I’ve been making jelly this week, successfully for the most part. However, cooking is a creative art. Jelly making on the other hand, is science, which was never my best subject and things happen. Now everyone knows that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But what do you do when life gives you lavender jelly that just doesn’t jell, can’t jell, won’t ever jell. I have no idea what I did wrong, just lost my focus at some point and now I have to think of something to do with all that beautiful lavender liquid. Luckily, I have a habit of saving glass containers, including bottles. After rummaging in the cupboards for a few minutes, I came up with a “saved” maple syrup bottle, complete with screw top lid. Out comes the funnel, and by some miracle, there was just enough bottle for my lavender disaster. Once in the bottle, of course, it becomes lavender syrup, and it’s just crying out for some pancakes, or some English muffins, or maybe some scones. Guess I’m baking this afternoon. So a beautiful mess becomes a yummy by-product, and of course there’s still the jelly.
A Sweet Mess
3 ½ cups water
½ cup dried lavender buds
Juice of 1 lemon
1 (1 3/4 ounce) box dry pectin
4 cups sugar
In a large saucepan over high heat bring water just to a boil
Remove from heat and stir in dried lavender flowers. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes
After 20 minutes, strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a deep kettle or pot, discarding the lavender flowers (your house smells wonderful at this point)
Stir in lemon juice and pectin and continue stirring until the pectin is thoroughly dissolved
Over high heat, bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down
Add in the sugar, and when the solution returns to a hard rolling boil, let it boil for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
To get a soft gel boil 2 minutes and for a medium gel boil for 4 minutes
To test for “jell” (Keep a metal tablespoon sitting in a glass of ice water, then take a little of the mixture and let it cool to room temperature on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency you’re looking for, the jelly is ready. If not, you can mix in a another 1 teaspoon up to one half of another box of pectin and bring it to a boil again for 1 minute
After boiling, transfer the jelly into hot sterilized jars. Fill them to within ¼ inch of the top, wipe any spilled jam off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them
Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars to wire rack and let cool before serving.
Makes about a dozen ¼ pint jars.
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 cup sifted barley flour
1 ½ cups frozen blueberries
2 ½ tablespoons sugar, plus some extra for sprinkling on top
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cup almond milk, soy milk or regular 1% milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Mix together all the dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest)
Mix the coconut oil into the dry ingredients (you can use a pastry blender or your hands)
Add in the blueberries, vanilla, and slowly mix in the milk. Don’t overwork the dough, just until it barely sticks together
On a floured board knead the dough slightly. It should be smooth and easy to handle when done.
Divide the dough in half and pat into two 1 ½ inch thick rounds.
Cut each round into six pieces
Place on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet
If you want lighter, fluffier scones, place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the scones with the extra sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden.
Let cool on the baking sheet
So now it’s time for a cup of tea and a nice warm scone drizzled in lavender syrup, or lavender jelly. Ymmm.
One of the things most people worry about when contemplating a vegetarian diet is getting enough to eat. There’s this myth that if we’re not eating meat, we’re going to be hungry. It’s not true, but we build our meals around that idea. Most traditional meals have three main components: meat main dish, starch side dish and a token vegetable of some variety. On the other hand, vegetarian eating is a lot more interesting and isn’t limited to three dishes. You can spread the protein part of the meal through several different dishes, and there can be four or even five different dishes in the meal. It’s about color and texture and taste. The main thing is that each dish should be healthy, nutritious and even fun. Below is one of my favorite savory dishes to brighten up the gray days in January. Add a bean salad, some broccoli with lemon butter, and some spiced tomatoes. I guarantee no one will leave the table hungry.
I love savory dishes and one of my favorites is a recipe I discovered recently for Carrot-Tarragon Tart. This is a beautiful dish and although it sounds too fancy for a midweek meal, it’s really pretty easy. I’ve added some of my own touches to this, so feel free to experiment a little.
Lisa’s No Fuss Crust
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cold milk
Sift flour into ungreased pie plate or tart pan.
In a cup, combine oil and milk and mix until cloudy. Pour onto the flour and mix with a fork.
When flour is combined and the mixture is somewhat lumpy, use your fingers to press the dough evenly toward the edges of the pie plate and up the sides to cover the plate and form a crust.
Or, you can take the easy way out and use a pre-cut pastry round from the super market.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the crust until set but not browned for about 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive or canola oil
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (thinner is better)
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (you can do this in the food processor)
2 tablespoons dry sherry (not cooking sherry, use dry sherry, the kind you would drink) or rice vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (you can experiment with other cheeses – not mozzarella)
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup low-fat milk
2 large eggs (in a pinch I’ve used three medium eggs and it turned out just fine)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or 3/4 teaspoon dried (if your using dried be careful not to overdo it-tarragon is a strong herb)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté gently, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the grated carrots and 1 tablespoon sherry (or rice vinegar) and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Spread mustard over the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with cheese and just a tiny sprinkle of dried tarragon and spread the carrot mixture evenly in the tart shell.
Whisk together 1/2 cup yogurt, milk, eggs, tarragon, the remaining 1 tablespoon sherry (or rice vinegar), 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and pour in the filling.
Bake the tart until the filling is firm and the edges are golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.
You can make this the day before. Just loosely cover and refrigerate the baked tart for up to a day.
Green Beans with Nuts and Berries
1 14-oz package frozen green beans (fresh is great if you can get it, but most of us use frozen in the wintertime)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry or rice wine vinegar
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries and/or cherries
1 small onion, thinly sliced (you can use a shallot if you’re so inclined)
2 ounces feta crumbles
Blanch the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender-crisp, 3 -5 minutes. Remove the green beans from the boiling water, run under cold water for a few minutes to stop the cooking, and then drain, dry and let cool.
Whisk together the olive oil, sherry or vinegar and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Stir in the salt and pepper.
Add the cool green beans to a large bowl and toss in the walnuts, berries and onion and drizzle in the vinaigrette. Place in a serving dish and sprinkle with the feta cheese.
Broccoli with Lemon Butter
Steamed fresh broccoli is great, or you can use frozen. In a small sauce pan melt 3 tablespoons of butter, and add the juice of one fresh lemon and pour it over the broccoli (add the zest for some extra kick).
1 15 oz can of diced low sodium tomatoes
2 star anise
10 whole cloves
2 teaspoons sugar
freshly ground pepper
Use an extra teaball for the spices, or make a bag of cheesecloth. In a small sauce pan combine the tomatoes, sugar and spices. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 15-20 minutes or bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. The more it cooks down the better. Remove the spices and serve either warm or cold as a side dish or as a relish.
Color, texture, taste and nutrition. Anybody leaves the table hungry, it’s their own fault. Enjoy!
Preserving fruit is a regular activity in the fall kitchen. I’ve been drying blueberries in the dehydrator and oven drying loads of sweet Roma tomatoes. So I was thinking about baking recently and took a quick inventory of my supply of dried fruit. They’re a favorite ingredient for holiday baking so I try to make sure I have a wide variety. The variety was there but most of it was from last year, so it was time to make some room. I decided to make a versatile favorite, fruit soup. Years ago I found a great recipe in a church cookbook called Norwegian Fruit Soup. I was instantly capitvated and have made it many times over the years. You can eat it hot, you can eat it cold. It’s great as a topping for ice cream, on hot cereal, mixed with yogurt and granola, or just by the spoonful. The mix of dried fruit can be different, depending on what you like and what you have on hand. Here’s my most recent iteration based on what was available in my kitchen.
Elaine’s Crockpot Fruit Soup
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup golden and regular raisins
3/4 cup dried apricots, cut into quarters
1/2 cup dried plums (aka prunes), cut in half
1/3 cup dried mango
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons candied ginger, cut into small pieces
2 lemon slices (more about this one later)
1/2 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon cardamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
4-5 whole allspice
4-5 whole cloves
6 to 8 cups water
3 apples, cored, peeled and cut into cubes
The night before (or several hours) put all of the fruit except the apples into a crockpot along with the sugar, honey and spices and pour in the water. If you’re cooking overnight, set the crockpot on warm and cover. That’s essentially it. The next day, or whenever the fruit is soft, add the chopped apples and simmer on high for about an hour. The apples should be cooked but not mushy. The smell alone will have everyone’s mouth watering. If you’re not going to eat it immediately just spoon into jars and store in the refrigerator. Depending on the size of your family, this recipe could last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
I mentioned the lemon slices in the above recipe. I got this great recipe from my sister-in-law, Skye Morgan O’Malley and it’s sensational.
Lemons in Honey
Lemons in Honey
Slice enough lemons to fill a glass jar. Pour in enough honey to cover the lemons. Put the lid on and place in the refrigerator for about 4 days (okay, 2 if you just can’t wait). I used a couple of slices in the Fruit Soup, and it’s a great way to add some pizzazz to a cup of tea or a wine cooler.