Blackberry Basil Jam

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When Kroger has blackberries on super cheap sale, you buy all of them and figure out what to do later. Here’s what I did …

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I am mildly obsessed with combining fruit and herbs, so when I decided to make jam I naturally had to think about what herb would go well with it.

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I was torn between basil and thyme, and don’t think I could have gone wrong either way, but basil turned out to be just perfect.

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Toast with salted peanut butter and blackberry-basil jam. :::drool:::

I found a good Giada recipe, but cut the sugar down because I enjoy the tartness of blackberries. This jam is perfect with peanut butter, on a cheese platter, with a spoon or on crackers, a la Joey Tribbiani style (:45).

Blackberry Basil Jam 

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Ingredients:

  • 3-6 oz. cartons of fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 oz. basil leaves (or as much or as little as you like)
  • Juice from 1 large orange
  • Juice from 1 medium lemon

Preparation:

Place fresh blackberries in a medium saucepan and turn to medium heat. As the blackberries warm and soften, mash them lightly (and carefully) with a fork. In a food processor, combine the basil, sugar, orange and lemon juices. Blend until smooth. Stir the mixture into the blackberries and bring to a slow boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the mixture is thick, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow the jam to cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week. Serve on bread, with cheeses, on top of peanut butter, layered in desserts … the opportunities are endless.

Banana Sweet Potato Bread

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Some things you just get a gut feeling about. When you have too many bananas, and too many sweet potatoes and get that gut feeling about a sweet potato banana bread, you go with that feeling.
Banana Sweet Potato Bread
I had no reason to believe that this recipe would turn out even mediocre, because I was sort of making it up as I went, but it turned out marvelously! I love naturally sweetening by using sweet fruits and veggies. Nature has so many options. Sweet potatoes, apples, carrots, beets … the list goes on and on. Can’t wait to see where the next surplus of produce takes me.Banana Sweet Potato Bread 2
Banana Sweet Potato Bread
Recipe heavily adapted from The Minimalist Baker
Ingredients:
  • 2 large very ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 3/4 cup sweet potato puree (I just bake mine whole until tender and scoop out the flesh)
 Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease or spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray. I like to put a strip of parchment paper that extends above the top of the pan for an easier removal at the end.
  2. Mash bananas and add all of the ingredients except the oats and flour, whisking to thoroughly combine.
  3. Add flours, oats, bran and flax. Stir to combine.
  4. Pour batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top. I added chopped pecans on top. Feel free to do the same, or chocolate chips stirred in would be wonderful.
  5. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a rack. Then slice and serve.

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Strawberry-Banana Spelt Muffins

This is a guest post from a talented chef with a great recipe for a unique twist on banana muffins.

Banana Strawberry Spelt Muffins

From Chef Thomas:

“I love eating bananas raw, but I am very specific about my raw bananas. They have to be all yellow, or yellow and green; no spots! Once the brown spots start to form, I just don’t like the flavor. But I can’t throw spotty bananas away, so what should I do? I guess I could make some sort of baked good… *twist my arm!*

But baked goods typically have a ton of butter and sugar … what about my diet? I decided to take a basic banana bread recipe and try to put a healthy twist on it.

As I started to throw ingredients together, I became bored with the idea of just plain old banana bread. I started to think of things that are usually combined with bananas and it hit me. Strawberries!! My first go at it, I used almond flour, strawberries, bananas, maple syrup, honey, coconut oil, etc. I used the measurements from an online recipe I found. I had really high hopes. I put the mix in the oven for sixty minutes. I was so excited as I paced back and forth, waiting for the bread to be done. The buzzer went off and I strutted to the oven, confident I would find an amazing loaf of strawberry-banana bread! I swung the door open and was greeted by a goopy mess. Disheartened, I left the loaf in for several more minutes before giving up…for the day. I would make this work!

I told Maggie what had happened and we began to brainstorm about how to make this recipe work. She told me not to use only almond flour because it well make for a very wet bread. Maybe we could put some oatmeal in there to soak up some of that moisture. Maybe add a bit more flour. Sunday she came over and we began to put our recipe together. We added a bit of lemon zest and some oatmeal to the banana mixture. We  used two cups of spelt flour instead of a cup and a half of almond flour. We put some chopped cashews in there for some texture. The mixture looked great, we had high hopes. Then we started talking about how we would cook this mixture. While banana bread is great, it is not the most practical form of food for those of us on the go. We decided muffins would be perfect! We threw them in and enjoyed a beer while we waited. As we swung the oven door down we were met with an intoxicating smell and the sight of perfectly cooked muffins. We put the muffins on a cooling rack and they taunted us, daring us to take a bite …

The next thing I knew, our friend Ruth was taking a bite of one and her face said it all. Maggie and I joined Ruth in pure muffin bliss. We had done it! We came up with an amazing strawberry banana muffin recipe. I hope it brings you all the same amount of happiness that it brought us!”

Strawberry-Banana Spelt Muffins

Yield: 20 muffins 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 7 strawberries, diced
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup raw cashews (or any other nut you prefer)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin tins.

In a small bowl, combine bananas, strawberries, lemon zest, and oatmeal. In a large bowl, combine coconut oil, honey, and pure maple syrup in a stand mixer and blend together for one minute, or until creamed. Mix in eggs, salt, vanilla, and then add oatmeal mixture. Slowly, add dry ingredients into the wet ingredient, mixing only until combined. Fold in cashews.

Pour batter into greased muffin tins, about 3/4 way full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 mins, but keep an eye on them. The muffins are done when the tops spring back when touched.

Peach and Plum Galette

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You might recall from my recent Farmer’s Market post that I came back with quite a few peaches and plums; and since stone fruit is basically born to be made into desserts, specifically pies … I brought their destiny to fruition.

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Galettes (or crostadas) are like free-form pies. They’re so pretty and reeeally hard to mess up.

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Since I have been pretty busy lately, my plan was to just buy pie dough at the store. But when I got there and read the ingredients on the label, I made other plans. I dramatically threw down the “hydrogenated lard” in my hand and marched towards the natural butter while whispering under my breath, “Screw it, I’m doing this thing the right way.”

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Note: In the picture above you will see that it sort of looks like the dessert is not coming together, but like magic, it will!

With a food processor, a crust is about the easiest thing to make anyway, so I really had no excuse in the first place. The recipe I used for the pie dough is pretty foolproof. It’s from the book, The Pastry Queen. I almost made a pate sablee, but didn’t have any ground almonds, or almonds in general, and they’re a little expensive. So I stuck to the basics.

Peach plum galette

This pie is so good it’s unreal. The peaches and plums are sweet and juicy, and the crust is the perfect flakiness. Guaranteed crowd (or single person) pleaser. 

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Peach & Plum Galette

Pie Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 11 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 4-6 tbsp cold water

Filling Ingredients:

  • 6 small plums, skins on and sliced
  • 2 peaches, skins on and sliced
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • Extra sugar for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp apricot or peach jam

Preparation:

To make crust …

Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. If you’re using a food processor just put all the dry ingredients in together and give it a quick whirl to mix. Cut butter in by hand or toss all into the processor, until the mixture is crumbly and about the size of small peas. Add 4 tbsp very cold water and mix. Only add the rest of the water 1 tbsp at a time if needed, just until the mixture holds together easily.* Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk shape. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To make the filling …

In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon flour, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. In a large bowl gently toss together the plums, lemon juice and zest. Sprinkle the flour mixture over plums; gently toss until evenly coated.

To finish galette …

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take dough out of the fridge and roll out to about 10 inches in diameter on a floured surface. Place dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Transfer the plum mixture on top of dough, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Fold border over plum mixture, overlapping where necessary and gently pressing to adhere the folds.

Beat together the egg and teaspoon and water and brush over the edges of the dough, then sprinkle a little sugar over the crust. Place galette on the bottom rack of oven and bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly on a baking rack. While pie is cooling, carefully brush jam over the fruit. It will give it a little extra sweetness and beautiful shine.

Can be served warm or at room temperature. Also, would be delicious with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

*Note: I only needed 4 tbsp of water.

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Healthy Banana Bread with Walnuts and Dark Chocolate

This is a great recipe that you can feel good about. It’s perfect for breakfast, a snack, dessert, late-night craving …

If I don’t have healthy treats around that I can nosh on when I get the urge, things can get preeeetty dicey. Like, late night chocolate cake making or cheesy pasta dicey. If I have something like this delicious bread sitting around, I have nothing to worry about because it’s easy, tasty, and full of good things!

This bread is one of the best healthy banana bread recipes I have tried. The recipe I used as inspiration had unsweetened applesauce instead of Greek yogurt and olive oil, but I improvised and used what I had. I am a big fan of using applesauce in baked goods though – it’s perfect for adding natural sweetness and moisture. If you omit the chocolate chips in my recipe (which I clearly could not do), this is pretty much guilt-free. I don’t even feel guilty for the chocolate though, because it’s good for the soul. #truth. 

banana bread

Healthy Banana Bread with Walnuts and Dark Chocolate 

Recipe adapted from Ambitious Kitchen 

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 mashed banana (overripe is best)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt (Fage)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (more or less to your liking)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (more or less to your liking)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

In large bowl combine mashed banana, yogurt, olive oil, honey, egg, almond milk and vanilla until well combined and creamy. In separate medium bowl whisk together whole wheat flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached.

Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool completely. Keep bread tightly wrapped to maintain moisture.

Enjoy!

Farmer’s Market Saturdays

I’m that girl at the Farmer’s Market who takes awkwardly up-close-and-personal pics of each stand and then dashes away before someone can stop me …

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We stopped first at the coffee stand and then got a pastry from our favorite cute German baker lady before we began shopping in earnest, because, how could we possibly function before we’ve had iced coffee and pastries?

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In addition to the usual folk band, there was a harpist. Our Market is very fancy.

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There is so much beautiful produce in season this time of year, so we came away with quite a haul …

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Acorn squash, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, plums, apples, basil, fresh pasta, and the most flavorful Concord grapes I have ever had. 

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Until next weekend …

Garlic Dill Pickles

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When you see Kirby cucumbers at the farmer’s market, the only sensible thing to do is to buy them and make pickles immediately. Which is exactly what I did.

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Pickles are something that are so nostalgically summer to me, and to be honest I don’t know exactly why … my grandmother had a great pickle recipe, which unfortunately was lost when she passed away. I used to love when she would make pickles though. They were just perfect, but I can’t remember why. I’m guessing she made them in the summer time.

Now I’m on a quest to find my own perfect pickle recipe. Pickles are also something that top American summer favorites like burgers and hot dogs. So perhaps that’s where my feelings of nostalgia arise from. These pickles turned out so well, that I think I will make it a personal tradition for me to make pickles in July from now on.  

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I really like when cucumbers are kept whole for pickles, but I didn’t have a jar big enough to accommodate. You think that stopped me? Nope. Instead I found a sun tea container buried deep in the back of the pantry and used that. It was WAY too big for the pickles, but still did the job. 

I used a recipe I found on Serious Eats. It recommended letting the pickles mellow out for a week, but I actually let them sit for 3 weeks. I tried one after a week and it just wasn’t done. After 3, they were perfection. Spicy, tangy, garlicky … just what I like in a pickle. I can’t stand sweet pickles, so if that’s your thing, this recipe is not for you. Also, we probably can’t be friends. 

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Garlic Dill Pickles 

Recipe from Serious Eats 

Ingredients:

  • 2 quart kirby cucumbers (approximately 3 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 teaspoons dill seed
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes

Preparation:

Wash jars thoroughly in warm, soapy water. If you plan on making shelf stable pickles, prepare a boiling water bath canner. Put fresh canning jar lids into a small saucepan with 3 inches of water and set to the barest simmer.

Wash and dry kirby cucumbers. Remove blossom end. Cut into chips, spears or leave whole, depending on your preference.

Combine vinegar, water and salt in sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lean forward if you would like to clear out your nasal passage … 

Equally divide garlic cloves, dill seed, black peppercorns and red chili flakes between jars. Pack prepared cucumbers into jars as tightly as you can without crushing them.

Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace (that’s the amount of space between the surface of the brine and the rim of the jar).

Remove any air bubbles from jars by gently tapping them. You can also use a wooden chopstick or plastic utensil to help remove stubborn bubbles.

Wipe rims and apply lids and bands (don’t screw them on too tightly).

If processing jars for shelf stability, lower jars into your processing pot. When water returns to a boil, set a timer for 10 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars from canning pot and allow them to cool. When jars are cool enough to handle, check seals.

If you choose not to process your jars, let them cool before putting them into the refrigerator. Do note that your jars may seal during the cooling process. However, without the boiling water bath process, that doesn’t mean they’re shelf stable. Still refrigerate.

Let pickles rest for at least one week before eating. I recommend 3 weeks. 

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At the start of pickling … 

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After 3 weeks of pickling …                                          

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Credit to my brother Scottie for taking the great pics. 

Road Trip Granola Bars

Homemade Granola

Along with the Spiced Nuts from my last post, I also made some homemade granola bars for my road trip. They’re easy to make, really delicious, and a healthy snack to have on hand.

Granola bars are great because you can “make it your own,” as Simon Cowell would say an infinite amount of times on American Idol circa 2003. You can change the nuts and fruit to suit your preferences, and also make them super healthy or less healthy by playing around with the sweeteners and binders. For example, the recipe I based mine off of used butter and brown sugar, but I swapped in honey, pure maple syrup and olive oil instead. I used pecans in place of almonds, and I also added in natural peanut butter because I apparently cannot live a single day without peanut butter. I aaaaallmost drizzled some dark chocolate over top, but thought it might make a mess if they’re left in a hot car. One thing to note, is that these granola bars don’t hold together quite as well as others when you cut them, I’ll have to investigate that issue further once I’m off the road. Otherwise, they’re cute little bundles of delicious joy!

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Road Trip Granola Bars

Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the olive oil, honey, maple syrup, peanut butter, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute. Add in vanilla, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the apricots and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Homemade Granola 1

 

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Indian Spiced Nuts with Coconut

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My family is about to embark on a summer road trip, which means I am preparing myself for lots of Cracker Barrel and Chick-fil-A pit stops. Ugh.

I need to be ready with lots of reasonable snacks so I’m not forced to choke down gross fast food fare. I’ve got tons of fruit, Pecan nut thins (because, duh), homemade granola bars, and spiced nuts. These nuts … omg. (That’s what she said?)

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I love how flavorful this nut mix is, and the addition of shredded coconut adds an interesting element, but I actually think it needs a little less spice. As in, there was more dry spice than there was nuts to cover, and I even added extra cashews in the mix. I omitted the 2 tsp of salt this time because the peanuts and cashews I used were already salted. Plus, I don’t like super salty snacks on a road trip. They make me feel puffy and bad about myself and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Next time I make this I will probably cut down on the amount of spices, maybe even in half. I might also try sweetened coconut for an added dimension of flavor. Otherwise, this is a tasty little snack that you can feel good about!

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Indian Spiced Nuts with Coconut

Recipe adapted from Food Network’s, Aarti Sequeira 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup roasted cashews
  • 4 tbsp shredded coconut
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a big bowl mix together the peanuts, pecans, cashews, coconut, oil, coriander, cumin, garam masala and salt together and pour onto the baking sheet. Toast for 1 hour, rotating the sheet a couple of times for even baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

 

 

Mint Pesto Pasta with Ground Turkey and Arugula

Mint pesto is such a pensive condiment …

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I had a bunch of mint that was on its last leg, so before the whole thing went bad I impulsively dumped it all into my food processor and then scrambled around the kitchen looking for additional items to make a pesto. I didn’t have any more greens at the time, so this pesto is admittedly more parmesan and pecans than anything else (no problem as far as I’m concerned).

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I can’t say that I have an official recipe for this, because I made it up as I went, but basically it’s: fresh mint, pecans, parmesan, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and extra virgin olive oil. Blend it all up until it’s your preferred consistency. Then put it in a cute jar and admire it from afar.

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I decided to use my pesto right away, so that night I made a huge batch of pasta for the family. I also made this up as I went, but I’ll give you a basic rundown.

Pesto Turkey Arugula Pasta 1

Mint Pesto Pasta with Ground Turkey and Arugula

Yield: this makes quite a lot of pasta, so halving it would be plenty for 4. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Small white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 boxes of whole wheat penne pasta (12 oz. each)
  • Pint of grape tomatoes, halved
  • Couple of handfuls of arugula (i.e. rocket)
  • Mint-pesto pasta (loose recipe above)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

Bring large sauté pan to medium heat and pour olive oil in. Drop chopped onion in and cook until nice and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Place turkey in pan and carefully break up into small pieces as you cook the meat. Stir frequently until cooked all the way through. Carefully placed lid on pan and drain any excess liquid from the turkey into the sink by making a tiny crack between the lid and pan. Place pan back on burner and add minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat down to low and add grape tomatoes and arugula. Let cook just until tomatoes start to break down slightly and arugula begins to wilt.

Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add a good handful of salt. Then dump pasta in and cook according to box directions (usually 10 minutes or so for al dente). Stir frequently to ensure pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Before draining, scoop out about a cup of the starchy cooking water and set aside. Drain pasta and then place back in pot on the burner. Turn heat down to low.

Add meat mixture and 1/2 cup of pesto to the pot of pasta. Add in about half of the starchy cooking liquid and stir over low heat so everything can meld together. Add more liquid and pesto, as needed, until the pasta is creamy looking and the noodles are well saturated.

Serve pasta in a big bowl with fresh arugula scattered over the top.

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