IMUSA Kitchen Tools for Cinco de Mayo

IMUSA gear

Sometime in mid-April, I got an email from an IMUSA PR rep, asking if I might be interested in participating in a Cinco de Mayo campaign. They would send me some IMUSA tools and I’d make something with them and write about.

Because it sounded like fun and I spend my life grossly underestimating how long tasks will take me to get done, I said yes. I was not worried at all about the fact that my book manuscript was due right around Cinco de Mayo because I was certain I would be done in advance of the deadline.

avocado slicer

The box containing a tortilla press, a citrus squeezer, an avocado slicer, a pair of salsa bowls, and a tortilla warmer arrived last Thursday. I was hunched over my computer in my signature stress-writing position and so only managed to open the box and glance quickly at its contents before returning to writing about date purees and coconut sugar measurements.

tortilla press .
I thought I’d find a moment or two in which to take the tools out for a test drive sometime over the weekend, but it didn’t happen (I did manage to take a break on Saturday to see the new Avengers movie with Scott and our friend Joe. Priorities).

This left me with Monday (and with the manuscript still unfinished) and I was okay with that. I knew I didn’t have a ton of time to devote to dreaming up a new recipe and so instead, I turned to the things I knew would make a good dinner and I could make without a huge investment of time.

squeezing limes

I started early in the afternoon by making a batch of this Cumin Cabbage Slaw (it tastes best if it has a couple hours for the flavors to mingle). I cheated a little  by using pre-sliced cabbage (in my defense, it was all they had at Trader Joe’s), and added some pre-grated carrots for more color. I used the IMUSA citrus squeezer to juice the lime and it worked beautifully.

making slaw

Wanting to put the tortilla press to work, I decided to make the tortillas out of Vanessa Barrington’s lovely little book, DIY Delicious (a great book for homemade basics).

tortilla balls

However, I made a critical error. I opted for flour tortillas because I didn’t have time to run out for masa harina. But because of the gluten content in the flour tortillas, they don’t work well with a press (you press them and they shrink right back up). So I ended up using the press to start them and then rolled them out by hand the rest of the way. Happily, they were delicious enough to make the effort worthwhile (and truly, it was nicely meditative).

tortilla on the press

I made a batch of Molly’s Turkey Taco meat and smashed some of my home canned pinto beans in a saucepan with a little oil, minced red onion, chopped green pepper, and a crushed garlic clove.

finished tortillas

A jar of salsa, a tub of sour cream, and some grated cheddar cheese rounded things out. There was no guacamole because the two avocados in the fridge were way past their prime. It ended up being a really good dinner (even if it was eaten on Quatro de Mayo) and produced leftovers enough for lunches today (and right now, nothing pleases me more than getting multiple meals out of a single cooking effort).

homemade turkey tacos

Oh, and the tools? They are sturdy, useful, and colorful. I’m not sure that my life requires a tortilla warmer, but the squeezer and tortilla press are staying in the permanent rotation. I can’t wait to use the avocodo slicer and will do so, as soon as the pair on my counter ripen up. For more from IMUSA, make sure to check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Search for #IMUSAdeMayo to see what other bloggers have created!

Happy Cinco de Mayo to all!

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May Sponsors: Cuppow, iLids, Fillmore Container, Mighty Nest, Mrs. Wages, Fermentools, and Preserving Now!

Write, write, write!

It is the first! of! the! month! which means it is time to thank those companies who help support Food in Jars. It would not be sustainable for me to write here so often without their support! If you like something they do, please do follow a link or two and show them that you care.

Cuppow is the creator of the original mason jar travel mug topper and the BNTO, a small plastic cup that transforms a canning jar into a snack or lunch box. They also recently expanded their product line to include branded jar coozie (which I’ve been using non-stop) and they’ve teamed up with the EIO Kids Cup folks to bring the manufacturing of that kids drinking system onto US soil.

iLids is a Seattle-based small business that makes both storage and drink lids in both regular and wide mouth sizes for mason jars. Their storage lids are water tight and the drink lids can accommodate a straw. Add some to your kitchen today!

Fillmore Container is a family-owned business based in Lancaster, PA and sells all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. If you’re wedding planning, making sure to check out this post on their blog that details all the ways you can integrate jars into your big day.

MightyNest is an amazing resource for non-toxic, natural, and organic products for homes and families. I’m currently hosting a giveaway that they sponsored for a collection of green picnic gear. Make sure to enter before it ends on May 4, 2015!

Mrs. Wages makes pectin, vinegar, and more canning mixes than I can count. Their website is an incredible preserving resource and I can’t say enough good things about their salsa mix. Make sure to sign up for their newsletter for monthly installments of canning goodness.

Fermentools offers a brilliant fermentation starter kit that involves a heavy-duty glass pickling weight, an airlock, a lid with a reusable rubber seal, and mineral-rich salt. I used the kit recently for a batch of sauerkraut and it worked like a dream! Get one (or several!) before the summer growing season gets going!

Preserving Now is a small business based in Atlanta, Georgia run by Lyn Deardorff. This summer, in addition to teaching her regular Canning Immersion Classes, Lyn has added a Summer Preserving Series at Serenbe in Atlanta and Nashville. Each class in the series features both a seasonal fruit preserve and a pickle or relish.

If your company or small business is interested in becoming a sponsor, you can find more details here. I offer discounts for multiple month purchases and am always happy to work with your budget.

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Resurfacing and Salmon Cakes

cans of salmon

It’s been a little over a week since I admitted my overwhelm and put up a picture of rhubarb. The book manuscript has made great strides since then and I’ve pulled myself together enough that I actually have something to say here! Oh glorious day.

I’m writing about salmon cakes (or patties, depending on your preferred nomenclature) today. They’re not the most glamorous of foods, but they are delicious, can often be made with just what’s in your fridge and pantry, and they make some of the best and most flavorful leftovers I know. And when you’re six days away from a deadline, meals that produce leftovers are absolutely key.

salmon patty ingredients

I’ve been making these cakes for the last four or five years, ever since my neighbor Lucille knocked on our door one evening and asked if we liked salmon cakes. She had made a full batch thinking her daughter was coming over for dinner, but she had gotten the night wrong. Would we like some?

Up until that point, I didn’t have much of an opinion about salmon cakes but I love eating food other people have prepared (because no matter how much I change up the spices, my food somehow always tastes like my food) and so I happily accepted Lucille’s salmon cakes. We ate them for dinner that night and decided that salmon cakes should be a regular player in our dinner routine.

I asked Lucille for her recipe and made them just once as written. I’ve since tweaked and altered the recipe enough that I feel comfortable calling it mine.

finished salmon patties

One of the things I really love about these salmon cakes is that they are best made with canned salmon. If you’ve never worked with the canned stuff before, be prepared for the fact that the filets will come out of the cans with some skin and bones remaining.

I handle this by spreading the drained filets (if you have a cat, save them the liquid and they will love you forever) out on a plate and using a fork to remove the skin and the biggest bits of the bones. It’s fine to leave the tiny pin bones behind because they’ve been cooked to the point of crumbling and are a good source of calcium.

Taking my lunch to go today. Two homemade salmon cakes, farro, pickled turnips, and some sad grape tomatoes, all over arugula. Oh, and a dressing of yogurt and homemade relish for the salmon. #lunch #lifefactory #teamyogurt

Once you’ve picked through the salmon, it’s just a matter of chopping a few things, breaking a couple eggs, and mashing it all together. The cakes are fragile and it won’t seem possible that they’ll hold together, but once you get the first side nice and browned, they will flip and hold their shape nicely.

Normally we eat these cakes as-is, but last night just as we were sitting down to eat, my husband asked, “Do we have any relish?”

Now, if you know me, you’ll know to be amused by that remark. Of COURSE we have relish. I pulled out a jar of last summer’s batch of this cucumber and green pepper relish. He stirred a forkful into a generous dollop of mayonnaise for a slapdash tartar sauce. We ate our cakes over greens with Scott’s sauce and all felt right with the world.

A note: I use parmesan cheese in these cakes instead of the more traditional bread crumbs. The reason for that is that Scott is often on a low carb diet. Plus, the parmesan melts a little during cooking and helps hold the cakes together really nicely. However, if you want to reduce the amount of fat in these cakes or make them a little more affordable, feel free to use bread crumbs. Just make sure to add some salt. I don’t use any because the cheese adds plenty.

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Deadline Blues

vertical rhubarb stalks

Friends, I am feeling more than a little bit unhinged right now. I can count the number of days before this book is due on my fingers and toes and I am feeling every morsel of that stress. I am embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve lost my cool over the littlest things.

So I’m just going to leave this picture of rhubarb here in place of a recipe, canning tips, or anything truly useful. I’ll be back with something more fulfilling soon.

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Pomona’s Pectin Jam Class at The Morris Arboretum

All set up for a strawberry vanilla jam class at the Havertown Library!

The canning season is coming and with it, the start of my teaching year! I wanted to take a moment to point out my May 16 class at the Morris Arboretum. In this class, I’ll demonstrate how to make a low sugar batch of strawberry jam, sweetened with honey and set with Pomona’s Pectin.

This class will dig into the basics of boiling water bath canning and I’ll answer all questions you bring to the class. It’s great way to get yourself reset for the upcoming canning season.

The class costs $40 for Arboretum members and $45 for non-members and runs from 10 am to 12 noon. All participants will go home with a small jar of the jam made in class that day and I’ll also have books available for sale and signature.

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Giveaway: Sustainable Picnic Gear from Mighty Nest

Picnic gear header

Living in a city without even a scrape of outdoor space to call my own means that I have to be extra intentional about certain things like gardening, repainting furniture, and eating outdoors on beautiful days.

For the moment, my gardening ambitions are paused because trying to maintain a community plot during my busiest season is too much right now. To satisfy my furniture refinishing needs, I occasionally turn my living room into a painting studio (with all the windows open wide). And during the most beautiful days of the year, I pack a picnic and head for one of the many green spaces that dot Philadelphia.

lifefactory containers (1)

I have always loved picnicking. I have many happy memories of meals eaten on beaches, in parks, and at battered tables at highway rest stops. The only problem I see with picnics is that sometimes we trade sustainability for convenience, packing disposables that we use just once before tossing them away.

In honor of Earth Day (April 22), Mighty Nest and I have teamed up to bring you some ideas for packing a more sustainable picnic (and we’re giving away a set of this fabulous gear as well. See the end of the post for more details).

plates cups utensils

The first thing to think about when you’re planning a picnic is, what’s the main event? Is the plan to keep things simple, with just sandwiches and some cut-up fruit? A few of these Bee’s Wrap sandwich wraps and a mason jar work just fine!

I often like to bring a grain salad with me on picnics for variety. These tight-sealing Lifefactory containers are a great option for toting all manner of salads, pickles, and carrot sticks. The silicone sleeves make them easy to handle and offer an added layer of protection from bumps and bangs, as well.

If you’re bring salads, you’ll need plates and forks. These stainless steel plates are indestructible and take up very little space in your picnic basket. On the utensil front, these bamboo RePEaT kits can’t be beat. They come with a fork, spoon, knife, and a pair of chopsticks for good measure. I keep at least one set in the car at all times because you just never know when you’ll want a spoon or fork handy. They also make a kids version that is scaled for small hands and mouths.

drink cooler (1)

Once the meal is settled, the next question is, what we’re going to drink? Is it a hiking adventure where all we’ll want is water? If it’s an outdoor concert picnic, is wine permitted (screw tops are your friend on those nights)? Should we treat ourselves to a jug of homemade lemonade?

I’ll often pack small reusable water bottles for all picnickers, and then fill up the monster, 40 ounce Hydro Flask with some homemade iced green tea to share. Whatever the answer ends up being, having a large, insulated drink container and a few stainless steel cups to bring along is a very good idea.

freezable cooler bag

The last question that arises in sustainable picnicking is how to tote your meal. A standard picnic basket is a good option if your meal is impervious to heat. However, if you want to keep things chilled, something with insulation is is the way to go. A standard cooler works well, but this soft-sided freezable bag is the best thing I’ve seen.

It folds down small so that you can keep it stashed in the freezer until you’re ready to go. Then you just unfold and pack, knowing that your lunch will stay fresh and cool for hours.

One issue that sometimes comes up with picnics that include reusable gear is what to do with the dirty dishes once you’re done eating. I like to bring a few clean dish towels (ones that already have stains are the best). I scrape our dishes off as best I can and then bundle them up in the towels before packing everything back up in our tote. Once I’m home, the dishes go in sink and the towels head for the laundry basket.

To enter the giveaway, use the widget above. You can enter until Monday, May 4. The prize includes the picnic tote, stainless steel plates and cups, the bamboo utensils, the Hydro Flask, and the Lifefactory containers you see pictured at the top of the post (valued at $150). Additionally, Mighty Nest will also donated $100 to a school of the winner’s choosing. The giveaway is open to US residents only and is void where prohibited.

I’m not the only blogger hosting a Mighty Nest Earth Day giveaway. Make sure to visit these other folks for even more chances to win!

Disclosure: Mighty Nest is a Food in Jars sponsor. They provided the gear you see pictured above for photography purposes at no cost to me and they are also providing the entirety of the prize for this giveaway. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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