Canning Class with the Swarthmore Co-op

class image revised

It has been a very quiet January around these parts, but I’m slowly starting to come out of my hibernation to teach a few classes. I have one next week that I thought you Philly-area folks might like to know about!

On Thursday, February 4, from 7-8:30 pm, I’ll be teaching a demonstration-style class at the Swarthmore Presbyterian Church. The class is being put on by the nice folks at the Swarthmore Co-op and costs $25. I’ll show everyone who attends how make a batch of honey-sweetened pear vanilla jam using Pomona’s Pectin. We’ll go through the canning process and I’ll answer every question that I can.

At the end of the class we’ll dig into the warm jam, and I’ll have some copies of my first two books for sale and signature. Registration information at the bottom of this page.

Speaking of classes and events! I’m starting to put my book tour schedule together for the spring and summer. I’m trying to keep things a bit saner than last time (I did more than 110 events with Preserving by the Pint, which was too much). That said, I am still taking suggestions for cities and venues to potentially add to my tour. Please let me know if you have good ideas for me for book stores, kitchenwares stores, libraries or other venues that you think would be good for me to consider as I plan out my travel.

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Links: Marmalade, Labneh, and Sheet Pan Hash Browns

preserves at the farm show

I feel like I’ve been in a fog for the last month. I came down with a cold just before Christmas and have spent the all the weeks since then trying to get back to my normal levels of energy and productivity (if the blog has seemed a bit unloved lately, this is why).

I spent more days that I can count laying on the couch doing nothing beyond drinking tea, coughing, and tumbling down a Netflix-shaped hole. Thankfully, I woke up on Friday morning (exactly four weeks since I first got sick!) feeling like I’d finally turned a corner and spent the snowy weekend tackling long-abandoned projects with forgotten energy and focus. Hooray for health! Here are some links!

 

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Local Mouthful’s 25th Episode

January 17 chalkboard menu

Hello friends! As you may have gathered from previous mentions on this site and on social media, I co-host a podcast called Local Mouthful with fellow food writer (and long-time friend) Joy Manning. This week, we posted our 25th episode and it felt like an occasion that merited mention on this site.

In this episode, we checked in about our food resolutions and talked about eating for health and well-being. It was an interesting conversation, particularly in this world where there’s a hyper-focus on cleaning eating and superfoods.

I’ve also been meaning to mention that we’ve launched a cookbook club as part of the podcast. This month, we’re cooking out of Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes. We’ll be talking about it on next week’s show, so if it’s on your shelf and you’ve been cooking from it, make sure to listen in!

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Applesauce Loaf

applesauce loaf top - Food in Jars

Since the start of the new year, I’ve fallen into a habit of making a slightly sweet loaf of quick bread at the start of the week. At first, the goal was simply to have something to help us wean ourselves off all the holiday treats without going cold turkey. But a few weeks in, I’m finding that having a relatively virtuous homemade treat in the kitchen is actually helping us eat better.

applesauce loaf side - Food in Jars

I realize it sounds a little nutty, but knowing that there’s a loaf of applesauce bread or a simple yogurt cake at home has kept me from a number of impulse treat purchases. I know that anything I bake at home is going to contain better ingredients and be lower in sugar than anything I can buy, and that gives me the power to hold out.

This week, I made a loaf based on this recipe from Martha Rose Shulman (she is one of my favorite food writers). It’s a quick one and needs just two mixing bowls and a few utensils to pull together. I used coconut sugar instead of the turbinado that she recommends and it works beautifully. I like a slice in the late afternoon with some tea, or toasted and buttered in the evening. My variation of the recipe is below.

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Veggie Mac & Cheese

veggie mac and cheese

When I posted my meal plan last week, several of you spotted the veggie mac and cheese on the schedule and politely requested the recipe. As this is a crowd pleaser of a dish, I am happy to deliver (even if the picture isn’t my best work).

Know that this is one of those things that I never make exactly the same way twice. Instead, I work with a basic framework and wing the details. The batch I made last week used a full head of cauliflower, a giant bundle of curly kale, one onion, half a pound of pasta, and a cheese sauce made from butter, flour, milk, some of the pasta cooking water, and 8 ounces of grated cheese (half delicious Kerrygold and half the remaining bit of a block of yellow Costco cheddar).

Other times, I’ve made it with leeks, broccoli, and peas. Garlic, broccoli rabe, and mushrooms is another nice combination. Chopped ham or chunks of smoked turkey go in nicely if you’ve serving a meat loving crowd. It’s flexible, passes muster with many children, and reheats nicely.

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My Approach to Weekly Meal Planning

January 3-9 Meal Plan

One of my personal goals for 2016 is to make a weekly meal plan and stick to it most of the time (planning is nothing without follow-through). This is something I’ve done in fits and starts for years now. On the weeks when I do it, everything seems to run more smoothly. Sadly, as soon as life gets busy, it has also been one of the first things to go. And once the meal plan habit goes out of the window, I find myself awash in food waste, too much takeout, and a faltering kitchen ecosystem. Madness ensues.

However, I find that if I can make a rough plan, every other aspect of life feels a bit less unwieldy. Even if the plan is simply a store bought roast chicken and steamed broccoli and then a pot of soup large enough to last three nights, it helps keep the chaos in check. And thus, this commitment to myself to plot out dinners a week at a time, shop for them, and then cook what I’ve planned.

January 10-16 Meal Plan

My goal here is not to offer you a formula for your own meal planning. There’s plenty of that out there on Pinterest and countless other blogs. Instead, I’m giving you a peek into my thought process in the hopes that it might help spur your own. And so, here are the things I keep in mind to keep my aspirations in check and ensure that the plan is useful and realistic.

  • What season are we in? Is something available right now that might be gone by next week?
  • Do we have things in the fridge, freezer or pantry that need to be used up?
  • Is it a busy week? Am I teaching any night classes? Should I plan for voluminous leftovers for easy reheating?
  • Did I spot anything in the last week that I particularly want to make or try? Is there a cookbook that’s been particularly inspiring of late?
  • Am I working on anything that requires recipe testing that could be dinner?

Typically, a glance at my calendar, a trip through these questions, and quick consultation with Scott is enough to have a rough plan on paper. However, some weeks, I still remain stumped. When that happens, I pull out the big guns and consult my Things I Like to Make for Dinner list. For years, this list lived in my head, but last year, I finally typed it up and published it on my ancient personal blog so that I’d have easy access to it. Reading it through always helps.

Finally, once the plan is drafted, I write it on our chalkboard wall. Having it posted in the kitchen helps keep me honest and keeps Scott in the loop. I also post pictures of the meal plan to Instagram and from here on out, will occasionally share some of the recipes here (particularly if they put preserves to good use).

Now, here’s a question for you guys. Do you meal plan? And if you do, do you have a system? I’d love to hear about your thought process.

 

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