TASTY THINGS…MO JAM

Our cupboards were still overflowing from our 2012 jamming efforts, so I skipped my usual summer canning for 2013. Now, with cupboards bare, I happily resumed my regular summer routine.

Since I mostly make jams from fruit we actually pick, the variety was pretty slim this year. Apricots and plums from my mom's trees and farmer's market figs were all that we could manage. Truth be told; these are my favorite, so I wasn't overly disappointed when we missed the ollaileberry and blackberry picking season. 

I always have an abundance of apricot jam, and I love to give jars as little, unexpected gifts to friends. Some even put in requests ahead of time to ensure they get their fix. One such friend is a graphic designer whose wife has a serious love of my apricot jam. I must admit that this apricot jam is pretty damn tasty…not too sweet with just the right amount of tartness.  As "payment", he designed the Mo Jam labels and tags for me. The play on words is perfect as is the design! 

It's so satisfying to plop those kraft circles on each lid. It's the best part of the whole canning process and the cleanest! Producing the labels and tags are pretty easy.  I edit the type of preserve in Adobe Illustrator, print and use the Silhouette Connect plug-in to cut the tags directly from Illustrator. The labels I also print directly from Illustrator using the Avery Kraft 22808 paper and template. 

I'm looking forward to Fall fruits: apples, pears, persimmons and quince! I've included my recipe for apricot jam. I use the same quantities and technique for plum jam, except I add in a cinnamon stick or two during maceration and cooking. Enjoy!!

Apricot Jam

4 pounds apricots, halved & pitted
3 cups sugar (the original recipe calls for 6 cups)
Juice of one lemon
Cut apricots in half, pour sugar and lemon juice over fruit, stir well and place in refrigerator overnight. Cook the apricot mixture in a wide heavy bottom pot for 45 to 50 minutes, skimming off the foam regularly. When the jam starts to thicken, keep your eye on it and stir frequently. I freeze a plate to test “jam consistency”.  I put a spoonful of the jam on the plate and let it cool slightly.  I run a finger through it to see if it holds it shape and doesn't weep too much. 

Can the perseveres following proper canning techniques. Visit the USDA Center for Home Preservation for instructions and information. Food in Jars is my favorite site for tips, techniques and recipes.

 

tasty things…an Outlander dinner

This summer I have been consumed by the Outlander book series. It was on my reading list for quite some time, and as a last minute impulse, I downloaded book one on my Kindle before heading to the Eastern Sierras and Yosemite for two weeks. 

JESUS H. ROOSEVELT CHRIST! I was not prepared for the abandonment of my heart and soul to these books and its characters. In all honesty, I'm a sucker for historical fiction series; First Man in Rome, Shogun, and almost anything by Philippa Gregory. But Outlander bends the rules beyond historical fiction with the combination of time travel, adventure and an epic romance. I mean, what's not to love? 

Ten weeks and eight books later, I'm obsessed with all things Outlander from the new TV series (JESUS H. ROOSEVELT CHRIST!) to the author's Facebook page and an Outlander devoted blog, Outlander Kitchen where the author creates recipes inspired by descriptions or characters from the book. It's such a brilliant premise for a blog. I am inspired by the singularity of it and the delicious recipes!

Our Saturday dinners are now Outlander meals comprised of recipes from OK and capped with watching a new TV episode. It's a nice way to share my Outlander world with Doc & D For episode 2, we devoured shepherd's pie. Our episode 3 meal was this menu: whisky sours, oatcakes + jam and Scotch eggs. 

  Whiskey sours …my absolute favorite drink!

Whiskey sours…my absolute favorite drink!

  Pumpkin herb oatcakes  with homemade blackberry jam.

Pumpkin herb oatcakes with homemade blackberry jam.

  Scotch eggs  + Claire's salad

Scotch eggs + Claire's salad

Because I always need something green on my plate or it just doesn't seem like a proper meal, I tossed up my usual salad and dressing, and aptly renamed it "Claire's salad", to round out the meal. Claire's salad is simple, any fresh leaves and fruit I have on hand, some thinly sliced red onions mixed with a garlic, thyme and curry vinaigrette. 

I wish I could share exact measurements for the dressing. Since we make it so frequently, we don't bother with measuring spoons and cups. We just eyeball measurements and let taste guide the quantities. If you're adventurous, I've listed approximations. Taste often  and adjust the vinegar and curry to your liking.

Garlic, Thyme + Curry vinaigrette - or Claire's dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • a dash (just a dash!!) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp (at least!) of freshly minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme - you can also use dried thyme, start with a teaspoon then add more if necessary
  • 1 tsp. curry - as curries vary in heat, I suggest you start with a 1/2 tsp.
  • salt + pepper to taste 

 

My weekly OK meal will have to wait as we'll be at the Northern California Scottish Games. At least we'll get our fix of Highland food…or at least whisky!

Enjoy - F&N!

family…motivation!


I've missed writing and sharing on the blog. I hoped last year there would be more focus for Fiddlesticks & Nonsense. Instead of figuring out what that could be, I abandoned the site altogether. So, I'm back…again…thanks to encouragement from family and friends.

Honesly, the biggest kick-in-the pants I neeeded to post again was the tiniest mention in Martha Stewart Living magazine thanks to my cousin-in-law, Jessie Randall. She is a kindred crafter and designer, and her annual Valentine Sock Hop she throws for her boys and their friends is featured in the current issue of MSL.

Jessie made Brownie Burgers for the Sock Hop, and she was sweet enough to mention that she borrowed the idea from F&N. Thanks again Jessie!

F&N

Hamburger Cookies Recipe / Instructions

tasty things…hamburger cookies

D had a birthday last month. It was a small celebration with two friends. 

What D wanted more than anything [besides Bobba Fett's lego ship] were hamburger cookies. It's a fake-out food, it looks like one food, but it's really something else. I was skeptical at first, but when I read the instructions I was up for the challenge.

These were really easy. I made the brownies using my regular brownie recipe. You'll find it on the back of the Ghiradelli sweetened powdered chocolate, and it makes the BEST brownies. Oddly, cookies are my least favorite thing to bake. So, I bought some wonderful pre-made pumpkin cookie dough at Whole Foods and that saved the whole project. Just sprinkle some sesame seeds on top before you bake for instant "buns".

TIPS:

1] Make sure to only sprinkle sesame seeds on half the cookies as these will be the tops and the rest, the bottoms  

2] Bake your brownies in a larger pan, I used about a 9 x 12, so you'll get thinner brownies and more realistic patties. I was nervous about doing this because the batter barely covered the bottom of the pan, but it worked. Make sure to adjust your baking time!

3] If you're ambitious or just like to bake cookies, the original recipe calls for peanut butter. I think the peanut butter would compliment the brownies perfectly. 

4] Go crazy with condiments! The cookies and brownies are just fine on their own, but the icing condiments add a lot of fun. I just did ketchup, but you can do pickles, cheese, mustard and lettuce too. 

5] I used a 2.5" baking ring to cut the brownies and a generous table spoon of cookie dough rolled into a ball. 

Happy Baking,

F&N

tasty things…japanese sweets

D and I have been spending a lot of time [and money!] at various Japanese supermarkets. We have such a fun time poking around and looking at the different type of foods, and the packaging is just so darn intriguing.

This purchase was all about the packaging! There is debate as to whether this is a lion or dragon, but I think it's a lion. Inside are individually wrapped mochi sweets filled with black sesame paste…yummy! The wrappers are adorable, and I've been saving them all for some yet to be imagined use.

Honestly, I'm the one who enjoys eating these. The mochi is just the perfect texture, chewy but moist and soft, and the sesame paste is a nice delicate, sweet flavor. Doc likes the flavor, but he's indifferent to the texture. D just doesn't like them…at all. 

I've got lots more sweets to share which are all lovely and tasty!

Thanks for stopping by,

F&N

 

tasty things…oatmeal drops

Inspired by the recipe on the box, these oatmeal drops are a favorite in the house. They are easy to make and healthier than traditional oatmeal cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup egg whites [or 2 eggs]

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup [honey or agave work well too]

zest of 1 orange or lemon

 

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 350º

1. Mix all dry ingredients in bowl.

2. Add wet ingredients and zest to bowl. Mix to combine, and let sit for 15 minutes.

3. Place tablespoon size drops onto greased baking sheet [a silpat works great here] and use the back of a spoon to flatten and shape the drops. 

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. I like to bake them until all the edges are brown. Remove and let cool on wire rack.

 

NOTES:

I find that by adding the cinnamon and zest, you can cut back on the brown sugar. I wouldn't cut back on the syrup as the recipe requires the wet ingredients to stick together. A batch lasts about two days in the house if we're on good behavior. They are perfect for school lunches and after school snacks.

Enjoy,

F&N

tasty + crafty things…homemade apricot jam #2

Last week we were buried in more apricots from my mom's tree. Remember the first batch?

This one little tree puts out so much sweet fruit, I couldn't stand to see it go to waste or to the squirrels. So once again, we were up on ladders filling every box we had with ripe fruit. We picked about forty-five pounds, and there was still a ton of fruit ripening on the tree!

In addition to the apricot tree, my mom also has a white nectarine, Santa Barbara plum and lemon trees. The apricot and lemon trees have been there since my childhood, which seems like forever, and the nectarine and plum trees are somewhat newer, their fruit wasn't as abundant, but it was SWEET and YUMMY!

The lemon tree puts out these freaky alien like lemons every so often. Here is the biggest alien lemon to date. Doc called it the eternal lemon because we used it for an entire week. 

With all these apricots, I had a lot of canning to do. I canned a batch every morning before work and every evening after work for a week. Having all the ingredients and equipment strewn all over the kitchen made Doc super twitchy as he's borderline maniacal about a tidy and clean kitchen, but he was supportive and helpful. D also pitched in by picking and weighing the apricots.

In the end, we canned almost 7 dozen jars! I barely had enough energy, or rather enthusiasm, to crank out some labels.

The final product in all it's glory…

Some of you will be getting a few jars in the mail, so keep your eyes open!

One last thing…I did save a few apricots to make some rustic tarts. These are so easy to make, especially if you make the pate brisee the day before you intend to use it. The added cornmeal to the crust add to the rustic quality. 

Thanks for checking in!

F&N

family + tasty things…a "day of rest" cake

Shortly before summer vacation began, D had a day off from school. It was called "a day of rest".  Of course, I turned to baking as an activity the two of us could do to start our day, and after a very short discussion, D made up his mind he wanted a chocolate cake. The first recipe that came to mind was Nigella's honey chocolate cake…it's very easy, moist and tasty. 

Now that D expresses his thoughts and ideas clearly, baking together is not as easy as it once was. As we gathered our ingredients and tools, D began improvising, "let's use a square pan instead of a round pan! Let's make cupcakes! Let's add dried cranberries!" I somehow managed to keep him on track or rather distract him while I quickly measured, mixed and poured. Here is what the kitchen looked like by the time the cake batter made it to the oven!

The recipe calls for a honey glaze/icing which I usually skip because the cake is tasty without it, and, mostly, I'm too lazy to make it. D was insistent on having the icing. In my haste, I forgot to sift the powdered sugar…very bad! 

Doesn't it look awful! It's pimply and cracked! Appearance aside, it tasted delicious as usual. Now, we call this our "day of rest" cake, even though there was nothing restful about making it.

Cheers,

F&N

tasty things…homemade apricot preserves

Summer has finally arrived and here is the proof…yummy sweet, juicy apricots from my mom's tree! 

When we picked our first harvest, I imagined baking tarts, pies and more upside down cake, but for whatever reason, no baking occurred. The little gems did not go to waste as we snacked on them all week and used them in a couscous and shrimp dinner.

Over the weekend, we picked more ripe apricots, about twelve pounds, and I knew then that I was going to make preserves with this harvest.

I've always wanted to make fruit preserves, but I never had an abundance of fruit on hand and was intimidated by the boiling and sterilizing process. With some on-line research, I found a recipe and canning instructions and decided to give it a go. 

I am quite pleased with this recipe and process. Because the apricots were so juicy and some overripe and I wanted to taste the tartness of the apricots, I cut the sugar way back. The original recipe calls for 6 cups of sugar to 4 pounds of apricots. I used 2 cups and that was plenty. 

The apricots and sugar are mixed together and left in a bowl overnight to macerate then transferred to a pot to simmer until it thickens. I liked macerating the apricots for two reasons: 1] you can control the amount of sugar and gauge the sweetness, and 2] I try to avoid boiling water and sugar unless I'm making caramel or flan because it ALWAYS burns.

Now, I need to make some labels and find homes for these tasty preserves!

Happy Summer,

F&N

NOTE: I didn't buy any special equipment, aside from the jars. These rubber tipped tongs made it possible to pull the jars out of the hot water and fill them with the apricots. It's an awesome tool.