Use up that jam! Easy Homemade Jam Ice Cream.

30 Aug

I have to say, for a little bit there I was on a strawberry jam kick. It was easy to whip up and can a batch of it and be able to enjoy that one batch the whole year. But then I got chickens, which means I have lots of eggs. Which means my most favorite way to enjoy those eggs is over medium. What does that mean for my jam? It means it doesn’t get to make its debut on a buttery english muffin quite as often since strawberry jam coated english muffins do not go well being dipped into egg yolks. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not my thing. So my strawberry jam has been collecting a little dust, going unloved on the canning shelf.

Then Northwest Edible Life throws me a recipe that is simple to whip up and use some of that jam! This ice cream recipe is so simple to use. No cooking a custard base, no cooling. Just your ice cream maker and 4 ingredients and you’ll have a batch of homemade ice cream with homemade jam for sweetness and flavor. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it!

It’s a great way to use up some surplus jam. Don’t have any homemade jam? You could give it a try with store bought. Not quite as good in my opinion, but it will still be quick and taste amazing. After tasting this easy ice cream, I plan on making a large batch of jam – strawberry and apple pie – so that I have it on hand for a quick batch of this ice cream! And to smear on homemade bread and english muffins of course.

strawberry jam ice cream

Homemade Jam Ice Cream

Adapted from Northwest Edible Life

1 cup cold milk – I used 2%

2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled

1 pint jar jam of your choice – I used strawberry

Put all your ingredients into a mixing bowl and combine using an immersion blender. Pour mixture into your ice cream maker, following the manufacturers directions.

Since this will be a soft set, I like to place it in a freezer safe container and firm up overnight. The lovely thing about this recipe? It doesn’t get rock hard. My ice cream scoop easily cuts through it and I serve it up with a little chocolate sauce for dessert. It’s rich, so one or two scoops will satisfy.

A healthy dessert alternative – Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites

19 Aug

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I love me some coconut. And not just food, coconut everything. Coconut oil, candy, body wash, body spray, shampoo, soap, candles, beverages. You name it. I haven’t met something with coconut anywhere in the description that I didn’t like. Seriously. As many of you have picked up, I am working to lead a healthier lifestyle. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat well or live a good life. I still enjoy food, and the whole act of eating. I just choose to make better choices. Organic as often as I can, growing and preserving as much food as possible, and doing much of my cooking from scratch. I have cut back on my beer consumption since that and too large portions are what contributed to my weight gain (fall beers are starting to arrive though, so I’ll have to be strong!!!) I don’t follow any particular diet or eating fad. I’m not gluten free, paleo or vegan. I like meat. I like dairy. I like bread. I don’t stop myself from eating the things that I like, I just limit myself to how much I’m eating. I’ve stopped boredom snacking. When I have a craving for something that may not be the healthiest food choice, I wait a few days. If I still have the craving, I indulge in a small bit of whatever it is I have a hankering for. Like a slice of pie, or a piece of cake. If the craving goes away, it was just a random craving. I certainly don’t exercise as often as I should. My days have been pretty busy as of late with cleaning, gardening, and taking care of my 10lb back surgery dog. So I’m not sitting around. I have actually lost 10lbs of the 30 that I want to lose, and that is mostly with diet changes. It’s amazing how great it feels when a pair of pants that had previously not fit FIT. Like you can button them up and not struggle to breathe. There is no muffin top or unsightly bulge. It’s a total victory. I’m not FAT, but I’m certainly not at my healthiest weight. So this lifestyle change is working, and I can see results. Therefore I choose to continue making healthy food choices. BUT…that doesn’t mean this girl doesn’t want something sweet from time to time. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have it be a healthy sweet treat. Enter in the Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites – aka Coconut Klondike. Coconut is a healthy fat to ingest. Coconut oil has so many benefits I won’t even go into listing them all here. Dark chocolate is also beneficial. One of these little Coconut Bites satisfies a craving without blowing your daily progress and on a hot day, the frozen texture of them helps give you a mini cool down. I love that they are a 2 bite treat (on if you are a man and toss the whole thing in your mouth), there are no added sugars, no processing, no ingredients that can’t be pronounced or identified. They are actually a HEALTHY treat!!!  Go figure!

Your yield for these can vary depending on how much you fill up those muffin liners. I got 30, but know I could have gotten less if I would have packed in the coconut. I also chose to add in some more of the shredded coconut – probably 1/4 cup more so I got a larger yield. The original recipe called for making these in the standard size muffin papers but I chose to do mini so having 2 would feel like a real indulgence.

If you like coconut, are trying to be healthy, or both definitely give these a try. I’m so glad I did!

Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites

Dark Chocolate Frozen Coconut Bites

Yield 20-30

Adapted from PaleOMG

 

Ingredients

1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut

½ cup coconut butter

½ cup organic coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1 bag dark chocolate chips

In the bowl of your food processor, add all of your ingredients with the exception of the dark chocolate chips. Blend it until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed and you have a silky texture with bites of coconut.

Line your mini muffin pan with paper liners, adding a scoop of coconut mixture smashing down the mix with the back of a spoon to level it. You will fill your liners ¾ of the way full, leaving room for chocolate.

After filling all of your muffin cups, melt your chocolate chips. To melt, I used a double boiler, but you can also use the microwave if you want to do it quicker.

Top each coconut cup with melted chocolate until tops are completely covered.

When done, place muffin pan in the freezer for 20 minutes until coconut cups are set and firm. Remove from freezer, transfer to an air tight container and store in freezer.

When you want to eat one, remove it from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes to let the coconut and chocolate soften a little.

When the garden gives your zucchini, make Chocolate Zucchini Bread!

12 Aug

 

 

One of the joys of having a vegetable garden is that you know exactly what went on in the growing of those veggies. The other joy is getting virtually free food, right from your own back (or side) yard, from space that would otherwise be grass or weeds. This year, I planted about 10 total squash plants.  A mix of crookneck, zucchini, and what I THOUGHT were yellow squash but turned out to be mislabeled croocknecks. Production was going pretty good once the bees started pollinating the flowers, but the plants are all now starting to die and will need ripped out and replaced with a second crop of squash – the butternut variety! But for right now, I still have a bin full of the zucchini and crooknecks, so I decided to whip up another batch of Chocolate Zucchini Bread. The first batch was delicious, and since it was such a hit, I decided to make another batch. Hopefully this round lasts a little longer.

This bread is moist and has a nice crumb without being soggy like some zucchini breads. The chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder is rich and deep without being overpowering. All in all, I’d say this bread is a winner in my book and will probably be made just one more time before I run out of zucchini.  The picture doesn’t do it justice. Seriously. You should make it just so you can see the loveliness that is this bread with your own eyes.

Enjoy!

chocolate zucchini bread

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

makes 2 loaves

adapted from Simply Recipes

  • 4 cups shredded zucchini
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour – I use King Arthur brand
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups Zulka Morena Pure Cane Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup butter, melted

Place your shredded zucchini in a colander or sieve placed over a bowl and let drain for 30 minutes.

While your zucchini is draining, preheat your over to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans with butter and a little flour to prevent sticking

In a small bowl, add your flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and kosher salt. Whisk together until well blended, with no lumps.
In a large bowl, add your eggs and sugar, whisking until smooth. Add your vanilla extract, whisking until incorporated. Last, add your butter, and whisk until smooth.

Add your shredded and drained zucchini to your wet mixture, stirring to combine. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, stirring to combine completely after each addition.

Spoon the mixture into your 2 loaf pans, evenly divided between the two. Smooth out the tops with the back of your spoon so it’s level.

Place pans in oven for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely before slicing. Try not to devour it.

I don’t know how long this bread will last, other than a week since that is all the longer it took for the hubs to devour both loaves. Since it makes 2, you can store one in the freezer for later consumption. Just wrap in a double layer of plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn and store. To thaw, remove from freezer and place in fridge overnight.

Don’t turn on the oven – easy Crock Pot Roast Chicken

8 Aug

Hi there. Remember me? I sure hope so, otherwise this post is going to fall on deaf mailboxes and feeds! I’ve been a bit MIA lately. I’ve had good reason. Our little mini Dachshund had some major surgery on his back, and I’ve been playing momma nurse to him. The good news is that he’s recovering really well, and starting to walk again. It’s a pretty wonky walk, and he flops down more often than not, but it’s a walk, and it’s going to get better as time goes on.

The bad news is that the rest of the world kept going on while I was playing momma nurse. Laundry, cooking, groceries, bills, work. They are all pretty rude considering they did not cease to exist until I was able to manage them again. The nerve. But, I’m BACK. Blessing you all with a weekly (maybe every other week) post of cooking, crafting or domestic bliss.

Today, it’s all about chicken. No, none of my chickens were sacrificed to make this lovely, filling and delicious concoction. But I’m sure they could smell it. And had they been given some of it, they would have gobbled it down like the little cannibals they are. Here is good old Pennsylvania, we had a week or two of fall like weather. Cool crisp nights, cool days. It was nice having the windows open, and the AC turned off. But alas, it is August, and summer is back with the 85 degree temps and ridiculous humidity. What does that mean? It means I’m pretty reluctant to turn on the oven for any extended period of time since it makes the AC run more often, which raises my electric bill, which taps into my food/fun/vet bill money. But a girl still wants a hearty meal of roast chicken every now and again. And wants it to be an easy meal. Something that cooks slowly while I’m at work. And the crock pot roast chicken was born.

This “recipe” if you can even call it that is a fairly simple one. I guess it’s more of a method. And it’ll get you to dust off your crock pot, and be almost done with dinner. I promise you won’t even break a sweat making this chicken. For real. It doesn’t have the crisp skin like you get from oven roasted chicken, but it’s tender and literally falls apart when you go to plate it. You don’t need to add any additional liquid since cooking it in the crock pot does a sort of self basting, and you can use the juices left in the pot to make a homemade gravy.

 

roast chicken sliced

Crock Pot Roast Chicken Method

Ingredients/tools:

1 whole chicken, 6-7lbs

1 lemon

Seasoning of your choice – I use Weber Roasted Garlic & Herb

Crock pot, preferably one with a timer function. Otherwise you’ll need to be around to turn it to warm at the end mark.

Start by removing the giblets if you have any. Hubs likes them, so they get tossed into the bottom of the crock pot. Rinse your chicken off and pat dry with some paper towels. Place the chicken in your crock pot, breast side up. Next, slice your lemon in half and squeeze both halves over your hand held over the chicken to catch any seeds. Toss the seeds, then stuff the juiced lemon halves into the chicken cavity. Sprinkle chicken liberally with seasoning of your choice, put the lid on your crock pot, and set it to cook on high for 6-7 hours (my rule is add 1 hour for each pound over 5lbs). After the 6 hours, remove your chicken from the crock pot and serve!

Since the crock pot doesn’t allow for crisp skin, and you may be into that – you can put the chicken in an oven safe dish and crisp up the skin under the broiler for roughly 5 minutes.

roast chicken whole

Easy side dish – Inside Out Pierogis

16 Jul

I am mostly Slovenian. My great grandparents came to America on a boat full of other immigrants looking to make a better life for themselves. When my gram married and had my mom, she didn’t dilute the gene pool too much. Same thing with my mom when she married my dad. I am German, Dutch, Indian and Slovak – but the Slovak dominates. I blame that for my unnatural love of pierogis. And I’m a bit of a snob about them. I’ll eat non church pierogis, but there is one local church that makes them twice a year around Easter and Christmas and they are AMAZING. The best ever. My gram buys dozens of them and shares them with the rest of us. I freeze a bunch to have later, but immediately fry up a dozen with butter and some onions and eat half of them. Yep. No shame.

Now, it’s summertime so that means my stockpile of church pierogis are pretty much depleted. <insert sad face here> So when I recently had a hankering for pierogis, the Inside Out was born. You’ve got the dough aspect covered by the gnocchi – and they are traditionally made with potatoes so there is the potato aspect. Add in the ricotta for cheese and the chives for the onion and voila! And amazingly, they do taste a whole lot like pierogis. I loved it! I will most certainly be making these again. And I actually ate this as lunch, not as a side. I accompanied it with a salad and it was a delicious and filling meal.

Inside Out Pierogis

serves 2-3 as a side dish

1lb gnocchi – store bought of fresh made

½ cup whole milk ricotta

2 tbsp chives

½ tsp garlic salt

1tbsp olive oil

1tbsp butter

Cook the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Using the same pot the gnocchi were boiled in, add your oil and butter and heat over medium heat until butter is melted and the olive oil is hot. Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan and toss to coat. Let the gnocchi cook for a few minutes so that they get crispy and brown on one side. While they are browning, add the ricotta, chives and garlic salt. Stir to combine and cook until ricotta cheese it hot.

Serve and enjoy!

Mmmmm…smoothies…..

11 Jul

Has anyone else noticed how stifling hot out it’s been? The other day, the weather dude said that oh, it hasn’t been that hot out. We haven’t reached a 90 degree day yet. If I was near mr. weather dude, I would have throat punched him. In western PA it doesn’t need to be 90 degrees out to be miserably hot. We have humidity thick enough that it feels like you are walking through sweat. Gross, I know.

Soooo….since it’s been so hot out, cold beverages and breakfasts are becoming a thing around our house again. Lots of salads, frosty glasses of iced tea (or vodka, lemon & water), ice cream cones. You know, cold stuff.

I admit that I’ve been lazing around in my bed for another 30 minutes after my alarm goes off. Because I’m cozy. The ceiling fan is going, the morning news is on. I just want to delay starting my day a bit. I still have plenty of time to get ready for work and be out the door, but it limits the amount of time I have to whip up myself breakfast. And this girl HAS to eat breakfast. Otherwise my blood sugar drops and the hunger turns to hanger. It’s bad for everyone. So, when I’m pressed for time, I whip up a smoothie. Combining protein powder, oatmeal, and plenty of fruit helps to make a filling, satisfying breakfast beverage. The oatmeal helps to thicken the smoothie without watering it down, and using frozen berries means I can skip the ice and won’t have a watered down smoothie 20 minutes later. Because I combine protein powder & oatmeal, I use this smoothie as a meal replacement. It’s filling, it tastes good, and is healthy for me! Be sure to experiment with the types of fruits and liquids you use. Add in some frozen banana slices, pineapple, mango, strawberries. Whatever! Just make sure it’s frozen since this helps you avoid adding ice.

Don’t want to commit to purchasing a protein powder? You don’t have to, but it certainly helps the smoothie to be more filling. Not sure where to purchase some of the ingredients listed? Click on the ingredient to be taken to the site where I purchase. The protein powder I use is a whey protein that is non-GMO, non-denatured, no growth hormones and no artificial sweeteners or ingredients. I have only tried the double chocolate flavor and it’s very good. The RAW superfood powder is organic and lets me get a dose of nutrients, vitamins and minerals from more veggies than I could pack into a smoothie (and veggies or grasses that I just wouldn’t otherwise eat). Both of the powders I add in last me about 2 months as I only have smoothies on weekdays, with the most being 5 per week, so it helps to offset the cost of buying the protein and RAW powders. I can honestly say I feel more energy in the mornings of having smoothie than I do with a couple of cups of coffee. Minus the jitters and the afternoon slump.

Give it a try!

berry breakfast smoothie

Chocolate Oatmeal Berry Breakfast Smoothie

1/4 cup oatmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons ground flax meal

1 cup frozen berries (I use a triple berry blend – blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)

1 cup coconut or almond milk

1/4 cup organic vanilla yogurt

4-5 drops  Sweet Leaf Stevia drops – optional

1 scoop Natural Factors Double Chocolate Whey Powder

1/2 scoop Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW Organic Chocolate Cocoa powder

In a blender, pulse your oatmeal and flax meal until it’s a powder. Add in your berries, coconut or almond milk, protein and RAW powders, and Stevia drops if using. Blend on high until everything is combined, 1-2 minutes. Blending for a longer time whips everything together and adds air, making the smoothie taste ridiculously creamy. If your smoothie is too thick, add a little more coconut or almond milk.

Pour into a glass, add a straw, and enjoy your breakfast beverage!

The DIY Life: Fermenting your own Kombucha Tea. Part 1

1 Jul

Good things come from fermentation – pickles, wine, beer, kraut. But who would have thought tea? I know I didn’t. Until I heard a friend talking about brewing up her own Kombucha. The short of the process is you brew up some tea, sweeten it, add the SCOBY to the cooled sweet tea, cover with a clean cotton cloth and let sit for 7-21 days to ferment. The longer you let it ferment, the stronger the tea. Drink a little of the tea each day for the health benefits. The health benefits are wide and don’t really have a whole lot of documented proof because Kombucha tea is not evaluated by the FDA. I think it’s pretty refreshing to have a  jelly jar full each morning or evening.

A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeast. They are also known and kombucha mushrooms, Mother, Baby or plain old kombucha.

Why did I decide to start brewing some? Because it DOES contain probiotics, like those found in yogurt. Probiotics are good for you. They help keep the good bacteria in your body from going all wild. Here is a great article over at Kombucha Camp if you want to see more of the purported benefits of drinking Kombucha.  Since I have only been drinking it for a couple of months, I can’t confirm or deny any of the implied benefits. However, I like the taste and the process of making it is so easy that I can’t find a reason to NOT make it. So far I made a batch up with black tea and let it ferment for only 7 days. I wanted to see how it tasted at that point. At the 7 day mark, the tea was slightly carbonated and still sweet. My next batch was a green tea, and I let that one ferment for 10 days. It was a lot milder in flavor over the black tea I had from the first batch, and was a teeny bit more carbonated and tangy. Batch 3 I went back to black tea and let ferment for 15 days. The carbonation was pretty good, with a nice flow of small champagne like bubbles. It had a bit more zing to the taste. I think 7 days will continue to be my max first fermentation time for right now, until I get a little more adventurous.

The longer that you let the tea ferment, the more pronounced vinegar flavor it takes on. I like vinegar, but I don’t want to drink it. If for some reason I forgot about my tea, and the flavor was more vinegar like than I could handle, it can easily be saved and used AS vinegar – in dressings and what not.

Below is a basic recipe for Kombucha, for a single fermentation process. You can do a double fermentation, where after the first round you remove the SCOBY and ferment with a fruit or flavoring. I’ll be doing a follow-up post on how to do the second fermentation.

Since the Kombucha is fermented, there is a low percentage of ABV – the highest I’ve seen is 1%. So no, you can’t get drunk off of it. It does have a very slight booze taste when you first take a sip, because of the little bubbles and the whole fermenting process. But you are fine.

And please, don’t freak out about the sugar content. The sugars are for the SCOBY, not for you. The SCOBY will eat the sugars, which are what causes your brew to ferment. There will still be SOME sweetness to your finished brew, but it won’t be like the overly sweet tea you started with.

Tips

* If you don’t have a friend who brews their own Kombucha and can hook you up with a SCOBY, be sure to purchase one from a reputable supplier. Kombucha Camp does sell them as well as kits.

* NEVER allow any metal to come in contact with your SCOBY. Contact with metal will kill it. Nobody wants to have “SCOBY killer” as their nickname.

* NEVER use organic teas. They will cause the brew to grow mold and you will have to throw everything out.

* Don’t worry if your SCOBY sinks or is sideways. It will float back to the top of the container and right itself. This usually happens if the SCOBY and tea are not at the same room temp. No biggie.

* DISTILLED WATER ONLY. Just suck it up and spend the $0.88 on a gallon of the stuff. Don’t use tap, whatever you do. Just don’t.

* Don’t be sloppy with your sanitation skills. Make sure all jars and containers are clean. You wouldn’t want to eat dinner off of a dirty plate, so don’t use dirty utensils for brewing!

* NEVER store your SCOBY in the fridge.

* Share your baby SCOBY’s with others! Be sure to include some of your finished Kombucha tea/Mother with the baby so they can get their own brew going on.

* Too many SCOBY’s from brewing tons of Kombucha? Toss extras or old SCOBY’s into your compost pile. They are good for your garden.

 

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar – I use Zulka Pure Cane GMO free 

4-6 tea bags

1 SCOBY + 1 cup Mother (starter tea)

8-10 cups distilled water

Tools:

Large glass container (I use this 1 gallon mason jar, minus the lid)

Tea towel

Rubber band

Large pot

 

In a large pot, bring your water to a boil. Add your tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Add your sugar and stir until dissolved.

Let your sweetened tea cool to room temperature.

In large glass container, add your room temperature sweetened tea. To the sweetened tea, add the starter tea. Gently place your SCOBY into the jar, letting if float on top.

Cover the top of your jar with a clean flour sack/tea towel that is secured with a rubber band. This will let your tea breathe and ferment, while keeping out bugs. Place your jar in a dark corner of your house out of direct sunlight and let sit, undisturbed for at least 7 days.

At 7 days, remove your SCOBY and 1 cup of the freshly fermented kombucha. Store in a ziplock bag or jar until you are ready for your next round of brewing. If you have a second “baby” SCOBY, separate it from the Mother SCOBY and store with another cup of Kombucha to give to friends. I always keep 2 SCOBY’s on hand, in case something happens to the original.

To store your finished tea, strain the tea through cheese cloth to remove any of the stringiness that happens when you brew Kombucha. You do not have to strain the tea if you don’t want to. Store in a gallon sized glass jar in the fridge, or pint/quart mason jars for easily portable drinking.

Enjoy daily, and get started brewing your second batch!