Lemon Curd, Where Have You Been All My Life?

Lemon Curd

Last week I was in Virginia with Katherine to help out after her second chemo treatment. I’m not sure I was much help, she likes to do things on her own, but it was nice to spend time with her and her family. One morning for a snack, she pulled out a jar of Trader Joe’s Lemon Curd, and we added some to a toasted bagel half with a little cream cheese smeared on first. Result? To. Die. For!

I thought I had had lemon curd before, but it turns out I had it confused with lemon custard. My brain isn’t what it used to be. But I was very pleasantly surprised by the difference. I posted a query for a recipe on Facebook and Rosa from The Rambling Epicure posted her recipe and it looks fabulous! The only problem came when I got home and realized as I started to make the curd, I had already packed my kitchen scale for the big move. Drat! So I did a little research to see what I can find online and ended up following this recipe to an extent and kind of incorporated other techniques I thought were neat in to my finished product.

I did a few things differently, I used the zest of two lemons, which was more than what the Gourmet recipe called for, and I used the juice of 4 lemons, which was just a bit more than 1 cup. Otherwise it was the same. Also after it had thickened I whipped it on high speed with my mixer for a minute or two, a method I had seen on another lemon curd recipe. I ended up with a light, lemony little bite of goodness, or more like almost a quart of lemon curd fabulosity. Yum!

Lemon Curd: Ready for Fridge

I’ve always said I was born on the wrong continent…I drink tea, I like scones, I like old world style, and now I like lemon curd. I think I’m more convinced now that I was. Oh to dream. I spread a little lemon curd on some girl scout Trefoil shortbread cookies, and it was really, really good. Grab a shortbread cookie of your own and try it…you’ll like it if you’re a lemon lover I promise. Go. Go now. You won’t be sorry.

Creamy Italian

Creamy Italian Salad Dressing

It’s happened…

The unthinkable…

To me anyway…

I’ve run out of the will to cook!

It’s part depression, part too much going on all at once, and general lack of energy. Who’d have thought it would happen to me? Certainly not me!

As a result; the not wanting to cook, coupled with the fact that I’ve been eating healthier, means that Alexis and I have been eating a lot of salads. I love salad. So crisp, so fabulous!

But…

I hate making salads though, even though we’ve been eating a lot of them. Why is it a salad you make yourself just doesn’t taste as good as a salad someone else makes for you? It just doesn’t!

Huh?

What?

I’ll tell you why…It’s because making a salad is an honest to goodness physical exertion. You’ve got to wash all the veggies. Then you have to prepare them, slice, chop, etc. Then you have to put it together. Did I mention tossing? After it’s all together you have to decide how to top it…That’s a lot of effort!

Regardless I’ve been on a salad kick.

And since on this kick I’ve been playing around with dressings. I like to make my own for the most part. They taste better, they don’t have weird chemicals in them and they’re better for you all around. This creamy Italian dressing is one that I put together that I really, really like! It is very similar to the dressing they use at that restaurant whose first word starts with and “O” and second word starts with a “G”.

You know the one. Concentrate for a moment and it will come to you.

There you go! That’s the one!

Not only is this delicious, it’s sinfully easy to make, and let’s face it, an easy step in the salad process is a welcome one at that.

Now it’s time to try it. Come on…You know you want to!

What You’ll Need:
1 cup of light mayonnaise (Note: I prefer Hellman’s.)
1/3 cup of white, champagne or rice wine vinegar
The juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons of organic cane sugar
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/3 cup of Romano cheese, finely grated
1 teaspoon of garlic salt or 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, plus 1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 tablespoon of dried parsley

Dump ingredients in a canning jar. Place the lid on tightly and shake to mix. Let the flavors meld for at least an hour (overnight is better) in the fridge and then use to make your salad.

Creamy Italian Salad Dressing

How ridiculously easy is that?

Notes: You can play around with the proportions to change the taste slightly. You could also use one or the other of the cheeses, and not both. As always, mix and match!

Make Your Own: Honey Butter

Make You Own Honey Butter

I was talking about making honey butter with some friends a while back and I was surprised to find out that they thought this was an epic culinary undertaking. They were shocked when I told them just how easy it was to make!

I’m a big fan of honey butter, or well honey itself for that matter. My father has his own bees so I’ve always got a ready supply of honey in the cabinet. Honey butter is perfect on warm biscuits, yeast rolls, or even simple toast. Making your own is also a lot cheaper and has less unneeded additives than what you might find in your store.

2012 will bring more of these “Make Your Own” segments, which in reality are what I like to call “semi-recipes”. Everything from herbed oils, to seasonings, to other food items, along with a few household cleaning and beauty items as well. In 2011 I started making my own laundry detergent and cleaning spray. Not only is it cheaper, it’s healthier too. After all isn’t that how most of use want to start out the New Year?

Happy New Year! Here’s to hoping 2012 is a healthier, better year for us all!

Make You Own Honey Butter

What You’ll Need:
1/2 pound of butter, softened (Note: I like to use Kerrygold Irish Butter.)
1/4 to 1/3 cup of honey

In a mixing bowl beat butter until light and fluffy. On low speed slowly add honey and mix until incorporated. Turn to high and beat for one minute.

Remove butter from mixing bowl and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Plus it’s ready to use immediately.

How easy is that?

Make You Own Honey Butter

Notes: If you like your honey butter a little less sweet go with 1/4 a cup of honey. It you like it a bit more sweet then go with 1/3 a cup of honey instead. Honey butter not your thing? Add a couple of tablespoons of cinnamon sugar instead to make another great “fancy” butter to enjoy.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream and Hot Fudge Sauce

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream With Hot Fudge Sauce

Yesterday we had some friends over to help celebrate Memorial Day. We decided to do the standard picnic fare, only our picnic ended up being inside due to heat and air quality, but that’s ok too. We had fun, so that’s all that matters.

I did most of the cooking on Sunday afternoon, except for cooking the hot dogs and hamburgers and setting the ice cream. On Monday morning all I had to do was organize and few last minute details and put everything together.

I decided I wanted to put a tablecloth on the table, but the problem is that I don’t actually have a tablecloth that fits our very long table, so I decided to make one! I took a piece of material that I’ve had for forever and could never decide what to do with the piece and used part of that. I was very happy with the results!

My handy, dandy tablecloth!

I thought it turned out really well! Martha has nothing on me! That’s my little sous chef in the background dancing away.

I had an assortment of drinks as well:

Ready to go

I had Virgil’s Orange Cream Soda, Izze Grapefruit soda, Old Dominion Root Beer (It’s made with honey! And it’s ironically listed on their beer list even though it’s non-alcoholic.), Sprite (Jamison’s drink of choice as of late), lemonade, unsweet green ice tea and of course water. We had some Corona, hard lemonade and hard limeade in the fridge, but we ended up not diving in to that.

We had a buffet style set up with fruit, veggies, hamburgers and toppings, hotdogs, potato salad, baked beans and chips:

Waiting on the hamburgers and hot dogs

And for dessert we had homemade ice cream and hot fudge sauce! Which are both just perfect on a hot, hazy day like yesterday! We had a very pleasant day. I hope your afternoon was as fabulous as ours!

Now let’s talk a little vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce!

What You’ll Need for the Ice Cream:
1 quart of heavy cream
1 quart of half and half
1 half gallon of whole milk
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla powder
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
6 egg yolks

In a large stock pot stir together cream, half and half, whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, vanilla powder and vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat stirring often and let the mixture become hot. Be careful, you don’t want this to boil or scald.

When the milk is hot, ladle out some of the hot mixture into a bowl with your egg yolks whisking quickly to temper the eggs. Add this mixture back to the pot and whisk constantly until the mixture becomes slightly thick.

Remove mixture from heat and run through a sieve several times to make sure there are no lumpy egg bits. Cool mixture completely. Overnight is best.

Once mixture is completely chilled add to a large ice cream maker and set according to your ice cream makers instructions.

Notes: I had a bit of the custard mixture left over when I made the ice cream. I’m going to use my small Cuisinart ice cream maker to freeze the rest.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream With Hot Fudge Sauce

What You’ll Need for the Hot Fudge Sauce:
4 squares of unsweetened chocolate
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of evaporated milk
1 1/3 cup of organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

In a medium sized pot melt chocolate and butter together until completely melted. Slowly add milk and sugar and stir until mixed.

Bring to a slow boil and cook stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes until mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Use to top ice cream or any other way you would use chocolate syrup.

Notes: This is the hot fudge sauce that my mom used to make. It brings back so many memories of my childhood all with one little taste!

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

I love mangoes, but I rarely eat them because they really are a pain in the rear to cut up. I’ve tried the tricks that supposedly make cutting them easier, but I have never really found one that I like. Often I buy frozen mango for smoothies, but once in a while I’ll buy an actual mango to enjoy.

Mango is great all by itself, but it’s really a fun component to add to salsa! This version is cool, fresh and really great to compliment a summer meal. Who says salsa has to be tomato based?

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Ingredients

What You’ll Need:
1 mango, chopped
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1-3 jalapenos, chopped fine
2 cups of cooked black beans
1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup of parsley, chopped (Note: I am not a fan of cilantro, in fact I despise cilantro, but if you’re a fan you could substitute this if you desired. I won’t vouch for the over all taste of the salsa though if you do choose this route.)

First chop a mango and add it to a large glass bowl:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Mango

Next add the chopped red onion:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Red Onion

Have I mentioned lately how these should be call purple onions instead? There is not red there! I haven’t? Well there you go then! ;oP

Next add cucumber:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Cucumbers

Then jalapeños:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Jalapeño

And then the black beans, salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Salt, Pepper, Oil and Vinegar

Toss everything together until well mixed. Then add chopped parsley and stir until incorporated:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

Serve immediately or chill for a couple of hours before serving.

Notes: This is great on fish or steaks. Also you’ll want to use this within a day of making.

No Cook Blueberry Jam

No Cook Blueberry Jam

As I mentioned yesterday Alexis and I went to the orchard after our trip to the library to pick up some blueberries (and of course peas for Miss G)! I just love blueberry season! Blueberries are my favorite fruit, followed closely by watermelon and fresh pineapple. In fact if you do a search on Dianne’s Dishes for blueberries you’ll find Blueberry Muffins to Blueberry Ice Cream to Blueberry Cheesecake and everything in between!

I’m a big fan of blueberry jam. In fact I normally get mine from a local company called McCutcheons. I love their jams/jellies/preserves! And as an added bonus they have no high fructose corn syrup in them and use real sugar. That’s always a plus in my book. But I’ve been wanting to try to make some on my own for a while now.

This jam turned out just perfect! The lemon and blueberry go so well together, and it was just the right amount of sweet! It also goes together in no time and you don’t have to fuss with canning or anything either since it’s a fridge or freezer jam. In less than an hour you’ve got yourself some fabulous homemade jam!

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Blueberries

What You’ll Need:
4 pints of blueberries
2/3 cup of organic cane sugar
The zest of one lemon
The juice of one lemon
1 package of Ball Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin

Rinse berries and pick over them to ensure there are no stems. Mash berries well:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Mashed Blueberries

If there are a few blueberries that don’t get mashed that’s ok.

Add the zest and juice of one lemon:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Lemon Zest

Also add the organic cane sugar:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Organic Cane Sugar

Stir to mix well:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Mixed and Ready for Pectin

Add pectin 1 tablespoon at a time:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Pectin

And then stir until mixed in. Repeat this process until the pectin is completely gone and well mixed in to the blueberry mixture:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Ready for Jars

Stir for 3-4 minutes and then you’re ready to store. I like to use canning jars. Using a funnel ladle the mixture into the jar:

No Cook Blueberry Jam

Be sure not to fill the jars quite full, especially if you’re going to store this in the freezer:

No Cook Blueberry Jam

This will give you about 3 1/2 pints:

No Cook Blueberry Jam

The one that was going in the fridge I filled a little more full than those going into the freezer.

Let sit for 30 minutes and voila…Jam!

Store in the fridge for 4-6 weeks or the freezer for 10-12 months.

No Cook Blueberry Jam

Notes: This method should work with other types of fruits and berries too. Next up I want to try peaches!

Minty Strawberry Sauce

Minty Strawberry Sauce

I’ve already told you how much I enjoy fresh strawberries, so I won’t go there again, but when we got more strawberries this week from our CSA, along with some mint, I was thrilled! I knew immediately that I wanted to do something with them together.

We had a few slices of pound cake left over from our dinner last week (I froze most of it for use later) and I decided to make some Minty Strawberry Sauce to top that and of course it was just perfect! If you’ve never had mint and strawberries together before try it…It really is fabulous!

Minty Strawberry Sauce: Strawberries

What You’ll Need:
1 pint of strawberries
1/4 cup of mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar

In a glass bowl or container chop strawberries to desired size:

Minty Strawberry Sauce: Ready for Sugar and Mint

Stir in mint leaves and sugar until mixed:

Minty Strawberry Sauce: Ready for the Fridge

Cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or until “sauce” forms. Perfect as an ice cream topping for vanilla or vanilla white chocolate ice cream or as a topping on angel food cake or pound cake.

Notes: This goes together quickly, is easy, yet provides a bit of bang in terms of wow factor. This mixture also can be used to make an ice cream similar to this one.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

This past weekend I was restless. With Alexis not being able to be around people the last few weeks due to her illness and their concerns that she might pick up something else on top of what she already had, I was more than tired of being in our house, looking at the same walls. While I’m a homebody of the biggest sort for the most part, if I HAVE to stay somewhere without the choice to go out, then I get a bit stir crazy!

On Saturday I decided to get out and run some errands. Jamison was at home, so I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to keep my very social, very friendly, “I love people!” child from interacting with folks who might be carrying this germ or that that her system might not be able to handle yet, and left her at home with “Dad” as she calls him, while I went and got a few things done.

When I finished doing what I needed to do, I didn’t feel like rushing straight home. Jamison was watching Miss G so I decided to take another route home. I would say more scenic, but this whole area is scenic, so it was beautiful either way. It’s spring, the trees are either sprouting or entirely green and the whole world is just stunning! Other than spring allergies that come from these pollinating beings, this is why I love spring!

I was driving along, and yes singing my songs, when I remembered that it was now May and that meant the orchard was open! I decided to pop over and see if they had any peas yet, because ours are still growing and not producing yet, and Alexis loves her some peas! She’s always liked them, so I thought I’d drop by to see if they had any. They didn’t, but I was pleasantly surprised to find some strawberries!

I’ll confess no matter what time of year, you’ll usually find strawberries in the fridge as they are another of Miss G’s favorite things. But there is just something about a plant ripened, local strawberry that makes spring so fun! The taste of fresh, ripe strawberries just can’t be beat! I picked up a container, along with some spinach and spring onions and headed home. The strawberries were so good I just had to run over and get some more on Tuesday and this time when I went they had rhubarb too!

Rhubarb is one of those things you either like or you don’t. I hear people talking about it each spring, and I’ll admit I’ve had rhubarb all of once, when I experimented with it a couple of years ago, but I just couldn’t pass up those beautiful stalks when I saw them on Tuesday, so I picked up a couple of bunches along with the strawberries and headed home. But what was I going to do with them?

I decided that it would be fun to try and make a strawberry rhubarb jam and I was very pleased with the results. (I also made a strawberry rhubarb cobbler…You’ll most likely see that one next week!) The jam ended up being tart, but with just the right hint of sweetness. I’m not a fan of overly sugary jams, and if you’ve ever looked at jam recipes most of them call for inordinate amounts of sugar! 1 cup of fruit to 1 cup of sugar in a lot of cases and let me just say that is more than sugar overkill! Fresh, ripe fruit doesn’t need a lot of sugar, it just needs a bit to compliment the flavor and that’s what I’ve done here.

So if you like strawberries, rhubarb and a little tang, this is the jam for you!

Note: You can can this, or store it in the fridge. I’m not going to give you canning instructions because although I do can from time to time I’m not an expert. You can get more information from the National Canning Center. They have a great page set up to tell you exactly what to do!

This was also the first time I used pectin. I’ve used gelatin in the past, but wanted to try something different. I thought for a while it was going to be more like Strawberry Rhubarb Syrup, but overnight it firmed right up! I was very pleased.

What You’ll Need:
6 cups of strawberries, chopped (Note: I like to have big chunks of fruit, but you can chop the fruit and fine or as coarse as you like.)
4 cups of rhubarb, chopped
1 cup of sugar
The zest of one lemon
The juice of one lemon
4 teaspoons of pectin
4 teaspoons of calcium water

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam: Strawberries and Rhubarb

Chop fruit and pour into a large stock pot, stir to mix. Add sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice and stir to coat. Let sit for an hour or until juice forms.

Once liquid has formed bring mixture to a quick boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10-20 minutes or until the fruit starts breaking down. You want a soupy mixture, with tender fruit.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam: Ready to Seal

Once mixture is soupy and tender remove from heat. Remove 2 cups of the mixture and place in a glass bowl. Whisk in pectin and calcium water (Note: I’ve never used pectin before. I used Pomona’s Pectin and I don’t know if pectin usually uses calcium water or if that is just a Pomona thing.) into the removed strawberry/rhubarb mixture until relatively smooth and then dump this back into the pot and stir until mixed.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam: Setting

At this point you can either can the mixture or you can store it in the fridge. I canned it and ended up with two quart jars. I would have preferred smaller jars, but I didn’t have the lids.

And there you have jam!

Notes: As I mentioned in the intro I wasn’t sure if this was going to set up. I made this around three yesterday and there was a warning on the box that pectin continues hardening until the mixture is completely cool. When I came upstairs last night at 8 the jars were still warm and the mixture was not set. When I went down to the kitchen this morning it had set nicely! Also if you wanted to add more sugar you could, but I liked the slightly sweet, slightly tart results.

Caramel Hot Fudge Sauce

Caramel Hot Fudge

Diana and I share the nickname “Di”. I noticed her name immediately back in my TWD days because you just notice things like that. I started reading her blog Di’s Kitchen Notebook and have been an avid reader since. I was so excited when she agreed to guest blog this week! Be sure and let her know how awesome this hot fudge sauce looks and be sure to stop over at her blog and say hello too!

When Dianne posted on Facebook that she was looking for guest bloggers, I was really excited at the prospect of being one of them. I really enjoy reading her blog. I started following it back when she was also a member of Tuesdays with Dorie. I’m really impressed that she can keep up with posting on a daily basis, and I love the various themes that she comes up with, like Ice Cream Week. In fact, since that was one of my favorites, I thought that it would be fun to talk some more about ice cream, even though it’s still technically winter. Fortunately it’s pretty warm during the day down here in Texas, and besides, any time is good for ice cream. =)

I tend to be pretty minimalist with my ice cream. My husband Jamie sometimes likes lots of stuff in his ice cream, but I like usually like plain flavors. Chocolate. Vanilla. Mint. Maybe throw some chocolate chips in there. Or a swirl of something. So to make my ice cream choice more interesting for everyone else, I like to make some sort of sauce to go with it. Raspberry coulis, or chocolate sauce, or maybe some caramel. I’ve been having lots of fun making caramel at home lately. It’s gotten to the point where I can even multitask while keeping an eye on molten sugar on the stove. I never could have done that a year ago. =)

At the end of February, I made some Salted Burnt Sugar Ice Cream (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours, though the salt was my addition) to go with another recipe that I made. Afterwards, I had some of the ice cream left, and was looking for something to go with it. Chocolate sounded good, and then I thought about combining the chocolate with caramel to tie everything together. I made some caramel sauce and melted some chocolate into it. The resulting sauce had the texture of hot fudge with an underlying flavor of salty caramel. Mmm.

(I realized later that I’d seen something similar recently on Rebecca’s blog, Ezra Pound Cake. Check out her great Cocoa Nib ice cream, too.)

Caramel Hot Fudge

Caramel Hot Fudge Sauce
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon light corn syrup (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70%)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Start by putting the water into a medium saucepan. Pour the sugar into the center of the water, so it all gets wet without any crystals getting on the sides of the pan. Add the corn syrup, which acts as insurance against crystallization. Cover the saucepan and place it over medium heat. After a couple minutes the mixture will start boiling; remove the lid.

At first the sugar mixture will bubble like crazy as the water boils off. Once that happens, the syrup will start to thicken and the bubbles will get bigger and pop more slowly. It will even sound different. After 5 or 6 minutes (I think), the color will start to change, first becoming a pale yellow and eventually starting to turn amber around the edges. At that point, swirl the mixture in the pot, watching carefully as the whole thing gradually darkens in color. Once it reaches a medium to dark amber color, slowly pour in the heavy cream, standing back because steam will shoot out as the cream hits the hot sugar.

The caramel will probably seize up at this point. Add the kosher salt and put the mixture back over low heat, stirring until the caramel melts into the cream and the whole mixture smooths out. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the bittersweet chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth again. Let cool until just warm and add the vanilla. Serve over your favorite ice cream. Leftover sauce can be kept in the refrigerator. I’m not sure how long it will keep–but it probably won’t last long anyway. =)

Thanks Diana! And thanks to all who helped me out this week as a guest blogger. I’ll be back next week with all new recipes so stay tuned!

Homemade Peanut Butter

Homemade Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a big hit at our house, but I worry about the trans fats that come with commercial brands. Most of the big companies have gotten them down to a point where they can list that they are trans fat free, but if the word “hydrogenated” appears on the label, then the trans fats are still there!

Natural nut butters are the way to go and they are extremely easy to make. You just need some roasted nuts and a little honey. Combine the two and you’ve got a fantastic alternative to commercial varieties. Get the kids involved, they’ll love this process! After you’re done grab an apple and smooth on some Homemade Peanut Butter and you’ve got a fantastic snack!

What You’ll Need:
2 cups of dry roasted peanuts (Note: Not salted. You can find plain dry roasted peanuts in most health food stores or natural markets. If you want a salt kick add in 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.)
1/3-1/2 cup of honey (Note: Much like working with flour you might need more or less. When the “butter” starts to form and ends up to the consistency you like stop adding honey.)

In a food processor process peanuts until chopped fine. Start adding honey with the processor still going until “butter” forms to the consistency you like. Store in an air tight container.

Homemade Peanut Butter

Notes: This will work with any roasted nut. Also natural peanut butters tend to separate sometimes so you may need to stir before using. If you want a crunchy variety stir in a 1/2 cup of chopped peanuts.