Monday, June 27, 2011

Jam Session: Spiced Plum & Vanilla Preserves

An act of kindness can go a long way. One evening I took a stroll with Baking Toddler and came upon an elderly man tending to his vegetable garden. I had admired his garden many times and decided to stop and compliment his hard work. After a short conversation, he offered me fresh plums from his tree and I immediately accepted.

I was so happy with my bag of tiny, sweet, red plums and knew exactly what to make. Spiced Plum & Vanilla Preserves-a recipe I had been eyeing for years! Turns out it is the...Best. Jam. Ever. Out of the jellies and jams I've made in the past, this is by far the most delectable.

I packaged up a jar of the ruby colored jam and delivered it to the kind man's door. His daughter answered and seemed so happy (and surprised) to receive my gift of appreciation. They quickly offered me more plums and invited me back for figs later on in the season. It seemed like my act of kindness had worked full circle.

This is an amazing recipe with several layers of flavor. There is a natural sweetness from the fruit, a hint of citrus, spice from the cloves and warmth from cinnamon and vanilla. This crimson jam, full of depth and flecked with vanilla beans reminds me of Christmas...hmmm...Christmas gifts???  Ehhhh, this might even be too good to share. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Breakfast Series (Recipe: Ricotta Doughnuts with Blueberry Compote)

This is a recipe that is just plain fun to make.  I hadn't had this much fun in the kitchen since dabbling in homemade ricotta (which of course I used in this recipe).  I just loved watching the globs of dough transform into beautifully fried golden orbs. There was something about the whole process that made me very excited-maybe it was the frying, or it could have been shaking the warm doughnuts in the sugar filled paper sacks and eating them straight from the bag (yes, I did that)!

Not only were they enjoyable to make but they were fun to eat as well.  I thought it would be something different to serve for my guests-I mean really, how often do you ever eat homemade doughnuts? I served them two ways, one tossed in cinnamon sugar served with a blueberry compote (my favorite), the other half was coated with confectioners sugar (kids and kids at heart favorite).

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Summer Breakfast Series (Recipe: Raspberry Vanilla Smoothies)

photo credit:
All I can say right now is that it is hot.  Dang HOT! I couldn't believe my eyes when I checked the weather around 6:00 pm today, 101 degrees F.  Too hot to go outside.  Too hot to eat lunch or dinner al fresco.  Just too dang hot.  What really stinks is that it is mid-June and technically not even summer yet.  I am back to the days of hitting the park by 8am because when 9:15 rolls around the sun sizzles down upon us and it is time to take that steamy, hot walk home.  It stinks.

On the up side (if there is one), the heat brings cooler food to the table (literally and figuratively).  I have found myself eating more salads and slaws, enjoying juicy peaches (Baking Toddler ate TWO today), and sipping on icy cold lemonade and sweet tea (I'm a southern girl-go figure).  So in those early summer hours when the temperature is hovering around 80 degrees F, you can find me eating breakfast al fresco and definitely sipping on one of these smoothies.

This Raspberry Vanilla Smoothie is part of the Summer Breakfast Series in which our menu includes:
  • Potato Basil Frittata
  • Ricotta Doughnuts with Blueberry Compote
  • Sliced Fruit or a Summer Salad
  • Raspberry Vanilla Smoothies
  • Coffee & Orange Juice
Oh yeah, totally unrelated to this post or the Summer Breakfast Series but the Smoky Maple Glazed Salmon was featured on StumbleUpon.  I am not a member but apparently one of their members seemed to like the recipe and shared it with the search engine.  I had almost 800 views for that recipe alone last Monday.  It freaked me out because I was afraid I had a creeper on my hands.  Thanks for the props, whoever you are!  Hope you are not a creeper.

Raspberry Vanilla Smoothies
serves 6
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups plain Greek Yogurt
1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
3/4 cup cranberry juice
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups ice
  1. Combine sugar and water in small saucepan and cook over medium low heat until sugar has dissolved.  Set aside and cool.
  2. Pour cooled sugar syrup into a blender and add yogurt, berries, juice, vanilla and ice.  Blend until thick and smooth.  Pour into glasses and serve.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Summer Breakfast Series (Recipe: Potato Basil Frittata)

I find it a little ironic typing this as I eat my FiberOne Cereal.  After all this post is about a delectable, summery and fun breakfast (or brunch).  Truthfully, and sadly enough FiberOne Cereal or oatmeal is usually what you'll find me eating for breakfast every morning.  I suppose since my daily breakfast is unexciting and not very illustrious justifies why I adore big breakfasts and brunches.

For the next few weeks I will be posting a Summer Breakfast Series.  If you are looking for an easy-to-host breakfast or brunch this menu is perfect.  What are we serving???  Check out this fun menu:

A Summer Breakfast Menu
  • Potato Basil Frittata
  • Ricotta Doughnuts with Blueberry Compote
  • Fresh Fruit (for early morning) or a Summery Salad (for brunch)
  • Raspberry Vanilla Smoothies
  • Coffee and Orange Juice
Now on to the first feature, potato basil frittata.  Because of this fluffy egg dish I am officially addicted to frittatas and have been making them every Sunday.  I find that leftover frittata accompanied with a salad makes for a great and light lunch.  I also experimented with my homemade ricotta and found that the homemade cheese (drained for seven minutes) made for a ridiculously light and airy frittata.  I don't know how much more I can gush about this dish-you just need to try it.  After all, it sure is a nice change from the FiberOne.

Potato Basil Frittata
source:  Ina Garten, Food Network

8 Tablespoons butter, divided
2 cups peeled, diced boiling potatoes
8 extra large eggs
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Gruyere, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  1. Heat oven to 350 degree F.
  2. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in 10" omelet pan over med low heat.  Add potatoes and fry 10-15 minutes.  Melt 5 tablespoons of butter in a small dish in the microwave.
  3. Meanwhile whisk eggs, stir in Gruyere, ricotta, melted butter, salt, pepper and basil in a medium bowl.  Sprinkle with flour and baking powder and stir into egg mixture.
  4. Pour eggs over potatoes and place in the center of the oven.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes-1 hour until golden and firm in the middle.  Use a cake tester if desired.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Smoky Maple-Glazed Salmon

Five years ago my husband accepted a job that would uproot us from our Texas home and replant us directly into potato country-yes, I'm talking about Idaho.  I was very excited to begin a new chapter in our lives and I was ready for the adventure of a new home, new climate, new people, and a new beginning.

The drive from our tiny condo in Bryan, Texas to our brand spanking new town home in Idaho was filled with three very long and intense days of travel-from sun up to sun down.  The third and final day was the absolute worst.  It was the longest. drive. ever.  I swear if I go to Hell I will find myself eternally driving IH-80 from one Wyoming border to the other, just back and forth all day long.  Such long stretches of highway, barren, unattractive land and sparse civilization.  By midday I had my fill of reddish, rocky and scrubby terrain and I was done with Wyoming.

When we hit the eastern Idaho border I was pleasantly surprised by coniferous forests resting upon small peaks and winding streams and rivers running along side the highway.  I remember peering down from my heavily packed car and seeing a fly fisherman down in a stream.  Even though it was mid-July there was a light dusting of snow on the highest elevations. I couldn't believe my husband moved me to such a place of great beauty.

But the further west we traveled, the conifers became scrub brush, the stream disappeared into brownish terrain and the hills and small peaks flattened into a valley.  I waffled.

Finally we arrived at our new home, the range bordering our town was desolate, brown and maybe a little burnt from a wildfire.  It was ugly and I was crestfallen.

I imagine this was the impression a colleague of mine thought a few weeks ago during a recent visit to Idaho and upon his return he said, "I have no idea why anyone would want to visit there, much less live there."  But I knew the answer and I knew from experience.