Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Spruce Tip Jelly

Have I mentioned I love PBS?  Great programming where you can learn something.  Best of all you don't have to be bombarded with commercials, sexual talk at early hours while the children are watching or lots of violence.

I was watching Kitchen Vignettes online and saw this video about Spruce Tip Jelly.  What a great idea.  I have spruce in my backyard.  I love the idea that they can give us food.  Did you know spruce tips are packed with Vitamin C.  Yes!  I am making this.

Spring came, I was armed and ready to do this jelly. I read online that it would taste like grapefruit, citrusy.  You do add quite a bit of lemon and of course you do taste that but there is another flavor that comes through.  I am not sure what I would compare it to, maybe grapefruit no matter, I love the flavor. My husband loved it on his pancakes!

If you want to make this jelly, you will need to do a little research about the kind of tree you have access to to make it.  You don't want to use an Alberta Domesticated Spruce.  So here at Michigan State University is where I did my research.  Apparently different conifers have different flavors.  I found information on those through The Splendid Table and The Examiner.

I could not find Pomona's Pectin so I used regular powder pectin.  I ended up with a soft set.  Which is okay because I probably will use it for a glaze for meat. But then it is pretty good on pancakes. You may have to experiment with pectin to get the set you want.  If you don't mind more sugar in your jelly and want to use regular powder pectin, refer to this recipe at The Last Frontier.  Or you can order the Pomona's Pectin.  I am sure you could get it online.

This recipe is my adaptation of her recipe.  I ended up with six pints.

6 cups spruce tips
6 cups water
3 cups cane sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
packet of dry powder pectin

Take all the little yellow hulls off the Spruce tips.
  Chop Spruce tips.  Place in stock pot and bring to a boil.

Let it boil hard for three minutes.

Then let it sit until it reaches room temperature.  I let it sit longer, like about four hours.

Strain the Spruce tips, reserving the liquid.  Place back in clean stock pot and add the lemon juice. Bring to a boil.  Once it is boiling add in liquid pectin or a 1/2 cup sugar mixed with powder pectin. Bring back to a boil. Let boil for a full minute.  Turn off heat.  At this point you can test the set by using a very cold spoon.  Put a couple drops of the liquid jelly on to the spoon.  If ti thickens then you will have thickened jelly.  If not, you probably are not going to have a good set.

Ladle jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight. Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude if need be. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.  If they do go up and down when pressed store in refrigerator and use it up.  If the lid is depressed and stays depressed then it is properly sealed.  You can store it in a cool, dry and dark place.  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Eggplant Chickpea Curry

School is winding down, soon the kids will be off and we will be running around.  I keep the kids as busy as possible.  It keeps them from fighting and it keeps their minds fresh and hopefully learning new things and experiencing new things.  We do save some days for the week for cleaning and other chores.  I do can and freeze with the various harvests and then of course the big one when they are back in school in the Fall.  Next one coming up is strawberries and that is when I do my strawberry freezer jam.  Everyone loves it.

Eggplant is one vegetable I like but am at a loss a lot of times on what to do with it.  Usually I just roast it and salt it and eat it.  Or I roast it and make baba ganoush.  Those are pretty much my go to dishes for eggplant.  In the summer when it is all over the market, I make this, my canned eggplant. An old Italian recipe, not for the faint of heart with canning because the Food and Drug Administration would probably say that the way I can it is unsafe...  Besides that I never know what to do with it so I started a list of recipes for eggplant.  This recipe here will be one of them.  It is so good.  With fresh eggplant it will be even better.

Eggplant Chickpea Curry
If cilantro isn't your thing add parsley but add it in the beginning with the tomatoes.

1 large eggplant, skinned and cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper seeded and diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon asafetida (or 1 clove garlic, pressed)
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted preferred)
2 teaspoons minced ginger root
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 15-ounce can (or 2 cups) cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 cup minced parsley or cilantro

Saute onion and pepper in butter, once translucent add in cumin seeds.  Cook one minute more.  Now add the remainder of ingredients except for the cilantro.   Cook for 20 minutes.   Add in cilantro after you remove the curry from the heat.

Friday, June 17, 2016


I planted my garden last weekend.  I put in a new garden bed.  I used cinder blocks all around instead of the wood this time.  I planted my marigolds in the holes that are in the cinder blocks.  I really like it.  Next year, I will make it longer.  After hauling cinder blocks back and forth from the Home Improvement store, I was at my limit.  Those blocks are heavy.  I could only transport so many at a time since they are so heavy and really weigh down the car.  Its been such a good work out though! Just in case you were wondering like me, a cinder blocks weighs 28 pounds.

Limes Away!  I love limes.  And usually the only time I drink lime juice is when I am having a margarita.  Why just in margaritas?  Of course, juice.  Enter Serious Eats.  Have I mentioned I love Serious Eats?

Recipe from Serious Eats, adapted to my taste. You can also use this as your base for margaritas or use it in mojitos. 

14 limes
1 cup sugar


1.  Cut and squeeze juices out of limes, reserving the rinds.
2.  Refrigerate juice.
3.  Cut lime rinds into smaller pieces, pour sugar over limes.  Stir a few times over the next hour.
4.  Let rinds and sugar sit for 12 hours unrefrigerated with a cover on top.
5.  Pour juice over the rinds and drain off into storage container.  This is your concentrate.
6.  Put water in bowl with rinds and mix up trying to get any remaining juice and sugar off rinds.
7.  Drain into juice pitcher.
8.  Add more concentrate if needed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Poached Rhubarb With Pancakes

Do you know who Donal Skehan is?  I love that guy!  He is so vibrant and full of energy. He really is intoxicating.  If you are in a blah mood, listen to Donal and you will be rejuvenated.  At least I am. He has tons of amazing food videos.  He did live in Ireland but recently moved to LA to be on Food Network.
Here is one of his recipes.  The flavors are unique in this one.  Star anise, pistachio, mint...

His recipes cover everything from the every day, comfort food to ethnic food ( a man after my own heart, because that is exactly how I cook).  The recipes he fixed here is a takeoff from a restaurant in Ireland.  I decided to give it a go.  I did not have semolina so I made my normal pancakes. My recipe for the pancakes below.

Poached Rhubarb
Adapted from this recipe by Donal Skehan

about 10 stalks of rhubarb, small to normal size
juice of two oranges
skin of 1 orange without the pith
2 star anise
1/4 cup candied ginger

In a 9 x 13 pan mix together juice of two oranges and honey until honey is dissolved.   Wash and clean stalks and cut into 3 inch pieces.  Lay down in the pan.   Place orange skins, ginger and star anise into pan.

Serve with pancakes.  I place some candied ginger, chopped mint leaves and pistachios over top along with some of the juice.  Spoon some rhubarb next to the pancakes.


2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
3 to 4 cups buttermilk, depending on the thickness
1 egg

Stir the dry ingredients together and then pour in the buttermilk and the egg.  You want the pancake batter to be about the consistency of ketchup- a thicker style ketchup.  Pourable but not runny.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Vanilla Donuts

June 3rd is National Donut Day.  I have some sweet little donuts to share with you.

I had them glazed for my children and added some of these cute little flowers sprinkled all over top.  However, as morning progressed the glaze was absorbed but I have to say they were just as delicious.  I had mine with tea in the afternoon.  Morning and sugar do not go together for me, save for a little in my coffee.

For the glaze, I added some strawberry flavoring.  You can flavor it any way you see fit though.  The nutmeg that is in the recipe really helps out.  I think it boosts vanilla flavor.  A 1/4 teaspoon is just enough to give you a hint rather than overpowering it with nutmeg flavor.

I have to tell you that every time I look at the picture above I want to glaze those donuts.

Vanilla Mini Donuts
These donuts are not real sweet.  Which is good but if you want to amp up the sweetness, then glaze them.  See recipe below.

2 2/3 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk*
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup oil
glaze (optional)

Mix dry ingredients: flour , baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, sugar.  Set aside.

Mix wet ingredients:  melted butter, oil, vanilla extract and eggs.  Mix the wet into the dry and stir just until combined.

Spoon into greased donut sheet and bake.  I made mine in a Baby Cakes machine.  I spooned heaping tablespoons into the little wells.

Glaze while warm.  To make glaze combined confectioners sugar, about 2 cups, a tablespoon of milk and whatever flavoring you desire.  Add more confectioners sugar or liquid to make a runny mixture that you can drizzle over top of donuts.

*You can substitute the buttermilk with a 3/4 cup milk and 1/2 cup sour cream or a 3/4 cup milk and 1/2 cup yogurt.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


Seriously, decadent tiramisu.  Love this video.  This guy, Cracker Jack, does a great job walking you through the process of making tiramisu.  Check it out here.

Classic Tiramisu
I made a few adaptations based on what I had around.  I dont mind using cream cheese instead of mascarpone because the tang balances out sweetness for me, so I dont mind at all. I have used mascarpone in the past.  In the end there is not much a difference to me.

6 ounces water
2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
50 mL Frangelico Liquor
6 large yolks
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces cream cheese, room temp
1 -2 packages Lady Fingers (depends how many are in the one you are using.  This large pack pictured below, which happens to be my favorite, is more than enough.  I used a little over half the package.  There are about 14 Ladyfingers per level.)

I used Frangelico instead of Kahlua because it was what I had but I don't mind the coffee and hazelnut combination one bit.

Start with a 9 x 9 pan.

In a bowl, mix boiling water with espresso powder, stir to dissolve.  Add in liquor.

In a double boiler mix egg yolks, milk with sugar and whisk constantly until it is thickened and creamy.  Set aside to cool.

Once it is cooled completely, beat the cream cheese a little just to lighten it up.  Hand stir the cooled egg mixture into the cream cheese and mix completely.  Whip the heavy cream in a separate bowl and fold into egg/cream cheese mixture.

Dip the ladyfingers into the espresso liquid mixture for a few seconds.  Lay into pan covering the bottom equally.  Lay 1/2 of the cream mixture over top.  Add second layer of lady fingers, dipped the same way and push them into the cream just a little.  Finally, the last of the cream.

Chill for at least 8 hours but even better overnight.

Cut into squares and put on plates.  Sprinkle the top with cocoa.