Tag Archives | OXO

Strawberry Lavender Caramel + Giveaway

driscolls strawberries

Spring has been slow to come this year and so the local produce has only just begun to trickle into the markets around Philadelphia. Happily, a much-welcome dose of spring arrived on my doorstep a couple weeks back, in the form of a large box of Driscoll’s strawberries.

the incredible hull

Months ago, Driscoll’s and OXO hatched a plan to gather up a gaggle of food bloggers, send them an assortment of tools and berries, and see what they created. For me, it couldn’t have come at a better time, as I was positively itching to get my hands on some fresh ingredients.

berry top

One of the tools that came in the box was OXO’s new berry huller and I am not exaggerating when I say that it’s a strawberry game changer. I’ve used their previous huller and while it was a good tool, I always defaulted to a paring knife.

berries in blender

But, now having tried this new huller, it is my go-to strawberry prep tool. It is incredibly easy to use, cleanly removes the hard white center, and makes it possible to whip through four or five pounds of berries in no time at all.

berry puree

I made three different preserves with the berries Driscoll’s sent and I’ll be sharing those recipes over the course of this week. The first one is a variation on the strawberry caramel recipe that I wrote for Simple Bites a couple weeks ago. The second is a maple sweetened strawberry butter. And the final batch was honey sweetened strawberry vanilla jam.

dried lavender

I love the basic version of the basic strawberry caramel, but I’ve long thought that it would be delicious to infuse with lavender for a more complex flavor. And since I spotted OXO’s twisting tea ball, I had a feeling it would be the perfect infusion tool (short answer: it was!).

lavender in tea ball

You start with one pound of strawberries, hull them, and puree them (just pop them raw into a blender or food processor) until smooth.

cooking sugar

Then, combine 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar with 3/4 cup of water in a small saucepan. Measure 2 teaspoons of dried lavender buds (culinary grade) into your tea ball and add it to the pot. Place it over high heat and bring to a boil.

250 degrees F

Cook the syrup until it reaches 250°F/121°C. Remove the pot from the heat and pour in prepared strawberry puree (you should have about 2 cups) and the juice of 1 lemon. Return the pot to the heat and cook until the temperature reaches 218°F/103°C.

finished caramel sauce

Funnel the sauce into two prepared half pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

This sauce is amazing drizzled over ice cream, angel food cake, or a piece of crunchy, buttered toast (it is entirely decadent but ridiculously good).

finished strawberry caramel

Now for the fun part. OXO and Driscoll’s are giving away a pretty terrific prize pack. The lucky winner will get one of those fabulous strawberry hullers, a three-piece OXO berry bowl and colander set, a $70 gift card to OXO.com, and a year’s supply of Driscoll’s berries. You enter via the widget below (not by leaving a comment on this post). The giveaway will close at 5 pm eastern time on Friday, May 30, so make sure to get your entry in!

To see what the rest of the participating bloggers made, make sure to click over to their sites!

a farmgirl’s dabbles
Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker
Crepes of Wrath
Crunchy Creamy Sweet
Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Diethood
Eat Your Heart Out
Eats Well With Others
Food n’ Focus
Hoosier Homemade
Never Enough Thyme
Rachel Cooks
Sweet Remedy
Very Culinary

Disclosure: Driscoll’s and OXO provided the berries and tools I used and featured in this post and are also providing the prize pack. They did not compensate me for my participation and my opinions are entirely my own.

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The 10 Pound Cherry Challenge

two pounds of cherries

Earlier in the summer, I canned my way through two flats of rain-split sweet cherries from Beechwood Orchards. I made butter, chutney, this batch of sweet and sour cherry jam, rosemary pickled cherries, and cherry lime preserves (hmm, doesn’t look like I’ve posted that recipe anywhere). When all that was done, I took a deep breath and figured I was done with cherries for the season.

OXO cherry pitter

Then, along came a chance to participate in the 10 Pound Cherry Challenge that OXO was hosting in conjunction with the Northwest Cherry Growers. And despite a little schedule insanity, I just couldn’t say no.

cherries in an OXO bowl

And so, mere moments before I was leaving for my trip to Boston last week, I took delivery of ten pounds of sweet, lovely cherries and a box of OXO goodies, including their 11 pound scale, a set of their nesting bowls and colanders, and two cherry pitters.

cherry clafoutis

I took a few of the cherries with me as a road trip snack, and stashed the rest in the fridge. While I was away (the trip was all of 2 1/2 days, so the cherries held just fine), I started imagining all the ways I could use and preserve them. I got home late on Saturday night, but was up early Sunday morning to pit the first pound for a quick clafoutis.

rum and sweet cherries

If you’ve not had one before, this traditionally French dessert resembles a Dutch baby or a firmly set custard. If you’re hewing closely to the way it’s done in France, you do not pit cherries before using them in this dessert. I prefer serving a version that uses pitted cherries, because it doesn’t endanger the dental work of your guests and just makes for a more pleasant eating experience.

pouring rum

However, once the clafoutis was done, I ran out of steam. You see, we did the photo shoot for my next cookbook last Monday through Thursday and I had four nights of teaching and speaking last week as well. By the time Friday came along, I was entirely spent, my apartment was wrecked, and I had a to-do list a mile long. So I did three things.

I shared two pounds of cherries (and one of the OXO pitters) with my friend and cookbook editor Kristen (she just happens to be an avid preserver and lives just a couple miles from me). I funneled four pounds into a roomy slow cooker and started another batch of sweet cherry butter (a little more never hurts). And I took a cue from Maggie Battista of Eat Boutique fame (who put me up while I was in Boston) and started a batch of cherry-infused rum.

last drops of rum

Maggie had several jars of fruit-infused spirits sitting prettily in her kitchen while I was there and I couldn’t help but realize that it had been awhile since I’d combined fruit and booze to good effect. And so, I rummaged through our liquor cabinet until I came up with a bottle of light rum that I thought would benefit from a little fresh cherry flavor. I stemmed the remaining cherries, tumbled them into a pretty jar and covered them with rum. Not the most inventive thing ever, but it sure will make for a tasty tipple when the days get chilly.

If you’re interested in seeing what some of the other 10 Pound Cherry Challenge participants did with their cherries, here’s who else was playing along:

For more on the challenge, make sure to check out OXO (Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram) and the Northwest Cherry Growers (Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram). And, for even more cherry goodness, there’s also a project-specific Pinterest board.

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Giveaway: An OXO Berry Pack

OXO Berry Pack

Last week, in the first post of my new series for beginning canners, I wrote about the basic equipment you need to get started canning. The list included things like a stock pot to serve as your boiling water bath canner and a pair of jar lifting tongs to help you move your jars in and out of the hot water without injury.

Today, I’m here to talk about a few pieces of equipment from OXO, that while not absolutely necessary for basic canning, will make your canning prep work infinitely easier. This post is sponsored by OXO and features a giveaway at the end.

OXO Strawberry Huller

When I was a senior in college, I lived with two friends in an off-campus house. When we first moved in, we spent an evening unpacking our kitchen boxes together, choosing from the duplicates and making a list of the things we needed to fill any gaps in our tools. At that point of my life, I thought I was fairly well-versed in all available kitchen utensils, but when Andrea pulled out a pair of squat, metal pincers, I had to ask her to identify the tool. She told me it was a strawberry huller. Later, when strawberries came into season, I tried her huller, found that it was was far more trouble than a paring knife and wrote off strawberry hullers forever. Or so I thought.

A few years back, I found myself in possession of a OXO Strawberry Huller (I think it was included in a gift bag I picked up at a conference). Remembering my previous experience with hullers, I was ready to dismiss it. However, it happened to arrive right around the same time as a flat of strawberries and so I tried it. Immediately, I was won by its charms. It has the ability to remove the leaves and hard hull of the berry without pulling away any valuable flesh. It wastes so much less than my old paring knife technique and does it in less time, too. I am now among the huller converted.

OXO Cherry and Olive Pitter

The first year I canned cherry preserves, I was foolish. I pitted an entire flat of sweet cherries with an unbent paper clip. I learned the technique from a video on Gourmet’s website (oh, how I still miss Gourmet!) and thought that if it was good enough for them, it would be good enough for me. What I didn’t realize was that there’s a big difference between pitting a few cherries for a tart and pitting 8 quarts for multiple batches of jam.

By the time I was done, it was 1 am and I’d spent four hours removing pits from cherries. Though I was dizzy with exhaustion, before I went to bed I logged on to Amazon and bought myself an OXO Cherry Pitter. I’ve used it ever since and it has made my stints as a cherry processor far more pleasant.

OXO 3-piece Berry Set

Growing up, we had just one colander in the house. My mom liked it best that way, because it meant there was less to store and manage. However, almost every time I needed to drain or rinse something, I’d reach for the colander to discover that it was already in use. This led to many frustrating moments and overcooked pots of pasta. I swore that when I had my own kitchen, I’d have a few colanders around, to ensure there was always one available when needed.

I may have taken that promise a bit too far, because if one were to count the number of colanders, perforated berry bowls, and fine mesh sieves currently in my kitchen, they’d discover nearly a dozen different options. I don’t see them as clutter though, because in the course of a week, I’ll use nearly every one. I guess I do a lot of rinsing and draining.

Lately, as berry season has gone full-bore in the Philadelphia region, I’ve found myself turning to OXO Berry Bowl and Colander set more and more often. You can give your berries a good rinsing, pop the colander into the bowl and put it right onto the table, without dripping or an extra plate set underneath to catch extra water. The bowl also has a lid, which makes for easy leftover storage.

OXO Food Mill

Last, we come to the OXO Food Mill. This is the food mill of my dreams. When I first moved to Philadelphia, I inherited a large box of vintage kitchen equipment. It had all belonged to my Great-Aunt Doris and had been living in my cousin Angie’s garage for the last 15 years. Included in the box was a dented oval roasting pan, a rusty french fry cutter, and ancient Foley food mill. The roasting pan was quickly demoted to storage vessel, the fry cutter is still caked with rust, but the food mill went straight to the kitchen.

I used it for years, despite the fact that it was impossible to clean (it was a one-piece model without a detachable screen), had a tendency to discolor acidic foods, and was slighted dented (which made it hard to turn the handle smoothly). Two years ago, I bought a new food mill from one of those discount shopping websites, thinking I was doing myself a great service. The first time I used it, the little legs that keep it elevated over the bowl all snapped off. I was ready to swear off food mills entirely, when I used the OXO version while teaching a cooking class.

The screens popped in and out without pinching my fingers and were easy to clean. The supportive legs were sturdy and could take the pressure necessary to mill the tomatoes I was deskinning and seeding. And the handle turned smoothly and easily. It was my dream food mill and I use it all year long to make fruit butters, sauces, soups, and tomato products. I will never use another.

Thanks to the kind folks at OXO, I have one of these berry packs to give away to a Food in Jars reader. The winner will receive a strawberry huller, cherry pitter, berry bowl and colander and food mill. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share your favorite OXO tool. If you don’t have one, take a look at their website and name one you wish you had.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Friday, July 12, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, July 13, 2013.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: OXO provided me with the tools pictured in this post for photography and review purposes. They’re also providing another set of the same implements for this giveaway. They did not pay for placement and all opinions expressed are my own. Additionally, there are a few affiliate links in this post. 

A Giant Potato Pancake for Eat, Write, Retreat’s Amazing Apps Culinary Challenge

after the oven

Last year, I went to a bunch of food writer/blogger conferences in order to see beloved people, make some new friends, and help promote my book. In contrast, 2013 has shaped up to be a quieter year (which is fine by me). I’m skipping the bulk of the gatherings in order to spend a little more time at home and save my pennies for next summer’s book push. In fact, the only conference I’m participating in is Eat, Write, Retreat, which is landing in Philly in just a couple of weekends.

two russet potatoes

Part of the fun of Eat, Write, Retreat is that organizers start building the conference community well before everyone arrives at the DoubleTree. One of the ways that they’ve done this is by inviting everyone who registered before April 15 to participate in the Amazing Apps Culinary Challenge. Now, I’m not typically someone who gets excited about challenges and contests, but this one is a little different.

peeled

While there are prizes to be awarded at the conference, I actually felt like I won the moment the box arrived, thanks to all the OXO goodies (as well as a gorgeous assortment of potatoes) that it contained. Potatoes, graters, and ricers, oh my! What’s more, I’ve been needing something to shift me out of the cooking rut I’ve been in recently. Inventing an appetizing little dish featuring potatoes and using some of those new tools was just the boost I needed.

grated

I grabbed the two large, russet potatoes from the basket (approximately 1 3/4 pounds) and got to work. I peeled then and shredded them on the coarse OXO grater that was in the box.

Any time I’m shredding just a pound or two of potatoes, I opt for a hand or box grater. It’s so much easier to clean than my food processor. Then, I bundled up the shreds in a tea towel and squeezed as much water out of them as possible. If you’ve ever made a latke, you know the drill.

on the stove top

Then I whisked together two eggs, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, two tablespoons minced green onions, one tablespoon chopped dill, and several turns of a pepper grinder. While whisking, I also heated three tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet and heated my oven to 425 degrees F.

I added the potatoes to the batter and stirred until they were well combined. Then I spread the potato batter out in the hot skillet. It was quite thick, so I used my spatula to tease it out into an even layer. Do take care not to make a perfectly smooth surface, as it will brown better with a few crags and nooks.

closer potato disk

Once in the skillet, I cooked it over high heat on the stove top for about five minutes, until a peek at the bottom of the pancake told me it was just starting to brown. Then slide the skillet into the oven.

The trick with a giant potato pancake like this one is that you want to bake it first, until the interior is cooked, and then you turn on the broiler to get a really nice, crunchy top. Mine took approximately ten minutes of baking and another four of broiling before I was satisfied with the color and texture.

with toppings

Now comes the appetizer part. This potato pancake can actually go a couple of different ways in that department. For a cocktail party, you could slice it into slivers and top it with a number of delicious tidbits. The potato pancake is just as good at room temperature as it is hot, so works quite nicely on a table of finger foods.

In the picture, I’ve dolloped each wedge with a little bit of mascarpone cheese and then added something tasty on top (from top to bottom, you have last summer’s apricot jam, a grape tomato half, and a sprig of dill). Little strips of smoked salmon or trout would also be fantastic.

under eggs and mache

For a more perfectly plated appetizer, here’s another serving option. Cut the potato pancake into quarters. Top with some baby greens (I used mache) and a perfectly fried egg. The texture of the crunchy potato layer with the delicate leaves and runny egg is seriously great (I ate that plate right up as soon as I was finished with the photos).

It’s a good starter for fancy brunches or a farm to table-style dinner. It’s high in Vitamin C. And it’s also great for those folks who can’t manage a pasta course, due to wheat or gluten allergies. For those who have a jar in their pantry, a dab of tomato jam would not go amiss here.

How would you turn a giant potato pancake into an appetizer?

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