Saturday, September 17, 2011

Life is Peachy Keen!

And it begins....It is now officially Fall and I've begun my little chaotic dance around the kitchen. A little domestication is not a bad thing, especially when the end product tastes sooo good. The weather shouts fallness as does the beauteous color changes all around. This time around I've decided to make something a bit different. I prefer to make and eat berry jams, but this time the peaches just screamed out my name, begging me to take them home, as I drove past the little fruit stand. I just couldn't resist! I figured if I didn't get them now I'd have to wait until the following peach season and if you know anything about me, I am far from patient.

So to all of you who have waited ever so patiently, unlike myself, here is my Peachy Jamminess recipe. It is similar to the previous blackberry jam recipe, but please mind the amount of pectin used. Apparently this go 'round I used just a little too much making it a bit more jellied than desired, but the taste is still fabulous!

Peachy Jaminess


1 quart peeled, cored, diced peaches, almost a mush
7 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package pectin

*if you'd like to be a bit adventurous you can always add your own spices, etc. (I think maybe the next go 'round I will be adding a little garam masala....I just have an ever so loving obsession with that flavor and it would meld well with the sweetness of the peaches.)


Step 1: Combine smashed peaches, lemon juice and sugar in large pot.

Step 2: Bring to boil over high heat until sugar dissolves.

Step 3: Stir in pectin.

Step 4: Return to a rolling boil.

Step 5: Boil hard 1 minute, constantly stirring

Step 6: Remove from heat.

Step 7: Skim foam if necessary.

Step 8: Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.

Step 9: Adjust 2-piece sterilized caps

Step 10: Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

*besides the obvious use of this jam, there are many other ways it can be used. I've discovered it tastes great as a glaze on chicken. Cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite-size pieces, marinade in jam (completely coat the chicken), then roll in panko bread crumbs. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil and preheat the oven to 375. Place chicken on baking sheet cook 10-12 minutes each very tasty, crunchy and slightly sweet...yum!

Good Golly, It's That Time of Year Again

With this wonderful weather comes the sweetest smells from my kitchen. I love baking, especially in the fall months when the heat is most welcome. I love the look on my child's face when he says, "What are you making today, mama?', and then the "mmmm...." comes strolling in as he impatiently awaits the goodies that will soon fill his belly.

He loves the end product of my baking sprees as much as I enjoy the process, the journey. I am far from domestic, but the kitchen is my playground as often as possible and this Fall will be no different. Deliciousness will radiate from my kitchen at every possible turn and I will keep you all updated on new recipes and the rants of the day that will go along with them.

Yay Fall! I love you and I sure have miss you!!!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Deconstruction: Blackberry Jam and Human Nature

Human nature is not only about life cycles and our ability to deconstruct and reemerge as different yet better people, it's about tasting the sweet joys life has to offer during that inevitable deconstruction process. We all fall apart in some way or another and in life not a soul emerges unscathed. We all possess life-changing scars, whether we were the cause of said scars or merely the recipients. I don't see my scars as negative life-stifling events, but as proof of my existence, proof that I have lived through many things and lived to tell the tale. I have completely fallen apart at times and have reemerged, not unlike the mythical creature the Phoenix. We as human beings have this wonderful ability to recreate ourselves, to learn from the hazards of life, to become something drastically different and just as wonderful as that beautiful, perfect, innocent creature brought into this world by people with good intentions.

The jam making process is similar to humanity's ability to completely deconstruct and fully reemerge as something drastically different yet extremely desirable. Life is a process and it's the end product that truly shows our growth and how these changes can actually sweeten our lives.

The first step in making jam is fruit selection. I prefer berry jams to all others so of course I chose blackberries. It helps that during the spring and summer months I have a seemingly endless supply in my yard as well as down by the river banks. The fruit you choose should be extremely ripe, maybe a little beyond ripe. The more life the fruit has experienced the better tasting the jam, the more character it will have.

Blackberries begin their lives as these beautiful little berries (although technically they are not really berries but seeds) especially if given the proper amount of TLC by their keepers or by mother nature. As they grow they become ripe and desirable and will one day be picked and devoured by some lucky creature, whether it be man, bird or pest. The sight of hundreds of fully-ripened blackberries is aesthetically pleasing to me, whether they are domesticated or wild like the ones I prefer. The wilder the berry, the sweeter the jam I think.

The second step is to mush the berries beyond recognition, save for the seeds that remain true to form. Like humans when we fully deconstruct there is always something within us that can be recognized at least by our own self. We may be unrecognizable to the naked eye of others but deep within ourselves we know who we truly are.

The third step is the addition of sugar and pectin. These additions not only add sweetness and structure to the tart, delicious berry mush, but it also provides security and safety. The large amount of sugar added to the mush actually keeps life-threatening bacteria away, preserving the jam for later use if shelf-stored. Upon deconstruction and reemergence as humans, we tend to add extra securities in our lives as well to protect ourselves from recreating the situations that drove us to our downfall.

The last and final step in making jam involves heat and preservation. All ingredients are heated to the point of complete incorporation and they become one whole new creation. They can no longer be recognized as blackberries (save for the seeds) or sugar or pectin. It has become something completely new and different and maybe even better than each ingredient on its own. We all start life as optimistic, happy-go-lucky children and as we grow we experience life and it changes us. If we are lucky we get through life only slightly scathed, but many of us deconstruct to the point of being distorted. This my friend is not a bad thing. Great is the man who is willing to change and grow. A jam may no longer have the visual aspects of its original fruit but the taste is truly altered, if not better, due to the additional ingredients and its capability to deconstruct and its willingness to start life anew.

Blackberry Jam Recipe:

*1 quart crushed blackberries
*6 1/2 cups sugar
*1 pouch liquid pectin

Step 1: Combine blackberries and sugar in a large sauce pot
Step 2: Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves
Step 3: Stir in pectin
Step 4: Return to a rolling boil
Step 5: Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly
Step 6: Remove from heat
Step 7: Skim foam if necessary
Step 8: Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace
Step 9: Adjust 2-piece sterilized caps
Step 10: Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peachy Muffins w/ a Butter/Ginger/Nutmeg Crumble!

This is a variation of my blueberry muffin recipe, and is just as, if not more, delicious! It's very easy to make.

Peach Muffins w/ a Butter, Nutmeg & Ginger Crumble
(makes a dozen; can be doubled)


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt (i prefer kosher salt)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup peaches (remove skin and dice - about 2 medium sized peaches)

crumble topping:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter; cubed (1/2 stick)
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
2. Grease your muffin cups
3. Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder
4. Place oil in a measuring cup, add the egg, and add enough milk to fill the cup
5. Mix wet ingredients with the dry ingredients (create a well in the center)
6. Fold in peaches

(set aside to make crumble topping)

- combine all topping ingredients together and 'crumble' it with a fork (you can use a food processor if you prefer)

7. Place prepared muffins in a pre-heated oven for 18 minutes.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Apple Butter - Autumn, Here We Come! :)

Nothing makes it feel like fall like apple butter and preserves! Preparing for the fall is what we ants are supposed to do, right? Ha! As someone who cooks and loves to bake, I've never even considered the idea of canning until recently, and let's just say that I think I found another true passion.

The frugality in me is extremely happy with this new 'obsession' because it gives me the ability to have a skill that will come in handy when times are rough, which has been quite often lately. It also gives me the ability to give my family what it needs for much less money. I am a stockpiler when times call for it, and the times have been calling my name, quite loudly lately.

So, my first attempt at canning has been a SUCCESS!!! The sterilization process is what scared me the most...because I have no urge to poison the ones I love, at least not today! (Ha!) After experiencing the process of making apple butter and canning it, I feel much cozier now with the process and am proud to say that there will be much canning going on in my kitchen and my future!

Here is the recipe for my Apple Butter...Hope you Enjoy!

Apple Butter
~(makes 3 pints or 6 half pints - which is the size I went with)
~This recipe can be doubled (which is what I did)

4 lbs Apples (about 16) - I used med. green apples 1 C apple cider vinegar 2 C water 4 C sugar (you will use 1/2 C sugar for each cup of puree) salt 2 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. ground cloves 1/2 tsp. allspice 1 lemon - zest & juice

Step 1: Cut apples into quarters (keeping the core & peel - needed to release pectin - although I did get rid of as many seeds as possible)

Step 2: Add to large pot - Apples, Vinegar, Water

Step 3: Cover, bring to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes (around 40 if you double the recipe), stir a bit, then remove from heat

Step 4: Ladle the mixture into a food mill or chenois seive and remove pulp

Step 5: Add puree to a pot and add 1/2 C sugar for each cup puree (I ended up with 14 C puree, so used 7 C seems like a lot of sugar, but this is very important for the canning process...sugar helps keep bacteria away!)

Step 6: Stir to dissolve sugar, add all the spices, lemon zest & lemon juice

Step 7: Cook uncovered on med/low heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning on the bottom (1 1/2 - 2 hours)

Jar Sterilization:

*There are several ways to sterilize your jars, but I found this to be the easiest:

Step 1: Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees, once preheated, place rinsed/dried jars on cookie sheet and keep in the oven for 10 minutes

Step 2: Place rings and lids in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, let them soak for a bit (while the jars are sterilizing

Step 3: Remove from oven


Step 1: Put hot apple butter in hot, sterilized jars and add the lid.

Step 2: Place the rings around the top (not too tight because you're going to want air to be able to get through during the hot water bath...basically the rings are there to keep the top in line)

Step 3: Make sure your boiling pot has a rack on the bottom (so as to not allow the jars to touch the bottom of the pot) and place sealed jars in pot.

Step 4: Cover jars with water, about an inch to an inch and a half

Step 5: Bring to a rolling boil...once at a rolling boil the processing time begins.....

Step 6: Process for 10 minutes in the hot water bath (ensures a good seal)

Step 7: Remove jars from hot water bath (tongs are preferred here seeing as these jars are HOT!) and place on the counter (on a towel) and let sit for 12 hours. You will begin to hear the clicking of the lids sealing....what a fabulous sound!!!

Now your batch of Apple Butter is ready!!!! (Since these are canned you can store these for up to one year outside of the fridge! )

Hope you enjoy your batch as much as I have enjoyed mine!!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Great Distraction & Delicious Hummus

In this day and age I am absolutely disgusted by the obsession and pin-pointed anger regarding this whole 'Ground Zero'/mosque debacle. I understand why people might possibly be upset, but why the mass news coverage? Why all the attention when we have more important things to focus on rather than where someone wants to build a building? It seems like a mass-distraction to me.

Do we not have a war going on where our men and women are losing their lives daily? Do we not have children across the world (including this country) so hungry that their bellies are distended and displayed in ads across America? In my mind, as a Christian, these are the things we should be focusing on, not on this worldly, petty issue.

Ground Zero is a place of sadness where many lost their lives, but it is not a place of worship, nor does it represent the Christian faith. The Twin Towers were not a function of Christianity, but of money, commerce, and greed world-wide (including countries of the Muslim faith). I have heard over and over, and fully believe, that we as human beings (including us Americans/Christians) hate/fear what we do not understand. Humans are willing to wreak as much havoc as possible when it comes to concepts/ideas that do not pertain to them (heh, sounds somewhat like the loonies who decided to take thousands of people's lives) and if it weren't for them and their hate/fear we wouldn't be having this 'discussion'.

But as I babble and rant all I can think about when I think of Muslim Centers, mosques and this issue is hummus, baba ghanoush and falafel. (Heh, I partially blame a friend of mine because every time I make mention of the deliciousness of hummus or falafel his comments jokingly have an air of jihads, etc.) I know it is probably wrong of me but I've always thought humor eased the pain of many, and so when I think of Islam and of the Middle east, their food always comes to mind, because it is all so delicious!

So in honor of this 'Ground Zero/Muslim Center' debate, I offer up a wonderful hummus recipe given to me by my dearest friend, and altered a bit to my family's taste.


1 can of chick peas, drained & rinsed (or 16 oz. dried chick peas, cooked)
1/4 cup of Tahini/sesame paste
1 - 2 Tbs of lemon juice (to taste)
2-3 garlic cloves
1 tsp garam masala (my homemade garam masala is delicious...will post recipe at later date)
1/2 tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil
dash of water as needed for desired consistency


1. Put chick peas, tahini, lemon juice into a food processor & puree until smooth/creamy texture.
2. Add a dash of water & process to desired consistency. (we prefer extremely smooth texture)
3. Add in seasonings and combine well
4. When ready to serve, top with a little olive oil

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sorghum Cookies and Family Traditions

I look forward to October for several reasons. The first is that, of course, my birthday happens to land in this wonderfully comfortable month, so I might be ever-so biased. Secondly, October represents the beginning of Georgia's yearly cooling-off period. The leaves begin to turn and the nights begin to cool down to a bearable pattern where you can take a deep breath without being drowned by Georgia's famous humidity. The third, which also leads to the tastiest reason, is my weekend getaway with some of my favorite women in my life. My mother, sister, and I make our annual trip to Whitwell, Tennessee, home to the most wonderful arts and crafts festivals around, a.k.a. the Ketner's Mill Fair. Getting to have girl time is a pretty rare thing for me, being surrounded by boys all the time, so I cherish every moment.

I love fall festivals in general, but this one has all the rest beat, at least in my opinion. I can't go to this fair without purchasing tasty treats and jarred perfection. When we leave, my loot generally includes a huge jar of Sorghum (or two), some actually prepared on site (mules and all), a few different types of honey (gotta love the local honey), several types of preserves and jellies, and a few other trinkets and treasures I just couldn't live without. I figure since this is a once-a-year kind of thing, I've got to stock up while I can.

I also love the time I get to spend with my mother and my sister. My niece generally tags along as well, but since she's a girl and all, we don't mind. All other children are left with the men in our lives, to get the most out of our girl's weekend. This year I"m hoping there will be a new addition to our 'Crew'. My sister and her husband have finally been given the joy of helping raise my brother-in-law's first daughter, who is eleven years old. She will make a great addition to our little gathering of women. To think of it, she's the next generation, so hopefully she will help carry on this wonderful family tradition.

The highlights of the fair are of course the jars of exquisiteness I purchase (which have to last me a whole year), but also the apple fritters, the spiral-cut potatoes, the blue-grass music, and the general atmosphere. On the way home (if we hadn't done so before we arrive), we generally stop at several year-end yard sales collecting other people's unloved items that will become treasures to us. This just so happens to be my favorite gathering of the year and one of the events I look forward to all year long.

With all that said, I've decided to share the most wonderful outcome of the Ketner's Mill Fair (other than my ever-growing relationship with the women in my life); my sorghum cookies! Without said festival I would have never thought to make such yumminness, and I wouldn't be able to share them with you.

With every scrumptious batch I make I think of my mother, my sister, my niece, and all the great times we've had going to the fair and enjoying each others' company. They remind me of fall and its ability to cool down and overheated South and they remind me of the goodness that comes from hard work and perfections. (Sorghum has got to be one of the nectars of the gods, honey of course landing in spot number one). I hope you enjoy my cookies as much as my family and I do, and I seriously think that my husband and son would complain more about our annual girl's trip if I didn't bring home the goodness to make these awesome cookies! I make up my weekend-absence with warm, soft sweetness.

Yummy Sorghum Cookies:

-Preheat oven to 350, grease cookie sheets, (position rack in upper third of oven)

Whisk together thoroughly:
3 3/4 cp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves (if I don't have any ground cloves, I grind whole ones in the coffee grinder)
1/4 tsp salt

Beat on Medium: (until fluffy and well-blended)
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1 2/3 cup sugar

Add: (beat until well-combined)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sorghum
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp finely-grated lemon zest

Stir flour mixture into sorghum mixture, until blended and smooth. Pull off pieces of dough and roll into 1-inch balls. Roll cookies in a cinnamon/sugar mixture. Space cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Press each cookie down slightly with a fork (I do two ways for a criss-cross look). Bake 10-13 minutes (rotate cookie sheet halfway through cooking for even cooking). Once cookies are baked remove cookie sheet from oven and let sit for a bit before transferring the cookies to a cookie rack. (this allows the cookies to harden a bit.)

*I've decided to post this recipe now because I plan on making this wonderful recipe for the easter-egg hunt/picnic on Saturday. I can't wait to share these wonderful cookies with my church family! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do :)