Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (Pectin-Free)

StrawberryRhubarbJam

This past weekend I made my very first batch of Pectin-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.  Who knew making jam could be so easy?  I researched a few recipes online and what I was most shocked to see was the amount of sugar all of these recipes called for.  I knew the recipe would need some sugar but I felt 6 cups of sugar is WAY too much.  Fruit is sweet enough in my opinion and although rhubarb is a bit tart I did not see a reason for that much sweetener.  So needless to say, I created my own jam recipe and cut back on the sugar.  I think this jam has the perfect amount of sweetness.

I cannot tell you how excited I am to have made my first batch of jam.  I want to scream it from the Rocky Mountain tops!  Hah!  Let me explain.  Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of moving to the country and making jam.  I remember how this dream was born as if it were yesterday.  I was about 10 years old, sitting on the couch in my childhood home watching a new comedy that had just been released on VHS.  Yup, I said VHS.  For those young readers, these were the clunky rectangular tapes (or Video Home Systems) that we used to watch movies on before there were DVD’s. I feel so old.

Anyway, the movie was Baby Boom staring Diane Keaton (circa 1987).  Those of you who are unfamiliar with this film it is about a busy executive woman who inherits a toddler from a cousin who had passed away.   This woman eventually gives in to all the new challenges that come along with a child, leaves her busy life in the city and moves to Vermont.  She begins making her own gourmet baby food and, once again, becomes a successful woman selling her “Country Baby” food.  She falls in love with her new life, who she has become and her adopted daughter.  It’s a sweet story.

I remember thinking as I sat in our living room,  “One day, I am going to move to the country and make my own jam.”  Babies and baby food certainly were not on my mind at that age.  Who knew I would actually be doing it!  I too, love what I do, where I live and adore my boy more than words could express.  I find it funny I haven’t thought about this childhood dream until the moment I tasted this delicious jam.  All of a sudden my heart became warm and filled with this loving and comfortable feeling.  A feeling that things are all good.  Like a hug.  It was that same feeling I had when I first had this dream.  Life is pretty cool like that.

This recipe yields 4 4-ounce jars.

The Ingredients:

2 1/2 c rhubarb, cut into 1/2 in pieces
1 1/2 c strawberries, quartered
1/2 c organic sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Place the rhubarb and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Let it sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.  The sugar will draw the moisture out of the vegetable and you will have a bit of liquid in the pot.  Next add the strawberries and lemon.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to medium-high for 20-25 minutes.  Stir often to avoid burning.  The mixture will soften and thicken.

StrawberryRhubarbJamMax

Pour jam into 4 sterile 4-ounce mason jars and place the lids on.  Once the jam is cool place in the refrigerator it will last up to 2-3 months.  Note: I did not properly seal these jars because the jam will be used within 3 months.

*If you prefer to make a large quantity you can follow these canning technique from Ball.  When properly preserved the jam will keep for up to a year if stored in a cool dry place.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Peanut Butter

PeanutButter

Where have you been?  Some of you have been inquiring of my whereabouts.  Well the truth is, my little guy has made the transition from two naps to one and as a result it really messed with my schedule.  At first, I was really excited for this new change but had put little thought into how it would affect my day-to-day.  It certainly threw me for a loop.  I was missing meals and some days would spend his nap eating way too much because I hadn’t had a chance to take a bite of anything.  Well, thankfully I have finally adjusted to his new schedule and am happy to report, I am back!

I have also been busy in the kitchen coming up with new recipes and am really excited to share some of my creations with you.  In the meantime, I am sharing with you this simple Homemade Peanut Butter.  I make this about every two weeks.  Between the three of us, we blow through our Homemade Peanut Butter pretty quickly.

PeanutButter1

The Ingredients:

1 lb unsalted, roasted peanuts (that’s it!)

Place peanuts in a high-speed blender.  I typically run the blender on low so the nuts evenly become a fine powder.  Then I turn the blender up until the peanut butter is creamy.

Store it in a mason jar for up to a month.  I store mine in the refrigerator but a cool, dry place works too.

Enjoy!

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Sazon

Sazon

Sazon is a seasoning blend used in many Spanish and Mexican dishes.  It is a key ingredient in my delicious Spanish Rice and Beans recipe (the recipe is coming soon).  If you had seen my last blog entry you are already aware of my struggle to find Sofrito when we first moved to Colorado.  Well, Sazon was equally as difficult to track down.  I had already  mastered making the Sofrito from scratch and had made spice blends before.  So I figured, how hard could it be to recreate Sazon?  Actually, it was a little more difficult than I had anticipated.  When you are mixing your own spices there is no going back.  I attempted this Sazon several times before needing some assistance.  I decided to search the internet.  I stumbled upon an extremely simple recipe from food.com.  It was perfect, I just altered the salt a bit.

The Ingredients:

1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt

Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until blended well.  Place in airtight container and store in cabinet along with your other spices.  1 1/2 tsp of this Sazon equals an envelope.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Sofrito

Sofrito

Sofrito is a sauce used as a base in a lot of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American cooking.  I love the stuff.  It is such a great ingredient to have on hand and best of all it freezes well.  I make this Homemade Sofrito every couple of months.  You can always find it in my freezer.  I like to make it in large quantities and freeze it in ice-cube trays.  This way I always have a perfect one ounce cube measured out and it is so easy to add when I am cooking.

When we were living in New Jersey, I would make Spanish Rice and Bean often.  When we moved to Colorado I quickly learned that Sofrito and Sazon were not easy ingredients to find.  I had gone from store to store searching for this stuff and every time coming up empty-handed. Finally, I decided to just make it myself.  Fresh is always better!  It may take a bit longer but the difference in taste is certainly worth the extra time spent in the kitchen.

The Ingredients:

2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 onions, chopped
1/2 head garlic, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, dried (if fresh, 1/2 bunch, chopped)

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend.  The consistency you are looking for is slightly chunky.  Pour the mixture into ice-cube trays and freeze.

Frozen Sofrito

I use about 2 – 3 cubes when making my Spanish Rice and Beans (recipe coming soon).

Enjoy!

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Dairy-Free Spinach Pesto

Dairy-Free Spinach Pesto

Pesto can be used is so many different dishes.  For some reason, I have always thought very highly of pesto.  It always seemed like a “fancy” sauce to me.  Maybe because as a kid, I did not really care for it and it was something only the adults would eat.

Since then, I have grown to love pesto.  You can change-up the leafy greens and make all different types of pesto like, spinach, arugula or dandelion greens.  Who would have thought this bright and beautiful sauce is so versatile and easy to make.  This Dairy-Free Spinach Pesto is a delicious spin on the original Basil and Parmesan pesto.

The Ingredients:

3 c spinach, packed
4 garlic cloves
1/2 c pine nuts
1/2 c parmesan
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
pepper to taste

Place all ingredients (except olive oil) in food processor and start blending.  While the ingredients are blending, slowly pour olive oil into food processor.  Once everything is mixed well.  Transfer to an airtight container until you are ready to use.  It is that easy!

*Note: This recipe can usually yield two main pesto dishes.  So, I typically split this batch in half and freeze what I do not use.

Enjoy!

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Dairy-Free, Soy-Free Spinach “Ricotta Cheese”

Dairy-Free, Soy-Free Spinach "Ricotta Cheese"

Growing up in an Italian household, ricotta cheese is just as important as Parmesan.  When I gave up dairy and soy I was certain dishes like Lasagna, Stuffed Shells and Baked Ziti were meals I would not get to enjoy again.  Most dairy-free ricotta cheese recipes you find are made with tofu.  So you could just imagine my excitement when I finally mastered this Dairy-Free, Soy-Free Spinach “Ricotta Cheese.”

This past Christmas we traveled to the east coast to celebrate the holidays my family.   Everyone made a dish to bring to Christmas dinner.  I made a Vegan Baked Ziti with this “ricotta cheese”.  It was an exciting opportunity to test out my creation on the family.  To be honest, I was a little nervous.  Most of my family members cook very well and those who do not, eat very well.  My dad and brother teased me (as they often do) for making a “Cheese” out of nuts.   The moment of truth came, everyone took a scoop and politely gave it a try.  My sister-in-law (longtime vegetarian) raved about it.  Everyone else at the table said they really liked it.  The Ziti was a success!  It was wonderful to see I was able to please the taste buds of non-vegans.  Stay tuned for more recipes including this “ricotta cheese.”

The Ingredients:

2 1/2 c cashews (soaked)
1 c pine nuts
1/4 c lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
6 oz vegan cream cheese
1/2 c water
5 oz spinach

Soak cashews for at least 4 hours or until soft.

Place all ingredients in the food processor.  Blend until smooth and creamy.  Store in airtight container  up to 5 days.

Enjoy!

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Creamy Homemade Almond Butter

Almond Butter

Almond butter is so good for you and incredibly easy to make at home.  My husband and I did not get into nut butters until we moved to Colorado.  We liked peanut butter.  You know the kind where peanuts are not the only ingredient and the amount of sugar and sodium per serving is a little outrageous.  We had no idea that almond, cashew or sun butters even existed, let alone how tasty they are.  Once we came to know these butters, we fell in love.  Actually, one of the reasons we purchased a Vitamix was to make our own smooth and creamy nut butters.

We all know almonds are amazing for us but do we really know why?  Out of all the nuts out there, almonds are the best. Here is a little refresher as to why these little guys are all the rage.

Almonds:

  • are good for the heart, reduces risk of heart disease, regulates blood pressure
  • helps in brain development and function
  • helps lower cholesterol, control blood sugar
  • rich in antioxidants
  • rich in vitamins and minerals: calcium, copper, vitamin E, vitamin B2, magnesium, zinc
  • healthy fats and fiber, lowers risk of weight gain, alkalizes the body
  • great for your nervous system
  • boosts energy and mood

Go nuts!

The Ingredients:

2 c almonds (yup, that’s it.)

*note – when buying almonds to make butter, I usually buy the almond pieces.  They are less expensive and the nuts are going in the blender anyway.  No need to spend the extra $2 for the pretty whole nut.

Place almonds in Vitamix or food processor and blend until butter-like consistency.

I like to leave my almond butter out at room temperature for a couple of days so the oil has a chance to surface.  Then I store it in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

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Vegan Parmesan

Vegan Parmesan

Parmesan is one of those foods you use in a variety of dishes.  So who would have thought making it could be so easy?  Just 3 ingredients!  Cashews, nutritional yeast, and salt.  Easy right?

For those of you who are not familiar with nutritional yeast, let me tell you a little about it.  Nutritional yeast is one of those foods that are truly good for you.  It’s a complete protein, a great source of B-12 and folic acid, high in fiber, best of all its gluten-free.  It has a cheesy taste and can be sprinkled on many dishes like pastas, salads and even popcorn.  Yum!  So, check out this recipe…

The Ingredients:

1 1/2 c cashews
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp sea salt

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until crumbly.  If you are using a high-speed blender, pulse until crumbly.  Otherwise, you may end up with butter.

Enjoy!

 

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