2015 Gift Guide: DIY Kits and Sets

Third in a series of concise gift guides for the 2015 holiday season. Up today is a collect of kits and sets that will help kickstart your DIY mojo.

DIY Kits - Food in Jars

A couple years ago, I decided to start knitting. I’d learned when I was a kid, but it had been years since I’d picked up yarn and needles and needed some help finding my footing. I bought myself Kat Goldin’s Knit Camp kit, and dove in.

It was that kit (plus a wide array of helpful video tutorials on YouTube) that helped me build confidence enough to pick out yarn and projects and start making. Here’s hoping that these culinary kits (and one discovery set for kids!) can help do the same for you or someone on your holiday list!

  1. Mori-Nu Make-Your-Own Tofu Kit – This kit allows you to make both silken and molded tofu (and includes everything you’ll need to do so). It’s a fun project to do with kids, particularly if you’re trying to convince them of the deliciousness of tofu. Read about my experience using the kit.
  2. Hobby Hill Farm Fresh Cheese Making Kit – This kit includes enough rennet, citric acid, and cheese salt to make 40 batches of cheese (talk about the gift that keeps on giving!). I took this kit out for a spin back in September, here’s my step-by-step tutorial.
  3. Maureen Abood’s Heavenly Hummus Kit – I’ve made a lot of hummus in my days, but never have I had a more delicious batch exit my food processor than the one I made with this kit.The secret is the pre-peeled chickpeas! Pair this kit with a copy of Maureen‘s book, Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, and you’d have a killer gift.
  4. Ferment’n Kit – I picked this sweet little kit up at Portland Homestead Supply when I was out there last month, and love its form factor and utility. It comes with a ceramic pickle weight and a nifty two-piece plastic airlock that has a very low profile. If there’s someone on your list with a tiny kitchen, this might be the perfect fermentation kit for them.
  5. Cultures for Health Kombucha Starter Kit – Looking to get started making your own kombucha in the new year? Cultures for Health’s Kombucha Starter Kit will set you on the road to scoby greatness!
  6. reCAP Explore Bug Catching Kit – This isn’t a culinary kit, but it is a fun one for kids (and involves a jar!) so I’m squeezing it in. The folks at Mason Jar reCAP have taken their new Flip Cap and added a magnifying lid to it, so that kids can collect and examine things from their natural world.
  7. FARMcurious Starter Kits – There’s so much to choose from over at FARMcurious. There’s the classic Fermenting Set I wrote about recently, the All-Inclusive Set (which includes a jar), or their Ultimate Fermenting Kit. A gift for every level of fermenter!
  8. Masontops – Last up is a trio of fabulous products from the folks at Masontops. Pair their glass fermentation weights with a Pickle Packer and a set of Pickle Pipes, and all your recipient needs to do is add veg, salt, and a jar!
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Giveaway: Old Blue Raw Honey

A giveaway of west coast honey from Old Blue Raw Honey. All the pictures in the post are by Camille Storch.

three small bottles of honey

This week’s giveaway comes to us from Old Blue Raw Honey. Old Blue is a family business, owned and operated by Henry and Camille Storch (you might know Camille from her lovely blog, Wayward Spark. She’s also written a couple of honey-based guest posts for me in the past).

Camille and Henry Storch, and their kids

Henry is a beekeeper and farrier, transporting his bees to different locations up and down the west coast as needs and the seasons demand. In his free time, he collects seed from native plants and interesting garden varieties, and he plays Legos with his kids. He also documents his days with the bees on Instagram.

Camille handles marketing, customer service, and order fulfillment for Old Blue Raw Honey, and is the writer and photographer behind all the Old Blue blog posts. In her free time, she cans seasonal produce (with honey!), and runs the trails around their home in Philomath, Oregon. Her Instagram account is also glorious.

a wide mouth quart jar full of honey

One of the things that makes Old Blue Raw Honey so special is that they offer a wide array of unusual, small-batch varietal honeys from their hives only. They honey is never heated over natural hive temperatures (under 100°F), and is minimally filtered, so it includes pollen, small wax particles, and once in a while, a small bee bit.

close up on bees crawling on a honeycomb

Old Blue Raw Honey is available online, at select shops, and on occasion, directly from Camille and Henry at events in Oregon. If you’re looking for a good gift for someone who loves interesting honey, getting them a sampler set from Old Blue would be a very smart thing to do.

Happily, it’s the sample set that I get to share today. Henry and Camille have generously offered up three of their Blackberry, Clary Sage, Coriander Honey Sampler Boxes for today’s giveaway. The honeys are packaged in 8 ounce, BPA-free plastic squeeze bottles and I promise, it will take everything you’ve got to keep from dispensing the honey straight onto your tongue.

Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me how you like to use honey. Do you spoon it into tea? Drizzle it on cornbread? Dollop a little on a sliver of cheese?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, December 19, 2015. A winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, December 20, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Old Blue Raw Honey is providing the honey for this giveaway at no cost to me. They have not paid for placement (though about a year and a half ago, Camille did give me a little bottle of honey). I’m writing this post because their honey is delicious and I want to share its goodness. 

Links: Mincemeat, Glögg, and a Winner

bowl of citrus from Autumn

Friends, feast your eyes on all that citrus! An unexpected box arrived on my doorstep late last week and it turned out it was filled with exotic, unsprayed citrus from Autumn (her book, Beyond Canning, will be out in February. Make sure to put it on your wish lists. I’ve seen an advance copy and it’s fab). I have a long list of baking, cooking, and making to do this week, and top on it is doing something worthy with this bounty. Now, links!

Mason Tap Kit - Food in Jars

The winner of last week’s Mason Tap Giveaway is #39/Erin. If you haven’t entered yet, make sure to put your name in the hat for my Lagostina Risotto Pot giveaway.

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Winter Squash Risotto with Leeks and Greens + Lagostina Risotto Pot Giveaway

Risotto Set-up - Food in Jars

I have a weakness for beautiful cookware (some woman collect jewelry, I surround myself pots and pans). The first time I saw the Lagostina Risotto Pot at my local Williams-Sonoma, I nearly swooned. Gleaming tri-ply stainless steel! A wooden topped lid (that fits tightly and doubles as a trivet)! And a thick, heat diffusing base to prevent hot spots and burning!

squash for roasting - Food in Jars

To my very great delight, not long after spotting this gorgeous pot for the first time, I got an email asking if I might like one to use for the development of a risotto recipe. I sent a positive response off as quickly as my fingers could type.

pouring rice - Food in Jars

Since this lovely piece of cookware arrived, I’ve been making a lot of risotto. It’s one of my favorite things to make and eat on chilly days. I love the ceremony of near-constant cooking (though to be truthful, I often put the spoon down for a moment or two so that I can do a little clean-up while I cook) and the comfort that comes when you cozy up to a bowlful.

finished risotto - Food in Jars

Whenever I make risotto, my primary goal is to cram as much vegetable content into the pot. Risotto can be a heavy dish, and so making sure that it’s packed with fresh produce (in this case, aromatics, greens, and roasted squash) helps lighten it and make it a more regular dinnertime occurrence.

plated risotto - Food in Jars

When I make this for me (if I’m making if for Scott, I use roasted carrots in place of squash), I peel and chop all the squash and stir it into the rice. However, if I have friends coming by, I like to reserve some of the roasted squash to serve on top. It brings a little visual and textural interest to the plate and makes it feel like something you might be served as the neighborhood Italian place.

risotto pot - Food in Jars

What’s nice about this piece of cookware is that truly, it’s good for so much more than risotto. The wide base and low profile mean that it’s a great shape for any dish you want to simmer and reduce. It does good work with small batches of jam and I love using to make Marcella’s tomato sauce.

The Lagostina Risotto pot can be found at Williams-Sonoma, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and other specialty shops, and retails for $199.95. For more information about Lagostina, check out their social accounts and visit their website.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Thanks to the kind folks at Lagostina, I have one of their glorious Risotto Pots to give away to you guys. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me what kind of risotto you’d make in this pot.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, December 19, 2015. A winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, December 20, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Lagostina sent me this risotto pot to use and write about. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

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Maple Bourbon Apple Butter + OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender

Looking for an easy, five-ingredient apple butter for holiday giving? Look no further than this small batch Maple Bourbon Apple Butter!

Finished Maple Bourbon Apple Butter - Food in Jars

My family got our first immersion blender when I was in middle school. I can’t remember where it came from, though if I was forced to guess, I’d bet that it was a gift from my grandmother. While she didn’t cook much herself, she garnered a great deal of pleasure from buying culinary appliances and giving them to others (probably in the hopes that they’d prepare something for her with it).

OXO Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender - Food in Jars

My sister and I claimed that immersion blender as our own, using to make jam and yogurt smoothies for breakfast and after school snacks of skim milk and chocolate SlimFast (it was the nineties, after all). Since then, there’s rarely been a time when I didn’t have an immersion blender in my kitchen.

Apples for Butter - Food in Jars

These days, I pull out my immersion blender on a near-daily basis and use it for soups, purees, fruit butters, jams, gravies, salad dressings, and mason jar mayonnaise. When I heard that OXO was bring an new immersion blender to market, I was excited to check it out because I knew that my current immersion blender was nearing the end of its lifespan and OXO products are always so thoughtfully designed.

OXO Core Clip - Food in Jars

Guys, the OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender is even better than I had hoped. The blender head is made of sturdy nylon, which means you don’t have to worry about scratching your bowls or cookware with metal. The shaft is coated in silicone, so that you can knock the drips of the blender without dinging the edges of your pan (I have a few pots that are pockmarked from repeated immersion blender banging). The blending end removes from the motor with the press of a button. The motor end has heft and the DC motor produces a lot of power.

Chopped Apples for Butter - Food in Jars

No matter what speed you’re on, the blender starts slowly to prevent splashes and then ramps up to whichever of the six speeds you’ve set it at. The speeds are controlled digitally and you can set them using the dial on the top of the blender. The cord comes with a useful clip on the end, so that you can wrap it around the handle and secure it in place. The wide power button is easy to press and hold. Oh, and lets not forget about the headlight, which illuminates whatever you’re blending. On my dark stovetop, this is so useful.

Cooked Apples for Butter - Food in Jars

For its maiden voyage in my kitchen, I used this lovely OXO immersion blender to make a batch of Maple Bourbon Apple Butter. Wanting to really test it, I cored and chopped five pounds of apples, but left the peels on (unlike this recent butter, where I peeled). In my experience, not all immersion blenders can break down even long-cooked apple peels, but this one handled it like it was nothing.

OXO Blending Apples - Food in Jars

No matter how large or small the batch size, I use a two-blend process when I make apple butter. I cook the fruit down into a soft sauce, puree the heck out of it, cook it down until it thickens and darkens, and then work it with the immersion blender again.

The reason for the second puree is two-fold. First, the peels aren’t always quite soften enough to disappear during that first round of blending. Second, most fruit butters clump a bit while you’re cooking them down, and I prefer a super smooth butter. Pureeing just before the butter goes into the jar ensures that silky texture.

OXO Blender in Action - Food in Jars

As the fruit was cooking down, I spent a little time pondering flavorings. I have plenty of spiced apple butters on my shelves, and wanted to opt for something different here. I know that the combination maple, bourbon, and orange zest isn’t a particularly novel one, but combined the richness of the long-cooked apples, was just the thing I was craving. My plan is to keep two of the jars for myself, and tuck the remaining two into gift baskets for people I know will appreciate it.

Maple Bourbon Apple Butter Overhead - Food in Jars

The OXO On Digital Illuminating Immersion Blender isn’t the only small kitchen appliance that OXO has brought to market lately. There’s also an illuminating hand mixer, a pair of motorized toasters, and a line of coffee makers and water kettles (several times lately, I’ve found myself at Williams-Sonoma, petting the 9-cup coffee maker). I look forward to seeing what OXO creates next!

Disclosure: OXO sent me this OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender to try and write about. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

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2015 Gift Guide: Travel Mugs and Drinking Jars

Second in a series of concise gift guides for the 2015 holiday season. On the docket for today? Things that transform jars into travel mugs and water bottles, as well as one actual travel mug.

Drinking Jar Gift Guide - Food in Jars

For a brief time in the mid-2000s, I worked a horrible admin job at a local university (this was the situation that convinced me that it was time to go to grad school). In order to save money, I packed both my breakfast and lunch up in a trio of mason jars nearly every single day. Coffee was stashed in a regular mouth pint. A breakfast smoothie was contained in a pint & half jar (which was a rare bird indeed back then, well before Ball reintroduced that size). And most days, I brought soup for lunch in a wide mouth pint jar.

I tell you all this to say, I have done my time in the mason jar traveling circus and these are some of the best toppers, drink lids, and other accessories out there.

  1. iLid Drink Topper – A one-piece lid with a slider that can cover or reveal the drink opening. It’s not leakproof, but if you hate fussing with two pieces, it’s the way to go.
  2. Joco Cup – I know. There’s no jar here. However, if you are looking to give someone a travel mug this holiday season and they think that mason jars are entirely too uncivilized, this is the one I recommend. It’s made of glass and silicone, is quite sturdy, and feels nice in the hand.
  3. Cuppow Glass Travel Mug – This is the complete mason jar mug system. You get a wide mouth mason jar, a Cuppow topper, and a coozie made from recycled soda bottles. I use mine all the time and love the little loop on the coozie.
  4. EcoJarz Pop-Top and Denim Holster – I’ve paired two of EcoJarz products together for the perfect smoothie toting combo. The Pop-Top lid seals tight and the cute denim sleeve keeps your jar from clanking around your backpack or lunch bag.
  5. Mason Bar Company Bamboo Tumbler Lid – A bamboo lid that screws directly onto a jar and has a hole just the right size for a glass straw. It’s the most stylish jar sipping set-up I know.
  6. reCAP Mason Jar POUR – Most people use these pour lids for salad dressings and maple syrup. However, they just happen to also make a good drink lid, particularly if your goal is quick access to water.
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