot, an ice cream truck could melt.

The handy Weather Channel app on my phone informs me of this as if I haven’t noticed. As if my t-shirt sticking to my back as I water my vegetables wasn’t a clue. Or as if the fact that even when the A/C is on high it isn’t quite cold enough wasn’t a clue, either. Yeah. I’m pretty much uninterested in anything unless it involves air-conditioning, eating ice cream, eating ice pops, or swimming. Or listening to my summer music on full blast; Dr. Dre, Snoop, Incubus, Sublime, Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan and of course, the Notorious B.I.G. (those just scream summer to me for one reason or another). I also try to avoid the 6 million mosquitos that want to feast on me like I’m one of those naked sushi-platter chicks. Yeah, I know I’ve said it before, but that’s pretty much all I want to do in a nutshell.

‘Cause really… when it’s this freakin’ hot, who wants to cook? Or bake? Not I, says the girl who runs the BAKING BLOG.

But honestly. I know I’ve posted a lot of baked stuff lately; pie, cupcakes, galettes, etc. In spite of all that even I sometimes really can’t face turning the oven on. Not in this heat, not even with my A/C on full blast and not even at night when it’s slightly cooler. So when you want something sweet, what else is there to have? Ice cream! Ice cream screams summer, too. And coincidentally, July is also National Ice Cream month (thanks to Ronald Reagan; it was probably the best thing he did as President). And I decided that I wanted to make some ice cream inspired by cheesecake after seeing an ad for ice cream made with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. So I adapted it a little to suit my needs.

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Hey, it’s also my birthday month. If I want ice cream, I’ll have ice cream. Not only is it my birthday month, but my birthday is in just 9 days. Ice cream is practically a requirement right now! But first, a little history:

In the Persian Empire, people would pour grape-juice concentrate over snow, in a bowl, and eat this as a treat, especially when the weather was hot. Snow would either be saved in the cool-keeping underground chambers known as “yakhchal“, or taken from snowfall that remained at the top of mountains by the summer capital — Hagmatana, Ecbatana or Hamedan of today. In 400 BC, the Persians went further and invented a special chilled food, made of rose water and vermicelli, which was served to royalty during summers.[4] The ice was mixed with saffron, fruits, and various other flavours.

Ancient civilizations have served ice for cold foods for thousands of years. The BBC reports that a frozen mixture of milk and rice was used in China around 200 BC.[5] The Roman EmperorNero (37–68) had ice brought from the mountains and combined it with fruit toppings. These were some early chilled delicacies.[6]

Arabs were perhaps the first to use milk as a major ingredient in the production of ice cream.[citation needed] They sweetened it with sugar rather than fruit juices, and perfected means of commercial production. As early as the 10th century, ice cream was widespread among many of the Arab world’s major cities, including Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo. It was produced from milk or cream, often with some yoghurt, and was flavoured with rosewater, dried fruits and nuts. It is believed that the recipe was based on older Ancient Arabian recipes, which were, it is presumed, the first and precursors to Persian faloodeh.

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat asserts, in her History of Food, that “the Chinese may be credited with inventing a device to make sorbets and ice cream. They poured a mixture of snow and saltpetre over the exteriors of containers filled with syrup, for, in the same way as salt raises the boiling-point of water, it lowers the freezing-point to below zero.”[7][8] Some distorted accounts claim that in the age of Emperor Yingzong, Song Dynasty (960-1279) of China, a poem named Ode to the ice cheese (詠冰酪) was written by the poet Yang Wanli. Actually, this poem was named Ode to the pastry (詠酥; 酥 is a kind of food much like pastry in the Western world) and has nothing to do with ice cream.[9] It has also been claimed that, in the Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan enjoyed ice cream and kept it a royal secret until Marco Polo visited China and took the technique of making ice cream to Italy.

In the sixteenth century, the Mughal emperors used relays of horsemen to bring ice from the Hindu Kush to Delhi, where it was used in fruit sorbets.[10]

When Italian duchess Catherine de’ Medici married the Duke of Orléans (Henry II of France) in 1533, she is said to have brought with her to France some Italian chefs who had recipes for flavoured ices or sorbets.[11] One hundred years later, Charles I of England was, it was reported, so impressed by the “frozen snow” that he offered his own ice cream maker a lifetime pension in return for keeping the formula secret, so that ice cream could be a royal prerogative.[12] There is no historical evidence to support these legends, which first appeared during the 19th century.

The first recipe in French for flavoured ices appears in 1674, in Nicholas Lemery’s Recueil de curiositéz rares et nouvelles de plus admirables effets de la nature.[11] Recipes for sorbetti saw publication in the 1694 edition of Antonio Latini’s Lo Scalco alla Moderna (The Modern Steward).[11] Recipes for flavoured ices begin to appear in François Massialot’s Nouvelle Instruction pour les Confitures, les Liqueurs, et les Fruits, starting with the 1692 edition. Massialot’s recipes result in a coarse, pebbly texture. Latini claims that the results of his recipes should have the fine consistency of sugar and snow.[11]

Ice cream recipes first appeared in 18th-century England and America. The recipe for ice cream was published in Mrs. Mary Eales’s Receipts in London in 1718.[13][14]

-Wikipedia

Before modern refrigeration techniques, ice cream was a rare treat to be consumed only on special occasions. Luckily now it’s something we can have any time we want, in any flavor we want, morning, noon or night. Birthdays or not. And we’re most especially lucky to have it in cute little ice cream cups like I have. ¡Viva Mes Nacional del Helado!

CHEESECAKE ICE CREAM (inspired by & adapted from a recipe from Philadelphia Cream Cheese)

Ingredients:

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 graham crackers, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Mix the first four ingredients in a stand mixer until thoroughly blended. Freeze for 4 hours or until almost solid.
  2. Re-beat the mixture with the stand mixer until creamy. Add graham crackers to mixture, mix well.
  3. Freeze for 8 hours or until firm. Remove from freezer around 15-20 minutes before serving. Let stand at room temperature to allow it to soften before scooping into bowls.

And that’s basically that’s all. You can sit back, relax, and have a refreshing dessert that doesn’t require an ice cream maker, an oven or a stove-top at all. Hallelujah! It reminds me of the kind of ice cream you get at one of those super cute little retro ice cream parlors. Smooth, creamy, delicious.

And it tastes just like a slightly melted cheesecake!

It reminds me of a much richer, higher fat version of the Red Mango plain yogurt + crushed graham cracker combo I usually get. You can substitute crushed Oreo cookies for the graham crackers too, kind of like an Oreo cheesecake. Or, incorporate fresh berries into the mix before freezing.

Serve it with anything you’d top a cheesecake (or ice cream sundae) with: fresh berries, strawberry sauce, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, salted caramel sauce, crushed Oreo cookies, etc. I had some fresh raspberries so that’s what I put out for a topping. But even sprinkles are fun. Go nuts. Like I said, it’s National freakin’ Ice Cream month. Do I really need to elaborate further?

No. No, I do not.

Red onion revolution.


Happy July! I guess summer is officially in full swing, right? Summer is the time for fresh everything. Fresh veggies, fresh fruit, fresh herbs. And obviously, taking advantage of having those fresh herbs around is a must. So I try and use my fresh dill (see above) for pickles rather than dill seed as much as I can. ‘Cause before you know it, it’ll be fall and then winter again, and this will all be a memory. And because it’s summer, it’s also pickling time. Which means that anything and everything is in danger of being pickled.

So watch your back around me. You might end up in a mason jar, like this red onion.

Yup. Pickled red onions. Another stupid easy refrigerator pickle recipe that takes about 10 minutes to make and that looks absolutely gorgeous. I found the recipe on Punk Domestics, so big thanks to them & Comfy Cuisine for making the burgers & hot dogs at my day-after-father’s-day barbecue extra awesome. Yep- that’s right- these pickled onions are excellent on hot dogs, too. And sandwiches. AND THEY’RE SO EASY TO MAKE.

Fridge pickles were my foray into the world of canning. Just last year around this time, I ordered a canning kit and as it was on it’s way, I made some jars of refrigerator pickles. Just to get a feel for it. It was so fun and easy, I knew I wanted to keep doing it. So I made some rhubarb ‘fridge jam. The cool thing is that you can use any kind of jar for refrigerator pickles (and refrigerator jam). An old spaghetti sauce jar, an old pickle jar, an old glass mayo or peanut butter jar, a decorative jar, basically anything that’s food safe. But it doesn’t have to be a canning jar!

I actually got the jars I used for the onions (and the pickles below) at a local dollar store. The name is ‘Frutta Delprato’; I had never heard of them (a simple Google told me they’re available in NZ and AUS- weird!), they had a gold tone one-piece screw-on lid, and it didn’t seem canning-safe or as reliably made as a Ball jar, so I got a few to just use for quick fridge pickles and fridge jam. And of course for storage. It’s always good to have extra jars lying around, especially for excess pastas, grains, rice, nuts, granola, etc. Just be sure to always sanitize them. I know it sounds really obvious, but it’s a must for any food storage container, especially when making pickles or jams. Thoroughly wash both the jar and the lid in very hot sudsy water and rinse before using. I should really thank the canning boom & this whole Pinterest mason jar craze for making this stuff so freakin’ popular & readily available. I plan on going back to that dollar store and stocking up on some more of these jars.

You can get jars in many shapes and sizes: Leifheit jars, Quattro Stagioni, Le Parfait or these pretty Bormioli Rocco jars are all excellent ideas for storage or refrigerator pickles. Of course you can use your canning jars too, but I find that I’d rather use a separate jar and save the canning safe ones for actual canning. Although apparently Quattro Stagioni can be used for actual canning too, I can’t personally vouch.

PATTI’S PICKLED ONIONS (adapted from Comfy Cuisine to make one half-pint)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced thinly

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add sliced onion and blanch for 1 minute. Drain.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring brine ingredients to a full boil. Add drained onions and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Let cool and pack into pint jar.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.

And that’s it. Seriously. You’re done.

The only thing is… you might have bought an extra red onion or two. Or maybe not all of your red onion would fit in one jar. And maybe you also have some extra brine. That means you’ll want to make something else to use those up. So you might want to make some red onion refrigerator pickles.


Pickles, pickles, everywhere. Wow, look at this: a two for one recipe post today! You guys are so lucky. I hadn’t made pickles with red onions before, just white onions. Now I’m wondering why I never did! It seems kinda obvious now that I think about it. It might be because I have mostly white onions in the house, and when I have a red onion I use it for salad (I adore red onions in a nice crisp salad with blue cheese dressing!).

REFRIGERATOR PICKLES WITH RED WINE VINEGAR & RED ONION

Makes about one pint (16-oz.) jar

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium pickling cucumbers, or one large cucumber (unwaxed), sliced
  • 3-4 sliced red onion “rings”
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher or pickling salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed slightly
  • 2 sprigs fresh dill (or 1/4 teaspoon dill seed)

Directions:

  1. Boil the vinegar, water, pickling spice and salt in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, put your garlic and red onion in the jar, and then pack your veggies in the jars. If you prefer a less raw taste, you can blanch them first or even cook them in the brine. They’ll stay crisper if you don’t, however, and that’s how we like ‘em here: crisp.
  2. Pour your just-boiled brine over the veggies in the jars. Wipe the mouths clean and seal. Don’t seal too tight or the lids will explode when you open it from the building of gases as it ferments.
  3. Let them sit in the fridge for one to three weeks before eating. The longer they sit, the stronger the flavor.

I really like the way the red onion looks in the jars, don’t you? It’s pretty.

So it took me like, I don’t know, a half hour tops to make both of these. Probably less. Don’t tell me you don’t have time for this stuff, ’cause that’s a bunch of crap. Anyone who says they don’t have time to cook, or bake, or make things is a freakin’ lunatic liar. I swear. And you can hate me for saying this but it’s true. Not everything takes a long time- you’re probably just lazy.

But that’s okay. Save the awesomeness for people like me.

And speaking of awesomeness, this year’s Can-It-Forward Day is July 14th. Don’t forget to get involved. Here’s a little info and background from FreshPreserving.com:

National Can-It-Forward Day

Join National Can-It-Forward Day on Saturday, July 14, 2012!

National Can-It-Forward Day lets everyone share the joy of fresh preserving. If you love garden fresh produce, we would love to show you how easy it is to preserve it to enjoy throughout the year. Whether you’re new to canning or are a Master Canner, we have recipes, tips and tricks to help make fresh preserving easy and fun!

This year the National Can It Forward Day will originate from Minnetrista a cultural center in East Central Indiana, and the original home of the Ball Brothers. On Saturday, July 14th, Jarden Home Brands, the makers of Ball® brand fresh preserving products, and the Minnetrista Master Preservers will demonstrate just how easy it is to preserve fresh produce for delicious results. And, chefs from the American Culinary Federation will share their recipes using these preserved products. New and exciting this year is the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker. Watch as it transforms fresh fruit, sugar and pectin into mouthwatering homemade jam. This small kitchen appliance allows you to enjoy homemade jam or jelly in just 30 minutes. It uses SmartStir™ Technology to automatically and consistently stir your jam or jelly while it cooks. You don’t have any guesswork and you don’t stand over a hot stove – you just set it and go! Who ever dreamed delicious could be this easy?

Set aside some time to learn simple ways to preserve the fresh food you love and share your canning knowledge with friends and family. Whether you watch us on-line, host a home canning party or join us in person, we hope you’ll share your stories. Like us on Facebook then post your Can-It-Forward Day stories and photos on our page and in your status updates. And, join the conversation on Twitter with #CanItForward. No matter how you participate, we want you to enjoy fresh preserving and Can-It-Forward Day.

It’s a great way to start canning, if you’re new to it. There will be video demonstrations and all kinds of fun stuff. Plus, there are downloadable jar labels, and a list of amazing nationwide Farmer’s markets that are participating in the 2012 Discover You Can program℠. So get on it! The Fresh Preserving website has tons of info for you. Canning isn’t something to be scared of, it’s totally fun… so get yourself some jars, some equipment & some fruits & veggies and start preserving. Shit. Making something new is so awesome & empowering, even if it’s just pickles. Stop being afraid of new things. If you take just one thing away from this blog, make it that. Alright… enough preaching for today.

And if you’re not into preserving, but you’re into baking, and you’re also into small kitchen appliances & KitchenAid.. then you’ll like this news. It’s somewhat exciting. I was asked by MarketVine (a Dell company) to create a little mini-store filled with a select amount of my favorite KitchenAid items. It’s right here on the website, and of course, you can always buy other things that aren’t in my store, since all of the items are sold via KitchenAid.com! There are great prices on there, and also some great refurbished items available for a low price. The store can be accessed by all pages on the blog just by clicking the banner up at the top- you see it? The one that says “My Favorite KitchenAid Things”? Yep. That one. Just click it and you’ll be transported to my little store where you can shop till your hearts content. You all know how much I love KitchenAid, and Lola, and so this is very exciting for me. If you’ve always wanted your own Lola… then go get one!

A bevy of blossoms brings beautiful vinegar.

It’s been a busy few weeks. No matter how busy the weeks get I try and continue to incorporate blogging into my life. I try not to let all the craziness of life cause me to ignore the blog, or let it sit for more than a few days without a post. It’s just my way of keeping myself disciplined. But really, it has been busier than usual: Mother’s Day, tons of birthdays, a wedding, old friends coming up to New York (from all over the damn world it seems; but really just Hawaii & Texas) and now Memorial Day. All of that meant lots of late nights, lots of food- particularly fried (Chip Shop!)… and lots of beer. I kind of need to recover from it all a bit before Monday. And I think the best way to do that is spend some time outside, in the sun, getting fresh air while I prepare for Memorial Day, and watering plants & gardening. Oh, and drinking water. Gallons of water.

I’ve seen chive blossom vinegar in many places all over the internet for a few years now, this year being no exception. It intrigued me, but never enough to try it. I kept wondering what the hell I’d use it for. Plus, my chives never gave me more than three or four, maybe five or six blossoms a season. But this year? It exploded! Hundreds (okay well not really hundreds, but a lot) of pretty purple blossoms burst onto the scene in early April, much to my surprise.

Our extremely mild winter caused my chives to come back from their hibernation far earlier, and also this year they’re larger than ever. And the blossoms are so pretty, I usually just like looking at them in the garden until they die and I cut ‘em off. But honestly, what’s life without a little experimentation? So being that I had so many, and a few extra jars laying around, I thought why not try it. Plus, I’ve been more into infusions lately. I was planning on some rosemary-garlic infused olive oil, so why not make some infused vinegar too.

You don’t have to use the blossoms in vinegar. You can cook with them too, or use them in salads. Just do a Google and you’ll see. The Kitchn has a great piece on using them, too. However, I chose to use roughly half of my blossoms in a vinegar infusion. The other half ended up in my kitchen in a jar of water, as if they were a bouquet. Kept the chive part fresh and close at hand, too.

Chive vinegar is regular white vinegar, or white wine vinegar, that’s infused with chive blossoms. Technically, you could use whatever vinegar you wanted, but I think (and apparently this is the general consensus among chive vinegar makers) using a clear vinegar is aesthetically best. That way you can see the true pink color that comes from the blossoms, and also the jar looks pretty while it’s “infusing.” But really, to each his own. To make it, here’s what you do: You cut the blossoms off your chives. Rinse them thoroughly in cool water, making sure any grit, dirt, sand or unwanted little tenants clear out. It’s best, I find, to fill a large bowl with cool water and put them in there, swirling them around gently, rather than just rinsing them. Dry them either in a salad spinner, or air dry them on paper towels. Place the blossoms in a jar or bottle about ½ to ¾ full. Pour in your vinegar to fill the container. Then let it sit in a dark/cool place for two weeks, then strain it, removing the flowers. What you end up with is a beautiful pink vinegar that’s mildly onion-y in flavor. It’s perfect in vinaigrettes & salads, great in macaroni or potato salad, and it’d probably make fairly interesting refrigerator pickles.

Chives, posing with chives! Brilliant!

I made this on May 13th, and here’s a little photo quadrangle of its journey from then ’til the day I made the potato salad. I was pretty amazed at how in just a matter of less than 12 hours, the vinegar was already obviously pink. And then it just got pinker & pinker! It’s so pretty, really. It reminds me of those bottles of day-glo highlighter liquid teenagers used to make years ago to use under blacklight (am I showing my age?), except prettier, edible & much more useful. And totally less ’90′s.

Day eight was a rainy, miserable day, so the picture sucks. Of course, the two weeks is the recommended time, but you can use it even after a few days. It won’t be as strong, but you’ll definitely get a chive flavor. I used mine after about 8 or 9 days and it was plenty strong. I also dried the blossoms I removed from the vinegar and saved them in another jar to use in egg salad. But that’s a whole ‘nother post for another day. Anyway, speaking of salad… I was so inspired by the beautiful jar of pink vinegar, that I decided to use it to make some chive-y potato salad. And then, I thought, why not share it on the blog? ‘Cause I’m awesome, that’s why. And also because Monday here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. is Memorial Day, which is a big barbecue day which pretty much kicks off the summer and potato salad is a barbecue/summer staple. Memorial Day means way more than just that, of course, but like 4th of July, Americans don’t like holidays they can’t get a day off for or drink to celebrate. In terms of the salad: keep in mind, if you’re not using chive vinegar, the flavor will be different. I’d substitute by using white wine vinegar & add a sliced shallot and an extra tablespoon of chopped chives. Or, you can just make your own chive blossom vinegar. Or… if you have no chive blossoms but you have some chives, just cut some chives up and put them in a jar of vinegar for a week or so. The vinegar will definitely end up with a chive flavor, though perhaps not the same as with the blossoms and definitely not pink.

Honestly- potato salad (and macaroni salad) is so easy to make, why go and buy it at a deli or supermarket? You’ve probably got most of the necessary ingredients right at hand, and what you don’t have you can always substitute other things for. Or omit them totally. Do yo’ thaaaang.

CHIVE BLOSSOM VINEGAR POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, boiled (& peeled, if desired) and cubed (equals roughly 8 medium-sized potatoes)
  • 4-5 tablespoons chive blossom vinegar, depending on taste
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 chopped hard-boiled eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup chopped celery (I omitted this)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon mustard (I used Gulden’s spicy brown, you can use any you like)
  • washed chive blossoms, either fresh or dried (for garnish, if desired, the blossoms are edible)

Directions:

  1. Toss the potatoes with 2 tablespoons chive vinegar and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the mayo, chives, mustard, remaining tablespoons vinegar, and sugar thoroughly.
  3. Add to the potato mixture. Chill until cool. Garnish with whole or torn apart chive blossoms, if you want.

This salad was inhaled. INHALED. Disappeared from the bowl like David Blaine was here. People from all over New York swarmed to my house to taste it. Alright. So… that’s a lie, but I wasn’t lying about it being inhaled. You’d have thought I invented the wheel the way people raved about it. And I find that the more things you make yourself, the more impressed people are with it, and the better your food tastes to them. Once I said I not only grew the chives, but used the blossoms to make infused vinegar and then in turn used that vinegar to make the salad, I was practically crowned the new Martha Stewart. No shit.

This recipe makes a very creamy potato salad, if you prefer a more vinegar-y one, then just alter it to suit your needs by lessening the amount of mayo. Potato salad is a super easy thing to change around. It’s all about taste & preference, there is no wrong. Use any kind of potatoes- from baby reds to Yukon Gold, any kind of mustard (or none), any amount of hard-boiled eggs (or none), any kind of vinegar, etc. So easy! Take out the chives, add dill, add a chopped pickle, whatever. It’s 100% customizable. Same thing with macaroni salad. Just taste it as you go and change things up. There are tons of base recipes on the internet if you’re scared.

Back to the chive vinegar: I think it’s great to have a jar of this around, especially if you’re into making your own salad dressings or vinaigrettes. I’m going to work on a pickle recipe using some of this vinegar as well. My mother wants some to marinate steaks in; she likes vinegar marinated steak. And she probably just wants a jar of pink vinegar to put out on the counter, too, ’cause it’s pretty to look at. And yes, the blossoms themselves are edible too. Try one.