Friday, June 24, 2016

Mulberry, Raspberry & Blueberry Freezer Jam

In a grocery store parking lot around here, there are a few big mulberry trees.  They have sweet fruit; there are a lot of mulberry trees around here where the fruit is more sour/tasteless.  My neighbor said the sour ones are called "white mulberries".  But I forgot what the "sweet" ones are called.  Anyway, the sweet ones are more rare here.  There's wild white trees up around where I live, but I went to the grocery store parking lot recently and harvested some there.  I wanted to make jam.  I knew I didn't get enough to make a batch, so I bought some fresh raspberries to use as well.  It turns out I didn't have enough of those, either, so I threw in a few blueberries.  Hence, mulberry, raspberry and blueberry jam was born.  :)

Mulberry, Raspberry & Blueberry Freezer Jam
adapted from Ball

mulberries, raspberries and blueberries- enough to equal 1 2/3 cups crushed fruit
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin (pic below)

1.  Crush fruit.  Crush one layer at a time using a potato masher.  A large dinner plate works well to set it on as you're crushing.  Measure out exactly 1 2/3 cups of crushed fruit.

2.  Stir sugar and pectin together in a large bowl. Add crushed fruit; stir three minutes.  Ladle into clean freezer containers and let stand 30 minutes.  Store in the fridge.  If storing longer than 2 weeks, store in the freezer.  Enjoy.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Italian-Style Hot Chocolate

I love getting hot chocolate here at a pastry shop or cafe.  It's super thick, like melted chocolate, and tastes amazing.  Some cafes use a mix, so I love finding places that make it from scratch.  One can buy the mix here, and I always have that on hand so we can whip it up at home, and it's pretty good, but I wanted to try to make some "real" stuff.  (You always use milk to make Italian hot chocolate mix, never water, like mixes in the US.  Preferably whole milk!)  (Btw- it's been cool and rainy here lately so this hot chocolate hit the spot yesterday, even though it's June!)

This is made with good-quality dark chocolate (I used Ritter Sport, which is German... lol!), milk, sugar, and cornstarch.  The recipe called for cinnamon, but I've never tasted that in local hot chocolate, so I left it out.  There's not much sugar, but it was still a little too sweet, so I'd reduce it next time and play around with the amounts.
Italian-Style Hot Chocolate
adapted from 12 Tomatoes
Serves 2; easily cut in half to serve 1

4 oz. dark chocolate, shaved (I used 50% cacao Rittersport)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon sugar (try a little less at first)
3/4 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
whipped cream, optional

1.  Place shaved chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and add 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract.  Use a wooden spoon to stir chocolate as it begins to melt.  Slowly add remaining milk and continuing stirring until completely smooth.

2.  Add in sugar, cornstarch, and sea salt, and stir until everything is dissolved and combined.  Use a whisk to keep it smooth.  As it heats up, it will start to thicken.  It needs to thicken enough to coat the back of a metal spoon.  You can bring to a low simmer if needed- mine thickened without simmering. It's supposed to be thick and smooth.  

3.  Pour into 2 mugs (top with whipped cream if desired) and serve immediately.
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Friday, June 10, 2016

Orzo & Roasted Veggie Salad

This is a great dish for summer, especially a potluck or barbecue.  You do have to use the oven to roast the veggies, but that's not that bad.  If you can somehow grill them, that would be even better.

Orzo & Roasted Veggie Salad
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Lemon Vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of black pepper

2 cups broccoli florets in bite-size pieces (one small head)
2 medium zucchini, diced in bite-size pieces
1 red pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces orzo pasta
1 to 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 to 1/2 cup torn or chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds

1.  For the vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar or honey, olive oil, salt and pepper until emulsified and well-combined. Set aside (this can be made several days in advance and refrigerated - just whisk together again before using).

2.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes; give them a good stir and cook for 10-15 minutes more until tender.

3.  While the vegetables cook, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente. Immediately after cooking and draining, add the orzo to a serving bowl, drizzle on half of the vinaigrette dressing and toss to combine.

4.  Scrape the roasted vegetables into the bowl with the orzo and give it a good stir. Add the cherry tomatoes and fresh basil and toss to combine. Add the rest of the vinaigrette and stir until everything is evenly coated. Sprinkle the feta cheese and pine nuts on top. Serve immediately at room temperature.
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Monday, June 6, 2016

Sauteed Fresh Peas

Fresh peas are in season here right now.  We actually went to a Pea Sagra recently- maybe I'll post pics from that later.  I bought these from the local Frutteria and asked how to prepare them.  So I'll post the recipe below.  They are delicious and I want to make fresh peas again before they go out of season.
Sauteed Fresh Peas

fresh peas
fresh sweet onion
olive oil
salt and pepper
a little water

1.  Warm the olive oil in a skillet and add onion.  Saute until mostly tender.  Add the fresh peas and sautee for a minute, and then add some water, a few tablespoons.  Add some salt.  Bring to a light simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.  Taste the peas and see if they are done to your liking.  Serve as soon as they are tender enough.  (Locals prefer a longer cooking time- 10-15 minutes.)

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)

I've made Esquites before, but I found a new recipe that was a tiny bit different and I wanted to try it out.  We have fresh chives growing, and they produced blossoms, so we added some of those into the salad as well.  I love the little purple blossoms.  All of the flavors in this worked so well together and we really enjoyed it.
Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)
adapted from the Kitchn

2 tablespoons sunflower, canola, or other neutral cooking oil
4 cups fresh or frozen yellow corn, thawed if frozen (from about 6 ears)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small hot pepper (such as jalapeƱo or red chile), seeded and minced (I used jarred)
3 tablespoons crumbled cotija or feta cheese, plus more for garnishing
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped chives, with flowers, if available
1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican-style chili powder (or regular)
Juice from two limes
Kosher salt, to taste

1.  In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil on medium-high until shimmering. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is toasted and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

2.  In a mixing bowl, combine the toasted corn mixture with the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings, adding more of your preferred flavors, if desired. Serve at room temperature with additional cotija cheese.
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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cooking Class: Meatballs, Fresh Pasta, Focaccia & More

Last week we had some friends in town and we did a cooking class with them and some of our local friends.  It was a wonderful class; delicious food, and the group was really, really good- fun and got along well.  (I did another one yesterday, too, which I'll talk about some other time).
For this class, we made tomato focaccia bread (with potatoes in the dough), meatballs with a red sauce over polenta, fresh pasta with a creamy tomato sauce, and a strawberry tiramisu.  Everything was SO GOOD!!!
Here is the recipe for Tomato Focaccia bread.

Recipe for the meatballs.  (We fried them first for a few minutes before adding to the tomato sauce.) We made a tomato sauce with canned tomatoes and I can't find it on his website.  It might be similar to this one, just using canned tomatoes instead of the fresh.  We ate the meatballs over white polenta cooked with Gorgonzola.  It was delicious.  My polenta pics didn't turn out.  Here in Italy, meatballs aren't eaten over pasta.

Next up is the fresh Semolina pasta we made.  The dough is only egg and semolina pasta.  It was kind of hard to press it out and get it through the pasta machine, but the results were amazing, tasty fresh pasta.

The six photos above are of us making the Creamy Grappa Tomato Sauce.  (Grappa in place of Vodka).  We got to watch the grappa being lit on fire, which was awesome.  Some of us almost got our arm hairs burned off.  First, you saute onions with pancetta and olive oil.  Then add the grappa and light in on fire until it burns off.  The onions will be flavorful and caramelized after.  Then add one tube of tomato paste and a can of diced Italian tomatoes.  Next, add in your freshly boiled homemade pasta.  Serve with cheese and oregano.

The strawberry tiramisu isn't on his website yet- this cooking class was the first time he's made it for a class.  (And it was my idea- yay!)  For this tiramisu, you don't use coffee.  Instead, you can use orange juice, limoncello, or ginger ale for dipping the ladyfingers.  Then you add an egg and mascarpone custard with lots of fresh strawberries.  It was so light and delicious.  I can't wait to make it for the kids.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Peanut Butter Snickers Brownies

I made these brownies on a whim Friday because they looked so easy.  I haven't make any baked goods in FOREVER and wanted to make something for the fam even though I was tired from a long week.  They came together so quickly that it wasn't really a big deal to make them, and they were SO good, so much better than I thought they'd be, given how simple the recipe was!  (The base is similar to that Bombshell Brownies recipe that was floating around the internet a few years ago. But it's so much better with the additions of chopped Snickers bars and peanut butter.)  I only baked these for 25 minutes and they were perfectly moist and fudgy.
Peanut Butter Snickers Brownies
from Two Peas & their Pod

1 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped Snickers candy bars (4 regular-sized candy bars)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Place butter in medium saucepan on the stove. Heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition. Add cocoa; stir until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt; stir until combined. Stir in Snickers candy bar chunks. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Drop dollops of peanut butter over the batter. Using a knife or skewer, swirl peanut butter into brownies. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (Mine were perfect in 25 minutes- 35 would have ruined them.  Check them early.)  Cool brownies completely in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, cut into squares and serve.
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