So Easy to Preserve Winners

Thanks to all of you who left comments sharing your hopes and excitements for the coming season! You all are ready for your gardens to bloom, for ripe strawberries and for sun-ripened tomatoes (in my opinion, there is nothing better). I’ve consulted the randomizer and it selected numbers 83 (Kat) and 170 (Sharon). Congratulations ladies, I’ll be in touch shortly to get your contact information.

For those of you who did not win, I do still highly recommend So Easy to Preserve, particularly if you’re planning on branching out and doing more canning this summer!

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Classes, Folk Music + Giveaway

strawberry table

All over the country, farmers’ markets are opening, gardens are growing and edible abundance is pouring forth. Preserving season is here and what better way to get yourself on board to capture some of the summer season than to take a class with me! Classes will be held at Indy Hall, which is located at 20 N. 3rd Street, 2nd floor (sadly, Foster’s Homewares has shuttered, leaving a giant hole in the Philadelphia retail scene).

My classes are good both for people just starting out canning as well as those who have been doing it for awhile. I always hit the fundamentals of boiling water canning and also share the many tricks I’ve developed while standing over a steamy stove. Each class offers multiple opportunities to ask questions, so that each student can get the information they need from the experience.

For the complete schedule of classes, click here. There are still five spots available in my Rhubarb Chutney class this Saturday, May 15th. Each student who attends that class will receive a print-out of the recipe and a jar of the chutney we make in class. I still have a jar of this chutney that I made last year (I’ve been saving it just for this occasion), so we’ll also have a little snack of goat cheese, baguette and chutney to nibble while we work. Classes cost $39. Please email me at foodinjarsATgmail.com if you’d like to sign up.

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lovely raina

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have picked up the fact that my sister Raina is a musician. She’s been playing guitar since she was 9 years old and has been making her living (such as it is) as a performer for more than five years. Music is all she’s ever wanted to do.

She is currently a top contender in a contest held by The Recording Conservatory of Austin, but desperately needs more votes. Winning this contest would be an enormous boon to her career, so much so that I’m interrupting my endless stream of food chatter to ask you all to consider supporting her. It’s just what big sisters do.

Voting is easy.  CLICK HERE and vote for the Raina Rose Trio, which is Raina and her backup band. Right now she has a good chance of winning but it is competitive and every vote is important. Only one vote from each email address is allowed. There is nothing to join and you won’t be subscribed to a new mailing list.

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Now the giveaway. My birthday is Friday (wow, 31. How did that happen?) and I am hip deep in celebrations. Last night, my husband took me out for the most elegant (and expensive) meal of my life. Tomorrow, I’m having a cluster of friends and family over for a potluck (because I like nothing more than honoring a special moment over delicious food that has been made with love).

In order to share some of the joy with you, I’m giving away two copies of my very favorite canning book. Called So Easy to Preserve, this is the most referenced book on this site. It’s not a glossy book filled with pictures, it actually looks more like a community cookbook than anything else. However, whenever I want to try something new, this is the book that I look to first. The instructions are easy to follow and the explanations are written in a way that inspires confidence in the reader. If you are someone who takes your canning seriously, you must have a copy of this book on your shelf.

To enter yourself in this giveaway, leave a comment on this post and tell me what you’re most looking forward to about  summer foods. Whether it’s making your annual batch of peach butter, eating fresh raw peas or attending your neighborhood’s annual tomato festival, I want to read about it. Entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 16th. The winners will be posted Monday morning (I promise).

Kale and Carrot Salad

kale

Last Sunday, my beloved Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market reopened for the the 2010 season. It was such a joy to stroll the Headhouse Shambles with my regular Sunday morning pals and greet the many familiar farmers. As so often happens at the farmers market, I bought more than easily fit into my meal plan for last week (we had a couple dinners out last week, as well as some produce already in the fridge). I wasn’t worried though, as part of the delight of buying remarkably fresh food direct from the people who grew it is that if store well, it lasts far longer than similar grocery store produce.

I didn’t make it the market yesterday, choosing instead to spend my Sunday with family, celebrating Mother’s Day over brunch (I’d like to say that I was being smart, buying more than I could use, knowing I wouldn’t make it the following week, but I truly wasn’t thinking that far in advance).

Heading into this evening, I knew that dinner would be the last of yesterday’s leftover quiche (spinach and broccoli, brought by my cousin Angie) and a batch of potato salad that I’m testing for my July Grid article. Sadly though, I needed one more thing before I could call dinner complete. You see, I have this green vegetable rule. That rule (drilled into the meal-planning section of my brain by my mother) states that there must be a green vegetable served with my nightly meal. The only the events which permits the waiving of this rule are infirmity or family vacation.

kale salad

Poking around my crisper, trying to satisfy my need for some vegetal (potatoes do not count), I came across the kale I bought at the market last week, still looking quite crisp and verdant. Immediately inspired, I pulled three slim carrots out of their bag and headed towards the countertop with purpose.

I chopped the kale into narrow ribbons, washed it carefully in a salad spinner and combined it with the now-grated carrots. I dressed it with three tablespoons each walnut oil and rice wine vinegar, as well as some salt and pepper. Using tongs, I tossed it all together and then let it sit for a bit while I got the rest of dinner together.

After about fifteen minutes, the kale leaves had relaxed and the carrots had married with the dressing, turning it a pleasing orange. Don’t be fooled by the picture above, it was taken just after the initial tossing. When it came time to eat, the salad was far less voluminous.

The nice thing about this salad is that it is flexible. A combination of toasted sesame and olive oils work just as well if you don’t have walnut oil (or, if you have a bottle you hate to use because you see it as precious, do your taste buds a favor and use some here. I’ve discovered that hoarding oils isn’t worth it, eventually they go rancid and then you feel silly for having wasting something so lovely).

If you do use the walnut oil and want to really bring its flavor out, top individual portions with a few toasted walnuts (don’t stir them directly in, they’ll loose their crunch). Slivered red onion also makes a nice addition. Or, if you’ve chosen the sesame oil path, replace the salt with a few dashes of soy sauce (or Bragg’s, if your kitchen runs to such things) for a faux asian flavor profile.

Oh, and if you have leftovers, this is one of those rare dressed green salads that actually can survive the night in the fridge without harm. It’s really good the next day topped with saucy pinto beans or a few crumbles of goat cheese.

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The Final Moments of Mother’s Day

tree in Rittenhouse

Today, I hosted a brunch for all the mothers in my family who live around Philadelphia. Three generations of mamas were represented, including my great-aunt Belle, who at nearly 92 has been a mom since 1942. Of course, the one mother I most would have liked to have seen was my own, but until someone invents an east coast/west coast teleportation system (or until one of us caves and moves closer to the other) I will be forced to continue to celebrate her from afar.

At the brunch, we ate freshly baked jam-dolloped scones, vegetable-stuffed quiche, roasted potatoes, spring greens dressed with a rosemary balsamic vinaigrette, lox, bagels and oven-cooked bacon*.

Later in the afternoon, Scott and I walked a couple neighborhoods over, to visit our friends who had twin daughters a month ago. We brought the still-new mom a bunch of tulips and a few sweet treats (as well as an assortment of brunch remains – they were delighted to have half a quiche and some bagels). I pretended to be a mama for a little while, snuggling a recently fed, sleeping baby for nearly an hour.

I do hope that all of you mothers out there had a lovely day, full of family, friends and a jam-smeared scone or two.

*Do you know this method of bacon cookery? Place a metal cooling rack inside a rimmed cookie sheet. Lay the bacon on the rack in a single layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until bacon is browned to your liking (very thin-cut rashers will take less time than the thicker cut stuff). The bacon will be perfectly flat, making it ideal for sandwiches (although there’s nothing saying you can’t nibble it straight from the plate).

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies from Good to the Grain

two cookies

During my childhood, my mother was notorious for slipping whole wheat flour into baked goods in place of white flour. In her hands, this led to pie crusts that fell to pieces when sliced (I imagine her tendency to reduce butter amounts also contributed to this problem) and less-than-light quick breads. Thing was, baked goods were fairly rare indulgences, so we gobbled these offerings up despite their minor issues of crumb and structure and counted ourselves supremely lucky.

chocolate chip cookie recipe in Good to the Grain

Twenty years later, I’m a little chagrined to admit that this apple hasn’t fallen far from her tree. I’m always looking for ways to transform baked goods into something just slightly more healthful and whole grain flours are part of my regular baking routine (particularly whole wheat pastry flour – I love that stuff). Because of this, I am particularly smitten with Kim Boyce’s lovely new book Good to the Grain.

chopped chocolate

I’ve had it in my coffee table stack of new favorites for a while. I bought little bags of teff, buckwheat and millet flours, waiting for inspiration to strike. And then tonight, I was finally moved by the bag of King Arthur Whole Wheat flour on the kitchen counter and a plaintive request from Scott for a sweet treat. Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies it was!

cookies to freeze

These cookies come together quickly. I started them at 9 p.m. and we were munching within the hour. They are sweet (don’t think that the whole wheat flour makes these a health food – 2 sticks of butter and 2 cups of sugar does not a low-cal cookie make) but are nicely balanced by the addition of 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt (the flakier the better). I baked up about half the recipe, the remaining dough got scooped and frozen for future late-night cookie attacks.

stack of cookies

I’m looking forward to digging into more of the recipes and trying out those bags of flours that are still hanging out in my kitchen.  I have a funny feeling I have yet to discover my favorite flour. (And, if you’re curious, the remaining cookies are cooling their heels in a jar on the counter. Would you expect anything else from me?)

Also, a little note from the Food in Jars shop. I recently added these very snazzy aprons to the items in my little store. They’re quite cute and will make you the most fashionable baker/canner/cook on the block. What’s more, there’s a coupon available now through Friday that will score you 20% off on one of these bad boys. Just type in 20Tayga during checkout to get the discount.

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Homemade Granola for a Bake Sale

pints of granola at bake sale

My mom was something of a reluctant hippie. Free love wasn’t her thing, recreational drugs didn’t float her boat and she missed Woodstock by a hair. Ticket in hand, she came down with the flu two hours before her ride was coming to pick her up. However her brown hair was kept long and straight, she religiously dabbed patchouli oil on her pulse points and, in 1970, she married my dad in a handmade dress on a hilltop overlooking San Francisco.

16 cups of rolled oats

My dad embraced the sixties counter-culture with a bit more passion. He dropped in and out of college, played folk music in smoky coffeehouses, conscientiously objected to the Vietnam War and, on occasion, lived in his Volkswagon (it had a giant God’s Eye painted on the back).

measuring out the nuts

During their Santa Cruz years, they kept chickens in their backyard and watched their pennies (my mom can still recite her weekly grocery list from those days and knows exactly how much a pound of chuck steak cost in 1973). She briefly ran a toy store called Joyful, Joyful and sometimes cooked for a local Headstart program, making lunch from scratch for over 100 kids and adults with little or no help. My dad went to school, kept playing music and repaired cars on the side.

oats, sesame seeds, almonds, pepitas & sunflower seeds

During most of these early years, they always a jar of nutty, homemade, wheat-germ fortified granola on the countertop. It was cheap and easy to make, and even a small bowl had the power to keep you full for hours. The original recipe was cribbed from a friend, who made it in industrial sized batches and sold it around the Bay Area.

finished granola

I offer these details as my granola credentials. I come from people who know and enjoy their granola (or GORP, as the original recipe was called). I’ve made many a batch in the last 10+ years and have learned a number of things from the repetition.

I like a two to one oat to nut/seed ration the best. Additional oil is unnecessary (although I still recommend greasing your measuring cup before pouring brown rice syrup or honey into it). Toasting the sesame seeds a little before adding them to the mix ensures that you won’t end up with an occasional mouthful of bitter. Always wait to add dried fruit until the toasting process is complete. And most importantly, it’s okay to adapt a recipe to your audience.

a triple batch of granola

These days, I make a fairly plain batch. Sometimes I flavor it with cinnamon, sometimes with vanilla. I always leave the dried fruit out (Scott is not a fan). It’s a whole lot easier for me to add a palmful of dried blueberries or raisins to my serving than it is for him to pick them out after the fact (and far less wasteful). And best of all, it stores beautifully in a jar on the countertop.

The reason for the large batch you see above was that I made a dozen pint jars of granola for the Great American Bake Sale a couple of weeks ago (that’s the picture you see up at the top of the post). I don’t know if they all sold, but soon after I dropped them off, I heard a woman say, “I just want to grab one of those jars and pour it straight into my mouth.” I do love those overheard endorsements!

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