I love nut butter – peanuts? yes please! almond? Over here! But I recently tried making a batch of pecan and a batch of walnut. Now the big decision, is which nut butter to spread on my toast?
Nut butters are very easy to make at home and are a sure fire way for you to know EXACTLY was is in (or not) your spread. Nuts and a pinch of salt (if you like). Get a bit crazy and whirl in some honey.
What you need
Raw or roasted nuts
Food processor, spatula
about 10 – 15 minutes
Maybe ear plugs if your food processor sounds like a jet engine (as does mine – since upgraded)
Put the nuts, whole is fine, into the food processor.
Turn on the food processor and let it whirl, swirl and pulverize away.
You likely need to stop it every few minutes to scrape down the sides.
Keep processing until it is the consistency you desire. Plan on about 10 minutes but watch as each nut and batch size will vary.
Add a pinch of salt, mix it in. Taste and add more if you like.
Scoop into containers, maybe enjoy a spoonful.
Nut butters keep just fine in a jar at room temperature. I made sure when filling the container to push out air bubbles.
Almond butter is a staple, the walnut was good but I think next time i will roast the walnuts first as there was a slight bitterness. Pecan butter was the big surprise – it becomes spreadable really quickly (compared to almonds) and the taste has a lot more depth. After it sat for a few days some of the oil separated, which i poured off (you don’t have too), but it was still perfectly spreadable.
Sunshine strawberry oven jam comes to us from the Small Batch Preserving book. The “sunshine” comes in as reference to the throwback process of placing the cooked berries out in the sun for several days to evaporate the liquid and thicken up the jam. I can only imagine the bugs, primarily bees in my yard, that would be highly interested in supervising the process. Good thing you can use the oven instead, with convection as a bonus option. Feel free to use lemon juice or balsamic vinegar in the recipe. However, the balsamic brightens up the flavor (perhaps the new “sunshine”?) but is not overpowering in this recipe’s ratio. I was able to make this 100% organic – look for quality berries, organic cane sugar and I even found some certified organic vinegar.
8 cups of halved or quartered (if larger) strawberries
4 cups sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (get a good one) or lemon juice.
Combine berries and sugar in a large sauce or preserving pan. Let them sit and mingle (aka macerate) for 2 hours. Wander by and stir it every so often.
Add vinegar and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and boil gently for about 10 minutes, stirring.
Pour into two 13×9 or jelly roll pans and place in oven at 170 F. If you can go lower in temperature, do it! I lined my pans with parchment paper for easier clean up. Bake until the mixture thickens up and forms a gel (use your standard preserving tests). This will take about 10 hours with a regular oven and 3-4 hours with convection. Do not try to cram it all in one pan…… trust me. Stir every so often.
Ladle into prepared glass jars ( ½ inch headspace, hot, sterilized, ready to go) and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. You could also freeze or eat it all in one sitting.
Makes about 4 cups. I left my berries in larger pieces and did not crush or blend them up. The berries will break down and spread, despite being whole. I also found that as I filled the jars, I wanted to put more fruit in and less liquid…. So I did. I reserved the remaining liquid and am using it as syrup.
You can add fresh herbs to the jars before processing. Mint, basil or thyme would be delightful.
Serve on a spoon, yogurt, ice cream, bread or cheesecake.
No, this recipe does not turn a quart of berries into 264,000 feet of fruit leather. And yes, it is just fine if your fruit leather is not uber local, I just put in a little extra effort, by picking the organic strawberries and harvesting the honey from my backyard. Actually, the challenge and truth of 100 mile or 50 mile cooking is valiant, yet sobering for sure, and something everyone should try. This wholesome DIY “rollup of fruit” recipe is easy with no funky additives, three ingredients: fruit, honey and water. If you do not have honey handy, sugar would work just fine or you might not need at all.
Pure Berry Roll-Ups (adapted from S. Vinton’s Put Em Up)
4 – 5 cups berries, any kind or combination, washed and dried
½ cup water
¼ cup honey or sugar or less or skip
Combine berries and water in large sauce or fry pan and bring to a boil. If using strawberries, you will need to hull them. Here is my simple method.
Turn down the heat and simmer until the berries start break down. This does not take too long, maybe 5-10 minutes, they are berry delicate.
Puree, mash, blend or strain the fruit if you like. This will remove seeds etc. I didn’t do anything extra, just left it a bit “rustic”.
Simmer the berry slurry until it thickens up to honey-like consistency.
Meanwhile, heat your oven to 170 F. If you have a convection oven, feel free to use it. This will speed up the process a bit. This would work in a toaster oven as well, albeit the batch would have to be smaller. Of course, this will work in a food dehydrator. I am trying to avoid accumulating one, however.
Pour the berry slurry into a jelly pan lined with parchment paper (go well up and over the sides) and spread evenly.
Place pan in the oven and dry for about two hours until tacky to the touch. Do not over dry or the leather will be brittle.
When done, remove the pan and slide the parchment paper with fruit leather onto a cooling rack. Let it cool to room temperature, 10-20 minutes.
Trim off the extra paper on the side, but do not unwrap. Roll the sheet up and then cut with a knife or scissors into 1-2 inch sections.
Store in an airtight container or refrigerator, if it lasts that long. I think I might also trying cutting with cookie cutters for a playful snack and definitely will be trialing this with other fruits.
Once you try the pairing of balsamic vinegar and strawberry, your life may never be the same. Strawberry Balsamic sauce is simple and versatile. The best part (other than flay-vore) is that at the end of the recipe you actually end up with two products: the chunky fruit sauce and the strained strawberry vinegar. The fruit sauce is amazing on cheesecake, ice cream, biscuits or with a nice cheese. Feel free to dribble dabble the strawberry vinegar as a salad dressing or as an addition to a fine olive oil for dipping, among many sweet and savory applications.
Balsamic Strawberry Sauce
4 – 5 cups hulled and halved (unless small) strawberries
¾ cup balsamic vinegar (don’t go cheap)
½ – 1 cup honey (or sugar if you like)
Combine the balsamic vinegar and half of the honey in a sauce pan.
Heat to a boil then simmer until reduced by about 25%. This might take 10 minutes or so. Stir periodically.
Add in the berries and simmer again for 30-60 minutes. This will help the berries break down and more of the vinegar tang dissipate.
Near the end, taste your sauce and if you want sweeter, add more honey. Stir to combine.
After nice and simmered and thickened up a bit, you could mash the berries with a potato masher, if you want. Or just leave whole – they are probably falling apart by now anyways
Pour the sauce through a sieve/fine wire colander with a bowl underneath to catch most of the liquid. Let it sit and drain for a bit.
Once the sauce has drained, it is ready to serve. If for some odd reason, any remains, you can store in refrigerator or freeze for a future date. You could also process in a hot water bath and preserve it for the long haul (~ 10 minutes, following good canning practices)
Pour the remaining strawberry vinegar into a jar. This can be stored in the fridge. I put half away in the freezer.
Makes about 2 cups of sauce and 1 cup of vinegar
Cheesecake with Balsamic Strawberry Sauce
Amazingly good, not complicated and well worth the from scratch effort. Besides a homemade cheesecake really is the most respectful thing you can do for the strawberry sauce after all. Thank you to Tyler Florence and the Food Network. Here is the link to their recipe. No sense in me repeating this one…. I made it as directed, save for the sauce. The cinnamon in the crust is a must and be sure to choose a good full fat cream cheese and sour cream – none of that fake low fat business. Mine turned out a bit yellow, because my hen’s eggs have such vibrant yolks.
Sure, I could have titled this post Strawberry Fields Forever, but it just seems so obvious… I recently was unsupervised out at Bolles Farm, near Monroe Washington, (aka berry picking with a group of co-workers sans hubs) and returned with sixteen pounds of organic strawberries. Sure two of them were “for the MIL” but the rest were for mi casa. Besides, I have a new canning book to try out: Topp & Howards: Small-Batch Preserving and a hankering for balsamic strawberry anything. Note: this post is “nothing to get hung about”(double pun) but stay tuned for each of the tastelicious recipes. Scroll down to enjoy some snapshots and learn a simple DIY strawberry hulling hack that will make life infinitely easier and save you $6.29. What is U-Pick Strawberries all about? My partner in jam-crime crafted the perfect post about it…..
Preparing the Harvest Plan
Frozen Whole Berries: Three gallons of whole washed berries tucked away in the deep freeze for the dark winter months. Wash, pat dry, place in a single layer on a cookie sheet covered with wax or parchment papers. After a few hours in the freezer, you can lump them into larger ziplock bags, without fear of creating a berry brick
For a quick, no-new-gadget-please technique to hull strawberries quickly, use a plastic drinking straw. Simply poke the straw from the tip of the berry all the way through, popping the green top right off. Yep, that’s it. Don’t bother buying a fancy strawberry huller or toiling with a paring knife. You just toss the straw when you are done!
Fresh ricotta cheese is nothing to fear. Very little investment in terms of money, time and emotion, yet pays in spades with pride, flavor and possibility! If you haven’t made your own ricotta yet, here is one approach that I recently shared. Ricotta is incredibly versatile, from plain to savory to sweet recipes. I pinned quite a few ideas on my Say Cheese! board, so check them out and share your favorites. For this strawberry tart inspired by bell’ alimento, I actually didn’t have a tart pan and used a pie plate, which worked just fine, just adjust the crust height. Next time I might use ramekins for mini versions or just acquire myself a nice proper tart.
¼ to 1/2 cup honey (Are you feeling more sweet or less sweet?)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 small to medium lemon – zested
1 pound strawberries – topped and sliced to about ¼ thick, could also mix in blueberries for a more patriotic version
Powdered sugar to dust on top
1 premade pie crust, get crazy and try a chocolate one, graham cracker crust would be tasty too.
Mint or basil for garnish
Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees.
Unroll or defrost (or however you need to get your premade crust read). Be sure to prick with a fork about 6 times, to minimize it puffing up. Bake just the crust in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool while you make the filling and slice the berries.
Into a large mixing bowl combine the ricotta, egg yolks, honey, vanilla extract and lemon or citrus zest. Mix together with a spatula or whisk to combine.
Pour your filling into prebaked crust.
Bake the tart for approximately 30 minutes OR until center is just set and it begins to ever so slightly brown. If it puffs up when cooking do not worry. When you remove it from the over poke it once with a toothpick and it should settle back down.
Place the pan on a wire cooling rack and let it cool down before placing the fruit on top.
Arrange the sliced strawberries to your liking. Dust with powdered sugar. Maybe top with a sprig of mint or basil if you have any.
This is quite easy an easy recipe, that will fool many of your friends! Enjoy.
I’ve decided to no longer use boxed cake mixes, or at least not keep them in my pantry (caveat presented later). Ditto for canned frosting (it’s not as good anyways). Last week I finished, K. Flinn’s Kitchen Counter Cooking School, in which she presents straight forward food, eating and cooking advice. One chapter addresses cake mixes: presents history, breaks down the façade of time savings and ties it up with a bow noting that nostalgia and warm fuzzies outweighs the harm. Love confetti cakes? Then make it. So, what drove me to this choice? Without referring back to the book for the specs, here is what was in my mind yesterday:
Wait! I still have to add three ingredients to the mix? A recipe from scratch doesn’t have much more.
It doesn’t take much more time
Lots more sugar, but from scratch is all ingredients you have on hand
Almost creepy long list of ingredients in the box, too many syllables
Unfortunately, this decision has put one of my go to cook books at odds. I love and am slowly working through the KCCS book, and while a new addition, see it hanging around and influencing for quite some time. In contrast, my well-loved Cake Mix Doctor cookbook isn’t going to get as much action. While sad, I carefully crafted my proclamation that cake mixes would not be in my pantry – this allows me the wiggle room to buy a mix for a specific Cake Mix Doctor recipe (note these have often have quite a few steps and additions). There are some yummy ones and while I am sure I can make from scratch, I do like the results. I may try modifying a scratch cake to fit the Doctor’s orders……
I also love making cake mixes in Mason Jars and as gifts. Note Exhibit A: Bridal Shower party favors
To honor the long-live cake mix (both in shelf stability and time on earth, more than 60 years) and clean out a few things for the last time, I decided to make a boysenberry chocolate cake. Game plan: mix about ¼ cup jam into mix and then spread a layer in between 8 inch rounds, frost and top with M&Ms (new flavor: raspberry chocolate discovered in LV airport). Instead of flouring to prep the pan, I used cocoa powder, to add chocolate flavor but also avoid white gunk on a chocolate cake. Worked like a charm!
Cake turned out fine (nothing too special) but while making the cake (destined for somewhere else) and slicing the layers to make flat, I was inspired and, frankly, more excited about the remnants. Thinking about all the berries in the fridge and sudden overwhelming desire to make trifle, I did.
A trifle is a god send for any failed cake, cake chunks, store bought angel food cake, frozen pound cakes etc… I found a few recipes out there and mixed them together based on what I had lingering around the kitchen and came up with what I will call: Balsamic Strawberry Chocolate Trifle. I wouldn’t get too hung up on if you have enough of this and that, just taste the creamy part, taste the saucy part and layer away. Think about other add-ins to make it stretch.
Not enough strawberries? Add other berries, like blackberries (I did).
Ran out of yogurt and cream cheese layer (or didn’t have any to start)? Use cool whip, whipped cream, just yogurt or vanilla ice-cream.
Not a lot of cake? Just use more of everything else or maybe sneak some Nilla wafers in or something.
Needs some more sauce? Try liquor, thinned out jam, thickened juice etc…
Balsamic Strawberry Chocolate Trifle
8×8 pan batch chocolate cake or brownies, angel food cake, pound cake, cookies etc. [or whatever amount you had, I ended up with about this much after flattening the two 8 inch round pans for the two layer cake.
Strawberries, sliced [not scientific – use more, less, add other fruit] and some just quartered for eventual puree
½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract for yogurt, cream cheese filling
1 – 2 cups plain Greek yogurt[I used my homemade yogurt, sour cream or cool-whip would work just fine. I think you could use a berry or honey flavored yogurt here too without much impact, given that it matches final flavor profile]
8 ounces cream cheese, softened[about a 1:2 ratio with yogurt – I only had 4 ounces, and used 1 cup yogurt, was a little short but no big gig]
⅓ cup sugar[granulated, or I think powdered would work fine too] for cream filling & ¼ cup granulated sugar for puree
1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
2 tablespoons orange juice[fresh squeezed or out of your favorite carton]
1 tsp balsamic vinegar[don’t have any? Don’t worry, it will be fine without it]
2 tsp cornstarch plus 2 tablespoons tap cold water to make a paste
Mint leaves for garnish[totally optional, but pretty, I didn’t have any]
Slice cake or brownies into cubes, not too small that they crumble (1-2 inch). Or just break it up into chunks with your hands!
Cream yogurt, softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Chill until ready to use if you want. I didn’t.
In a small sauce pan, combine strawberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice and balsamic vinegar and bring to a simmer. You could add liquor here (Cointreau anyone?)
Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 15 minutes to thicken, but watch because it bubbles up real quick
Whisk cornstarch with cold water in a small bowl. Mix cornstarch mixture with strawberry mixture and continue to cook for 3-5 minutes. Or add liquor here…
Remove from heat and let the puree cool.
To puree: mash with potato masher or put in blender and blend on high until smooth. But why mess up the blender?
Stop and assess the quantities of the main layer ingredients: cake, sliced berries, berry puree, yogurt cream sauce.
Select your vessels: big bowl? Trifle stand? Individual glasses? Whatever, just make it something clear.
Plan your attack to divee out.
To assemble trifles, start with a layer of cake chunks. Next, add a layer of sliced strawberries and spoon over some yogurt cream. Drizzle some strawberry puree. Repeat this layering until it is all used up.
Top with powdered sugar, ice cream, mint, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, reduced balsamic vinegar or all of the above, if desired. Don’t forget that you can really get away with just about anything in a trifle….
I hadn’t planned on blogging this so no step by step but here is the final product. Talk about how to win friends and influence people (and clean out the fridge)!
Adapted from epicurious.com, allrecipes.com, bouillie.us and my taste bud reference lab. Thank you to the cake mix for making extra and my fridge for having some inspiring ingredients, but not quite enough of any, forcing me to be creative.