Roasted New Potatoes

We have changed much about the way we eat so that we are eating seasonally as often as possible. For example, last year, between the end of the summer and the beginning of this summer, we only bought and ate 3 tomatoes from the grocery store. We decided that tomatoes just weren’t that good when they were picked green thousands of miles away and ripened with gas – so we didn’t really eat them.

Now, please don’t think we made this change to save the environment, although that is a nice benefit. We decided to eat more in season because we like good food. Period. I grew up thinking I hated tomatoes. As it turns out, I only hated tomatoes from the grocery store. They lack flavor, and they are incredibly mealy. Now one of my favorite treats is a sliced tomato – picked only days ago, when they are actually in season. My garden mentor Martha Kay taught me to slice fresh tomatoes to put on top of homemade biscuits and grace them with a dash of salt and pepper. Now that is how the world should eat tomatoes. And that is how you know summer has arrived.

I’m getting off on a tangent though – this post is supposed to be about potatoes! I have always thoughts of potatoes as a staple good – something that you should be able to get in the grocery store year round. Only recently have I realized that potatoes have a growing season as well – and they taste better when eaten in their season!

If you live in the south eastern part of the US, new potatoes should be popping up at your local farmers market right now. New potatoes are basically small potatoes that are harvested early to allow the other potatoes to grow larger. New potatoes are small, tender and packed with flavor! We picked some up at our farmers market this weekend – I think they were $3 for a pound. In my book, one of the best ways to eat these is roasted. They are slightly crunchy on the outside, cooked and steamy on the inside, and full of flavor.

Roasted New Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Herbs of your choice
Wash new potatoes and cut large ones in half. Potatoes that are about the same size will cook more evenly. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and any herbs you would like to use. I prefer oregano and rosemary. Toss the potatoes so that all sides are covered in oil and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 450 until just crispy, probably 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately!

 

 

Baked Oatmeal

This weekend I made some baked oatmeal, and posting about it reminded me that I should share the recipe. 

 

Baked Oatmeal

*Adaped from recipe given to me by the Zehr family

2 eggs, beaten

1 – 1 1/2 cups milk or milk substitute (coconut milk, rice milk, almond milk, etc.)

1/2 cup coconut oil (or vegetable oil if you don't use coconut)

1/3 cup agave nectar or honey

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cups rolled oats

chopped nuts

 

Mix all but the last two ingredients. Stir in oats and nuts. Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes. 

You can really alter this recipe to your liking. We prefer baked oatmeal much less sweet than some people – if you find that it isn't as sweet as you prefer, add more agave or honey. I like to use walnuts and pecans in ours. If you use rolled oats or steel cut oats, you'll want to use the whole 1 1/2 cups milk and it will take longer to cook. If you use instant oats or quick oats you can get away with only 1 cup milk and the shorter cooking time. The cooking time will also depend on the size dish you bake in. If you use a 9×13, the cooking time will be shorter than if you use a deeper dish. Keep an eye on it and don't let it burn!

This will keep in the fridge for about a week and reheats nicely. We typically serve ours with yogurt and fruit. 

Print this recipe. 

Cranberry Lime Muffins

I picked up some fresh cranberries at the store the other day and was planning to use them for some nice cranberry scones. The only problem is that I hate making scones – at least, I hate making them most of the time. Typically, when I want a scone, I don't want to go through the effort to shape them and cut them into triangular pieces. In my opinion, that is just too much work for a scone. Now, normally, I don't mind dishes that require intense effort, but there is just something about a scone that screams simplicity to me. 

So, the cranberries had been sitting in my fridge for a few days, and I still hadn't made anything with them. You can only imagine my excitement when I saw this recipes for Browned Butter Cranberry Lime Muffins on Joy the Baker's blog. I read her post at 10:49 am – I know the exact time because I looked in my history – and I went home and made them for lunch around noon. T minus 1 hour and 11 minutes to delicious goodness. 

Now, what I would really like to know is why, in my 26 years of life, no one has told me about the cranberry-lime combination. It is pure deliciousness. Tangy meets electrified tangy with a hint of sweet. 

I made a few modifications to the recipe. I baked it in a cast iron pan instead of a muffin pan. I hate muffin pans with a passion, and I hardly use them anymore. I found that I never had liners for muffins in my kitchen – partly because it seems like a waste of paper and partly because I would always forget to buy them. So I would typically just spray or oil the muffin pan, but inevitable the muffins stick and gra-do gets all baked to the pan. And then you have to wash each… little… individual… hole. What a pain. 

I learned a trick from Susy at Chiot's Run about making "skillet cake" instead of muffins, and I have never turned back to the dreaded muffin pan since. I've tried cooking several muffin recipes this way and haven't had any disasters. Just make sure you keep an eye on the muffin cake throughout the cooking process as it may take slightly longer to cook than the recipe calls for. Yes, I just made up the term muffin cake. It seems fitting. 

IMG_0368

Can I just say that we gobbled this down as soon as it came out of the oven? It was that good. I burnt my mouth. It was worth it. 

The only recipe modification I made was to add the juice from half the lime, in addition to the zest. It really kicked it up a notch. I didn't sprinkle any sugar on top as we prefer our muffins slightly less sweet. 

You should definitely bake this. As soon as possible. 

Tomato Sauce

Remember all of the tomatoes I've had sitting all over my kitchen the past few weeks? They took over my counter and every bowl and basket I had available. I've finally gotten them put away, well, at least most of them. I put up 6 quarts of diced tomatoes, 19 quarts of sauce, and 8 pints of salsa. I've given some away, and I'm down to only a handful of cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, and green zebra tomatoes that I'll turn into salsa. I never thought I would be glad to be done with fresh tomatoes, but I guess thats how it works when you grow things yourself and source them locally. It has been a lot of work, but it is so rewarding to have your own home grown tomatoes waiting for you in the winter. 

I promised to put up a recipe for tomato sauce, so here it is. Please know that you cannot can this sauce. You might be able to find a similar recipe somewhere that you could can, but this one is meant for freezing. 

DSCN8634First you'll need some tomatoes. 

DSCN8645_editYou're going to want to wash them, cut them in half, and core them. Remove any tomatoes with blemishes or rotten spots. 

DSCN8656_editMove your tomatoes out of the way to give yourself more room on the cutting board. 

Pretend you see a photo of onions and garlic here. 

Roughly chop some onions and garlic – about 1 medium onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic for every 20 tomato halves. This is not an exact science – use more or less if you like. Move them to a separate bowl. 

DSCN8625_editRoughly chop some herbs – I typically use fresh basil and oregano, but you can use anything you enjoy – rosemary and thyme would also be quite nice! If you don't have fresh, go with dried. 

DSCN8630Put a small can of tomato paste (6 ounces) into a large mixing bowl. Fill the tomato paste can with olive oil and dump it in. Then fill the can 1/2 with olive oil and dump it in. Add in your chopped herbs and some salt and pepper. Use your hands or a whisk to mix it all together. 

At this point you'll want to get your pans ready. Line a few pans with aluminum foil. I thought I could skip this step once, and it made a huge mess. Just go ahead and line them. Put a cookie rack on top of the pan. Turn the over to 400 to preheat. 

DSCN8650_editToss a few cut tomatoes into your oil and paste mixture. Make sure they get coated really well. Place them cut side down on your cookie rack. Continue doing this until you've used all of your tomatoes. Side note: one oil/paste mixture does two pans of tomatoes for me. Once you've got your tomatoes on the pan, mix the onions and garlic with the remainder of the oil/paste mixture and dump it all in some aluminum foil that you bunch together beside the cookie rack. If you don't have room to put the tomatoes and onions on separately, just throw them amongst the tomatoes. 

Roast the tomatoes at 400 for about 45 minutes. If you do more than one pan at a time, switch them once. 

DSCN8659_editWhen the skins look crinkly and a little charred, remove them from the oven. Note: you're house might smoke up. Mine has several times, but I just open the windows and turn on some fans. Don't be alarmed. 

After the tomatoes have cooled for a little bit, run them through a food processor along with the onions and garlic. You might have to do a few batches – especially if you're using a 3 cup processor like me! 

Place your sauce in clean jars or ziploc bags, and into the freezer they go!

We'll use this sauce all winter long for spaghetti, lasagna, and pizza. 
 

  
 
 
 

Summer Squash and Blog Love

Its that time of the year – most people's gardens are overflowing with summer squash, and ours is no different! We came back from 4 days of vacation and had zucchinis that were literally the length of my shin. Really?! What am I going to do with that? We're about maxed out on grilled zucchini and zucchini bake – anyone have good zucchini recipes? I thought about shredding it to freeze for zucchini bread, but we have absolutely no more space in our freezer, and we don't really eat much zucchini bread. I'd like to eat if fresh if we can. 

DSCN8481 

DSCN8484Some of our squash plants have been a little touch-and-go this season, especially the patty pan squash plant, but its managed to hang in there! We've been fighting cucumber beetles and mold, but so far, I think we're winning!

DSCN8476This is a little random and totally unrelated to squash, but I just found a new blog that I am absolutely in love with – My New Roots. I made her version of "The Best Lentil Salad Ever" … and she wasn't lying. It is fabulous! I love lentils because they are the fastest cooking legume, and they are packed full of fiber, but I've never done much other than soups with them. I highly recommend this recipe because it is full of flavor, but be warned, it makes enough to feed a small army. I will probably cut the recipe in half next time I make it. 

Check out her other recipes … I can't wait to make this Flax-Rosemary Flatbread or these Kale Chips or these Kickin' Chickpeas. Deliciousness waiting to happen. 
 
 
 

Plain Grandma and Peach Honey

My grandmother, whom we called "Plain Grandma" for some unknown reason, was an absolutely amazing woman, and I am so proud that I share part of her name. Unfortunately, she passed away when I was pretty young, so I don't have a whole lot of memories about her. She was a caterer, and everyone always says that she would give you the shirt off her back. One of my favorite stories that my parents tell about my grandma was when they had just gotten married. My mom and dad went to her house and grandma asked my dad if he had any luggage, because if not, she was going to get some for them as a wedding gift. My dad replied that he didn't have any luggage, and grandma said, "Well, what are you going to carry your bags in stupid? A paper bag?" 

From what I hear, my grandmother was an amazing cook. She had a few recipes that she didn't share with people, but there was one recipe that she willing gave out – her potatoes. People always swore she left out ingredients in the recipe, because theirs never tasted quite like her, but she retorted that maybe they just couldn't cook. 

I wish I remembered more about her. I vaguely remember her paying me $1 to sit still long enough to put pin curls in my hair. I vaguely remember an upstairs room in her house where the door was always shut – turns out it busting at the seams with storage items – but there was a paper skeleton decoration on the door that used to always freak me out. I vaguely remember how tasty her chicken and dumplings were. 

One thing I do know, is that she was most in her element when she was cooking and serving meals for a crowd. My mom is the exact same way, and I find myself frequently enjoying that as well. Isn't it interesting how hobbies and passions are passed down through generations? I am so thankful that my grandma could cook, and that she taught my mom how to cook, and that my mom taught me. Sometimes mom and I will be cooking something, and she'll say, "Your grandmother would be proud." 

Even though she hasn't been with us for 20 years, I sure do hope she is proud of us. She certainly left behind a legacy of cooks. 

Ashley 1Three generations of cooks. This is me with my mom and grandma. 

N29701581_35685339_766This is one of the last pictures I have of plain grandma. I think we had just finished dance lessons or something. 

So, in honor of my grandmother and the fact that its summertime, today I'm going to share with you her recipe for peach honey (with my mother's permission of course – I certainly don't want to get in trouble for giving away secret family recipes!)

This peach honey is really like a freezer jam, but you'll see why its called peach honey when you make it – it looks just like honey and is quite sweet! My mom came up the other day and we made an enormous batch for her to share with some friends. 

DSCN8156This is what the peaches and sugar look like when they're cooking. We made a pretty large batch in my 20 quart stockpot. If you're going to make a lot, I would recommend doing it in a few smaller batches. I recently read that it will take longer for a large batch to boil, and it will break down the fruit more. 

DSCN8165And here is the finished product – doesn't it look just like honey? 

DSCN8166It has such a beautiful amber color. 
 
 

Grandma’s Peach Honey


4 cups ripe peaches, peeled and smashed
6 cups sugar

Drop peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove quickly and place in ice water bath to stop cooking. Cut a shallow “X” in the skin on the bottom of the peach, and gently peel off the skin. It should slide right off the flesh. Remove the flesh from the pit, and smash the fruit with a fork or pasty blender. If you use a food processor, don’t puree it – you’ll want some fruit in your “honey”.

In a large pot, mix the peaches and sugar. Bring it to a rolling boil (don’t stop with stirred) for 5 minutes.  Quickly ladle the honey into sterile jars or containers. Keep in the refrigeration for 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to a year.

Print this recipe.
 

Tomatoes and Focaccia Pizza

What a fabulous and relaxing weekend. We went to the Farmers' Market Saturday morning and came home with a tote full of tomatoes. Aren't these tomatoes beautiful? 

DSCN8383 

DSCN8400I love these little orange babies, so of course I had to make a flatbread pizza with them. 

DSCN8389Here are all of the ingredients you'll need. 

DSCN8402This pizza is so simple – just make your dough and smush it into the pan. 

DSCN8409Add some olive oil and toppings. I used fresh mozzarella, fresh purple basil, and cherry tomatoes.

DSCN8423Voila! Delicious focaccia bread pizza! This made about 4 lunches for us – it was very filling!
 
 

Focaccia Bread Pizza

*Adapted from Simply in Season


1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
fresh basil leaves, chopped
cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, minced
½-1 cup cheese of your choice (I like fresh mozzarella)
olive oil

Combine water and yeast in bowl. Mix in whole wheat flour, olive oil, salt and sugar. Add all purpose flour and knead 8-10 minutes. You may need ¼ cup less or more, so use your judgment. Place in greased bowl and allow to rise 1 hour. Pat and stretch to fill oiled jelly roll pan (approx 10×15 inches).  Drizzle oil on top of the dough and spread on garlic cloves. Place cheese (shredded or sliced) on dough and incorporate tomatoes, cut side up around the cheese. Sprinkle on basil leaves and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes.
 

 

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Homemade Pop Tarts

I hate pop tarts. They're slightly mushy and fake and gross. I just don't like them. I especially don't like generic pop tarts. At one point in my life I remember liking toaster strudels, but I think that was mostly because of the sweet icing. In fact, I think I would eat the icing packets and eventually toss the strudels. 

Anyway, several months ago I saw a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for homemade pop tarts – and I thought to myself, "those might be good!" I starred the post in google reader and decided to come back to it later. Now you probably know that I've got blueberries coming out my ears … and now I have blueberry spice jam coming out my ears. So what better to do with blueberry spice jam then make pop tarts?! Now let me preface that by saying that I had tons of things on my "to do list" for last night, such as: making more blueberry spice jam, making blackberry sauce, about 4 loads of laundry, and my kitchen floor is desperately in need of being cleaned. But instead, I decided to go with my feelings and throw together some pop tarts!

DSCN8301It is a pretty simple process if you aren't afraid of working with dough. Which you shouldn't be. Dough is nice. In fact, I sometimes eat dough. I know, thats weird. Anyway, you mix up your dough, divide it into two pieces, and roll them out into rectangles. Then you slice up each half into 9 equally sized pieces. 

DSCN8303The you brush on some egg which will make the pieces of dough stick together. A pastry bush is really helpful here, but you could use your fingers or a paper towel if you don't have one. 

DSCN8308The you put a dollop of jam on each piece (keeping it in the middle – you don't want that jam escaping!)

DSCN8306You put another piece of dough on top and seal it up! You'll want to poke holes in the top so steam can escape. I don't think my holes were deep or pronounced enough because I ended up with "billowy pillows instead of flat toaster pastries". 

DSCN8310Of course I had to get creative with some of the pastries. This one has a "W", and I made one with mountains!

DSCN8317And voila! Home made pop tarts! Matt sampled one straight out of the oven (which I wouldn't recommend because that hot oozing jam is just a recipe for disaster) and said that they tasted like pop tarts only better. I just finished eating two for breakfast. My verdict: absolutely tasty. 

You can find the complete recipe at Smitten Kitchen

P.S. – Did you notice the tablecloth I was using to roll out the dough? Well, my mom has quite a few red and white checkered tablecloths that my grandmother had used for years when rolling out dough. I had asked my mom for one several times, but I don't think she was ready to part with even a single one. Instead, she finally found one for me at a kitchen shop, and it works like a dream! So far I haven't had problems with pilling or lint. 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Granola Recipe

Did I mention that we've picked 30 quarts of blueberries the past few weeks? I think I have a time or two. You can read about my blueberry spice jam here. One of the ways we eat up fresh blueberries is with yogurt and granola. Now, most of you probably know that I am not a morning person – by any stretch of the imagination. Making it to work on time is a big deal, and we never make breakfast on weekday mornings, however by about 10 am, my stomach starts rumbling. Granola is about the easiest and quickest thing for me to throw in a jar before work and bring to the office. 

DSCN8090How simple and delicious does that look? I keep a big container of granola in the pantry, so all I have to do in the morning is scoop some into a jar, add berries, and grab yogurt out of the fridge. Matt doesn't mind his yogurt going into the granola at home … I prefer to add it when I'm ready to eat so the granola doesn't get soggy. I like to put it into a wide-mouth pint sized jar with the white plastic lids. Easy-peasy. 

P.S. – don't you love that framed bird artwork? Matt brought that back for me from his recent trip to Denver, CO, and I am just in love with it. 

This recipe originally was given to me by an inn owner in Valle Crucis, and I thought I had posted about our trip to the inn, but apparently I didn't because I can't find it. I'll have to do that soon, because it really is a fabulous place. So, with no further ado, here is my granola recipe adapted from the Inn at Little Pond Farm:

Granola

4 cups rolled oats

2 cups sliced or slivered almonds

½ cup coconut oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup honey

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup pecans

1 cup walnuts

½ cup sunflower seeds

¼ cup wheat germ

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix oats and almonds together. In a separate bowl, mix the
oil, honey, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Pour the wet mixture over the oat
mixture and stir to combine. Spread in thin layers on sheet pans and bake for
8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally and watch that it doesn’t burn.

Once the oat mixture has cooled, add cranberries, pecans,
walnuts, sunflower seeds and wheat germ. Store in an airtight container. 

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Blueberry Spice Jam

Sorry that the blog posts have been few and far between lately. We've been extremely busy the past two weeks, and I've been falling into bed exhausted at night. The blueberries have definitely been keeping me busy. 

DSCN8094Here is a picture of the lovely orchard where we go picking. Doesn't it just look so idyllic?

DSCN8101The bushes at the top are always more full with ripe berries because its quite a hike to get up there and not as many people make the venture.  

DSCN8103Can you believe all these ripe delicious berries?! They practically fall off the branches into the buckets. 

DSCN8104The frosted blue ones taste the best! It takes me about an hour to pick a 5 quart bucket, which costs $8! That makes it totally worth my time. 

So far, we've gone to the orchard twice and have picked more than 30 quarts. I'm sure you're asking yourself what someone does with that many berries … because I've been asking myself the same question lately! I've used 9 quarts for berries, frozen about 18 quarts, and we've eaten about 3. We've been making blueberry jam, blueberry waffles, blueberry muffins … and eating them by the fist full!

 
DSCN8197This is what my kitchen looks like when I tried to make jam for the first time. It was a total disaster. You can't see the countless berries that I spilled on the floor then accidently stepped on. So, be prepared to make a little mess if you're going to attempt the jam. 

DSCN8200Being my first time making jam and all, I had to figure out what was going to work best. I started out trying to use my food mill to crush the berries – turns out the berries were too big to fit well and just spun round and round the mill and made a really big mess.

DSCN8202Then I crushed them with my pastry blender. That was relatively effective, but my arm got pretty sore, and it took a long time. 

DSCN8220Then I had the genius idea to whip out my mini food processor. I had to do quite a few batches, but it was still much faster and much less messy than the other methods. 
 
DSCN8221This is the pectin I used to set the jam. It has instructions inside the box for making freezer jam and jelly as well as cooked jam and jelly. Thats how I learned, and my recipe below is an adaptation from Sure Jell. 

 
DSCN8222So I mixed the berries, sure jell, lemon juice and spices together and brought it to a rolling boil.

DSCN8225Then I mixed in the sugar and brought it to another rolling boil. I love how the color of the blueberry skin comes out when it cooks – its so beautiful and deep!

DSCN8226After you've cooked it, following the directions completely, lower it into your boiling water for the suggested time. 
 
DSCN8206And voila – blueberry spice jam! Only 1 of my jars didn't seal, and I was pleased with that for my first attempt. I've since made another 8 pints, and they all sealed!

DSCN8217The jam is fabulous on toast – in fact I ate 4 pieces of toast with blueberry spice jam for lunch yesterday!
 
 
 
 

Blueberry Spice Jam

*adapted from Sure
Jell

 

4 cups crushed blueberries

4 cups sugar

1 box pectin

juice from 1 ½ lemons (approx 3 tablespoons)

3 teaspoons cinnamon

¾ teaspoon nutmeg

 

1.    
Bring boiling water canner, half-full with
water, to simmer.

2.    
Wash jars and screw bands in hot, soapy water;
rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the
heat. Let stand in how water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

3.    
Crush berries, one cup at a time. If using food
processor, pulse to chop, do not puree. Jam should have bits of fruit.

4.    
Measure exact amount of blueberries into 6-8
quart saucepot. Stir in lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pectin.

5.    
Measure exact amount of sugar into separate
bowl.

6.    
Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat,
stirring constantly (boil doesn’t stop when stirred).

7.    
Stir in sugar quickly. Return to full rolling
boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim
off any foam.

8.    
Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to
within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads and cover with two piece
lids. Screw bands tightly, and place jars on elevated rack in canner. Water
must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; addd boiling water if needed. Cover and bring
water to gentle boil. Process jam 10 minutes* Remove jars and place upright on
a towl to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of
lid with finger. If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is
necessary.

9.    
Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Store
unopened jams in cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year. Refrigerate opened
jams up to 3 weeks.

 

*Adjust processing time according to altitude

  • ·     
    1,001-3,000 feet – additional 5 minutes
  • ·     
    3,001-6,000 feet – additional 10 minutes
  • ·     
    6,001-8,000 feet – additional 15 minutes
  • ·     
    8,001-10,000 feet – additional 20 minutes

 

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