Blueberries are making their debut at my local farmers market and I just could not resist picking up a flat of these scrumptious little berries. While I could have made a blueberry buckle or cobbler, I decided to make jam.
But not just any jam. Blueberry Lavender Jam because incidentally, fresh lavender also popped up at the farmer's market recently, and it made perfect sense to add a little something extra to my jam. If you have never worked with fresh or dried lavender, you need to know a couple of things. First, you need to find "culinary grade" lavender. There are a few varieties of lavender but you want the one that will taste the best with food. It's a safe bet that if you find dried lavender in the spice section of the store, then it's culinary grade. If you find fresh lavender, ask the grower or store if it is for culinary purposes.
Second, a little bit of lavender goes a long way. It's a very floral herb and will dominate the flavors of a recipe if you use too much. So, for this recipe, I used 1 teaspoon of fresh lavender and it was enough to give it that light floral flavor but not be overpowering. If using dried lavender, reduce it to 1/2 teaspoon for this recipe.
A quick note about canning: I did not can the jam in the normal way (boiling the filled jars, etc). I chose to make a freezer or refrigerator jam. I filled plastic containers (found in the canning section) and will freeze most of my jam so we can enjoy it through winter. If you want to can the jam, please follow instructions on the box of pectin you are using or go to the Ball website for more information.
Lastly, this recipe is considered a low-sugar jam recipe, so you need to use the appropriate pectin for it. You can find pectin in most supermarkets and low sugar pectin is typically available everywhere.
Blueberry Lavender Jam
Makes about 6 cups
Before you get started on the jam, wash and sanitize the plastic canning containers, funnel, and ladle you will be using to fill the jars. Set aside until ready to use.
Place the blueberries, juice concentrate, pectin, and lavender in a 4 quart saucepan. Stir to combine and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened and the boiling mixture cannot be stirred down, about 5-10 minutes. Depending on the power of your stove, you may need to lower the temperature to medium-low to prevent burning. Once the mixture has thickened, stir in the honey. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
Fill the plastic "jars" to the designated fill line or about 1/4 inch from the top. Securely fasten the lids to the top of the containers. Cool to room temperature and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours to set up. Refrigerate the jam for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.
While I love a good beef burger, sometimes I want to be a bit healthier, so I go with black bean burgers. Plus, my kids would rather have black bean burgers, as odd as that may sound. In fact, they request these more often than not.
The recipe calls for cooked forbidden rice, which is a black rice that can be found in most supermarkets with a bulk food or organic section. If I know I'm making these burgers during the week, I make sure to serve the rice with another meal and make a little extra to save for the burgers. However, you do not need to use forbidden rice in the recipe. There are many different types of rice that can be substituted. My only suggestion is to choose a whole grain rice (brown rice, etc). In a pinch, cooked quinoa could be substituted as well.
And... as with all my recipes, this one can be tailored to meet your family's tastes. My family loves spicy food, which explains why I always use chili peppers whenever possible. If your family prefers mild flavors, you can omit the chipotle peppers and add whichever seasonings you want.
Black Bean Burgers
Makes 4 burgers
Place the onions, garlic, and chipotle peppers in a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to finely chop the pieces. Add the black beans, rice, salt, pepper, and cumin. Pulse several times to puree the mixture. How smooth you want the mixture is up to you. I prefer the burger to have a little texture, so I only pulse a few times to make it semi-smooth. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and stir in the bread crumbs.
Heat the olive oil in a non stick skillet over medium heat. Form the bean mixture into patties. Cook on each side for 2-4 minutes or until lightly browned. Add cheese if desired. Serve on toasted buns with typical burger fixings.
If you are looking for a good salad that is easy to make and great for a cookout, then look no further. Made with fresh, crisp fennel, this salad has a slight anise flavor (from the fennel) playing against the sweetness of the grapes. The salad can be served with any grilled meat or seafood. It's a lovely alternative to the standard garden salad.
You can find fennel at the supermarket but I encourage you to look for it at your local farmer's market. That way, you are sure to get the crispiest, freshest fennel.
Fennel and Grape Salad
In a large bowl, toss together the fennel, grapes, celery, onion, and parsley. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Pour vinaigrette over the salad and toss together to mix well.
The salad can be made up to 1 day ahead of time. Keep refrigerated until read to serve.
The berries are here! The berries are here! The berries are here!
This is what I want to scream each time I visit my local farmer's market. I might get strange looks but I don't care. I love fresh local berries. For the past few weeks we've had the pleasure of eating fresh cherries (my favorite), but now raspberries and blueberries (and other berries) are making their debut. Every time I see lots of fresh berries, I feel the need to bake a pie or tart. With the plethora of fresh berries right now, I will have to find many uses for them since I cannot eat pie every day. Well, I could eat pie every day but I don't think I should do so.
Until I find the time to make jam (lavender blueberry jam is in the works), I decided to bake a pie. I love 3 pies -- Apple pie, Cherry pie, and Mixed berry pie. What I love about this recipe, is that you can use whatever berries you have available. I used blueberries and raspberries for this recipe but you can use blackberries and black raspberries as well. It's up to you.
And ... you need to make a crust. Or you can purchase a ready made pie crust. Even though I won't tell on you (people are busy, I know), I will say that a homemade pie crust is much better than store bought. The recipe for the crust is below.
Mixed Berry Pie
Yield: 1 10-inch pie
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
On a lightly floured surface, roll one pie crust out into a 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer crust to the pie plate. Gently tuck it in to the plate.
Place the berries in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the mixture to the berries. Toss to coat well. Add the orange zest and juice. Toss mixture to combine well. Pour mixture into the pie crust.
Roll out the other pie crust on a lightly floured surface. You can either cut strips to make a lattice design or simply transfer the crust to the pie. If choosing the latter, be sure to cut for slits in the top of the crust (for vent holes). Trim the edges of the crust to make about a 1-inch overhang. Fold the crust under to create a seal with the bottom crust. Brush the top with the heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 25 minutes at 400ºF. Reduce heat to 350ºF and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the filling starts bubbling through and the crust is golden brown.
Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for about 2 hours before serving. The pie is good warm or cold and best served with vanilla ice cream.
Double Pie Crust
Place the white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 10 seconds to combine ingredients. Add the butter; pulse several times until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the processor motor running, slowly pour in the cold water. Pulse until the mixture starts to come together and form a ball of dough.
Divide the dough half. Flatten each piece slightly. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably up to 2-3 hours. Dough can be made 1-2 days ahead of time.
Going to the local farmer's market is always an adventure for me. So far, growers at my local market have many offerings from basic vegetables (lettuces, onions, radishes) to fruits like strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. I've already had my fill of cherries and strawberries. With the strawberries, we made gelato (recipe coming) and with the cherries, we made a tart (recipe forthcoming) and froze the rest.
But with the raspberries, my daughter wanted to make muffins and I wanted to make scones, so we did both. Why not? Both are equally good and were equally devoured within a day. The scone recipe will be posted separately.
Choose the sweetest, freshest raspberries you can find. I encourage you to find a grower (u-pick farm) or peruse the farmer's market. The raspberries at the store are ok (organic is best), but they are not as sweet and flavorful as the ones you will find locally. In fact, the same goes for any fruit. Local fruit is far superior to the fruit sold in the grocery store, even organic versions.
Raspberry Lemon Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line muffin pan with paper cupcake liners. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the white whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup white flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, toss the raspberries in the remaining 1/4 cup white flour; set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, milk, egg, and lemon zest. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined (do not over mix or make a smooth batter). Carefully fold in the berries.
Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full with batter. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with sugar. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Cool completely before serving. Store in airtight container.
What's for brinner? Waffles, of course.
You might be wondering, what is brinner? Well, brinner is breakfast for dinner. You know, like how brunch is breakfast and lunch. We first heard of "brinner" several years ago on a little show called "Scrubs." Since then, my husband and I have made it a point to have "brinner" on a regular basis. But you just can't have any simple brinner like cold cereal or danishes. No, it has be to substantial - a full meal. While we love pancakes, sometimes you really want a waffle instead. Waffles are crispier versions of pancakes and this recipe makes them even heartier. Serve with fresh berries, maple syrup (the real stuff), and bacon (of course) and you have a delicious meal. Breakfast for dinner. Brinner.
These waffles are full of whole grains and are incredibly filling. One waffle is quite enough for each person.
Oat and Almond Waffles
Makes 4 standard size waffles
Preheat the waffle iron according to manufacturer instructions.
In a food processor, pulse together the oats and almonds until coarsely ground (not powder fine, but a little more coarse than that). Place oat mixture in a mixing bowl. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Pour about a 1/3 cup (depending on the size of your waffle iron) in the center of the preheated iron and press the lid down. Cook waffles according the iron's manufacturer's instructions.
Serve with fresh berries, maple syrup, and anything else you desire. We love bacon or sausage with our waffles.
A clafoutis is an egg custard typically made with cherries. In this version, I used Rainier cherries and blueberries but you can use Bing or sweet cherries instead. Or you can even use plums or blackberries. You know, the sky's the limit!
Serve this with brunch or as a dessert to a nice meal.
Rainier Cherry and Blueberry Clafoutis
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly butter an 10-inch pie or quiche dish.
Spread the cherries and blueberries on the bottom of the dish. Whisk together the eggs, half-n-half, mascarpone cheese, sugar, orange zest, vanilla, and flour until well combined. Pour the batter over the cherries and blueberries. Sprinkle the top with raw sugar and scatter the butter slices over the top.
Bake until puffed and golden around the edges, about 40 minutes. If the center seems too runny, bake for another 10 minutes or so. Cool for 30 minutes at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until cold and set. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
A while back, I was shopping in a little market that specialized in Mediterranean products. As I perused the shelves, I found a jar of date syrup. Intrigued, I purchased it and took it home. And then it sat in my cupboard for a few months until I decided that I needed to use it. But how exactly, I didn't know.
There aren't many recipes floating around on the web using date syrup (or date molasses), so I had to piece together a couple different recipes to make my own. I realized that this syrup can be used like regular molasses and it gave me the idea to make a spice cake. Date syrup differs in flavor compared to molasses. It is fruitier and lighter in flavor. Even though I use it in a cake, it would also be good in a sauce served with meat or poultry. From what I can tell, it has many uses, much like molasses.
You can find date syrup in specialty grocery stores or on Amazon. You can also make your own if you have dates and sugar. I encourage you to go out and find a jar. You won't be disappointed.
Date Syrup Spice Cake
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Generously grease and flour a bundt pan. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and date syrup until light and well mixed. Stir in the eggs, sour cream, orange juice, and orange zest. Mix well. Add the dry ingredients and combine well. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan. Invert the pan to remove the cake. Allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the glaze:
In a small bowl, stir together the orange juice, date syrup, and butter. Add enough powdered sugar to make a thick glaze (not too thick and not too thin). Pour glaze over the cake.
Right now, I'm addicted to anything containing brown butter. Why? Brown butter is just sooooo good, adding a nutty flavor to any recipe. Recently, I made Brown Butter Blondies, which were quickly devoured by my family. While I could have made blondies again, I decided to bake a cake. We had strawberries hanging around just waiting to be served with cake. And who doesn't like cake with strawberries?
This is a simple recipe to put together. However, you need a 10-inch cast iron pan for best results. You can make this recipe without the cast iron skillet, but it just won't be the same. Well, ok, it will still turn out fine, but the pan adds a little something extra to the appeal. Just be sure to grease the pan you are using to bake the cake.
Also, I served the cake with lemon Greek yogurt* but you can serve it with whipped cream. Whichever you choose.
Brown Butter Cake
Yield: 1 10-inch cake
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter until it turns amber in color. Pour the butter into a mixing bowl. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes while you gather the rest of the ingredients. Set the cast iron pan aside (do not wipe it out).
Add the eggs, yogurt, brown sugar, and sugar to the melted butter. Stir to combine well. Add the lemon zest. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine well. Pour batter into the cast iron skillet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake starts to pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool cake. Serve with fresh strawberries and sweetened whipped cream or Greek yogurt.*
*Lemon Greek Yogurt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
Stir ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.
It's spring and it's time for us to dust off the grill and start cooking outside! There isn't a better way to break in your grill than to cook up some hamburgers.
Now, I like a good beef (grass-fed, of course) burger, but my family does not always want to eat red meat, leaving me to become creative in which meat I cook. So, I like to use chicken thighs whenever possible. They grind up well and have a lot of flavor (way more than breast meat).
To grind up chicken thighs, you will need to use either a food processor or a meat grinder (like the attachment for a KitchenAid Mixer). Otherwise, you will be chopping up chicken thighs with a knife, which will be time consuming.
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce can be found in the Mexican food section of the grocery store. They add a nice smokey flavor to the burgers along with a little bit of heat.
Chipotle Chicken Burgers
Makes 4-6 burgers
Place the chicken thighs in a food processor. Pulse several times to roughly chop up the meat. Add the garlic, onion, chipotle peppers, salt, and pepper. Pulse several times until blended and the meat is chopped up.
If using a meat grinder, run the chicken through the coarse blade. Then mix it with finely chopped garlic, onions, chipotle peppers, salt, and pepper.
Form meat into patties. Cook on a grill or on the stove, about 4-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature of the burger reaches 165ºF. Add cheese if desired. Serve on a toasted bun with all the regular burger fixings.
Lentils: Pantry Gems by Marcy Gaston