Plum Preserves

I’m going to admit something slightly embarrassing to all of you.

I took the term preserve too literally and didn’t realize that this was actually a jelly or jam if you will. Preserves to me are vegetables and fruits that are preserved. I mean that’s what I call a “preserve.”

This is exactly what jam and jelly are as well, but I interpreted the term for a broader base.

After trying to eat this preserve as a side item, I realized that this was more of a jelly. That and a phone conversation with my boyfriend who is mostly from the south. Why mostly? He moved around a lot as a kid. I’d say he’s a southern boy with a dash of mid-west.

Below our conversation,

“What are you making this time?”

“It’s a plum preserve…it’s kinda like a sweet plum applesauce type of thing.”

Boyfriend pauses for a moment. “….I think that’s a jelly! Ooh I’m excited! I’m pretty sure a preserve is a jelly.”

Being the sweet southern man that he is I’m pretty sure he knew this all along but didn’t want to make me feel stupid. Those southerners like to preserve your pride when they like you. I appreciate it.

Wherever you hail from and whether you enjoy jellies, jams, or preserves then you should try out this plum preserve from Cooking Light. It’s surprisingly easy to make and delicious!

What you need

  • 6 cups of sliced ripe plums (about three pounds)
  • 2 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 4-inch cinnamon stick

The first thing you’re going to do is combine plums and sugar in a bowl. Once combined, cover and leave on your room temperature counter for 8 hours.

Then combine all the ingredients, including your plum mixture into a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce your heat so that it only simmers and cover the pot for 15 minutes.

Once those 15 minutes are up, uncover and cook for an additional hour.

While this cooking process occurs be sure to stir and mash the mixture every few minutes or so. When the hour is up you should have a nice even consistency that resembles a jelly.

Pour this into a large bowl to cool and throw away your cinnamon stick.  Once it’s chilled out you can then enjoy your jelly!

This turned out really well and it tasted like apple pie to me. Granted these are plums, but the taste of cinnamon and the slight gooey and chewy plums reminded me of that coveted pie.

Once I realized this was a jelly, I served it with cream cheese on a cracker as you can see below.

I also brought some to work and a co-worker liked it so much she took some to her grandmother. I was told the grandmother approved. She apparently is a preserve connoisseur.

If you haven’t gotten the hint, then let me be east coast blunt and tell you that you need to try this as soon as you can! It’s delicious and so easy to make! You’d be a moron not to try!

Midwest translation, “I think you should try this. It’s good and easy to make.”

Southern translation. “Honey you gotta try this! My grandma used to make preserves for me as a child and I’m telling you this is just so easy to make. You won’t regret it.”

West coast translation, “You should really think about making your own jelly. When you’re in control of your own food intake you can cut out all the preservatives and chemicals that are being forced fed into our body by the food industry. It’s a real comfort to know my jelly is completely organic.”

Plum preserve in a bowl

Jelly and cream cheese

 

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Little Cheese Puffs aka Gougère

Gougère is basically a Gruyère cheese biscuit reminiscent of the cheddar biscuits from Red Lobster.  Red Lobster better be careful because the French Farmhouse Cookbook gave me a fun little history tidbit that could possibly lead to a lawsuit.

You see it is believed that the French bought the copyright for these little cheese puffs from the Flemish back in the 14th century. According to the cookbook these two cultures were more interested in dealing with recipes for food than money.

No wonder the French were always having issues with the Brits. Can you imagine?

French King: Knock knock…

British King: Yes?

French King: Hey, so we’ve got this cheese puff recipe, would you like to make a trade for….I don’t know, bangers and mash?

British King: (looks at the recipe, looks at the King, looks back at the recipe) Do you think I’m a fool? Last time foreigners tried to invade us they offered us spaghetti! Get out of here!

French King: Oh! No, we just want to experience the delicacies of…(door is slammed in French king’s face) Well, that was rude! I guess we’ll just have to fight for our recipes!

A couple of weeks later, this happened.

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Thankfully in present time, sharing recipes hasn’t resulted in violence and we can safely spread the cheer of the French cheese puffs.

What you’ll need

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, chilled, cut into chunks
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup of grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1/4 cup of minced chives

The first step is to pre-heat the oven to 400 and get your baking sheets out.

Then get some wax paper and sift the flour and nutmeg together on top of the paper.

You are now ready to mix water, salt, and butter in a pan. Heat the pan to medium high heat until the combo starts to boil. Allow that process to go on for 30 seconds and then remove. Add the flour and butter mixture into a bowl you can whisk the mixture in. Whisk away until the dough is no longer sticky. This will take some time and you’ll know when it’s ready when it doesn’t stick to the side as you whisk.

Make sure the dough isn’t warm from the heated butter and then add the eggs, one at a time. Whisk each egg add-in until everything is combined evenly and then add the cheese and finally the chives.

We are finally ready to bake!

Do so, by scooping around a tablespoon of the dough for each puff. Be sure to leave room for the puff to grow so it does not slide into the other. Once you’ve used up the dough, bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes.

You’ll know they are ready when they are slightly browned and puffy. When this occurs take them out of the oven and the pan and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

Side note, I need to get a wire rack and if you don’t have one, the best option is to remove them from the pan and place on a cool surface. It’s still better to use a rack if you’ve got it though.

I was pleased with the final result. As I implied earlier these are like Red Lobster cheese biscuits only French style. You can’t go wrong with cheese biscuits so really there isn’t much to say.

The only thing I can say is that the Gruyère gives it a slight bitter taste in comparison to cheddar biscuits. The chives balance out the bitter taste and give it a pop of flavor that will add a twist in taste for all you chedder biscuits lovers out there.

So go ahead and give this a go. If not, the French might fart in your general direction.

Cheese Puffs from France

Polenta Alpina aka Polenta of the Alps

For those of you who have never heard of polenta, it’s a cornmeal based dish that is similar to grits.

As a child I used to call it Italian mashed potatoes even though no potatoes are involved. I hadn’t experienced grits yet so it seemed logical to associate them with mashed taters.

This logic is understandable if you knew the way my mother prepared it. She would serve alongside shredded chicken and marina sauce. The sauce was my Italian mashed potato gravy which funny enough is what some Italian-Americans would call their marinara.

This version is more of a Northern Italian style and doesn’t call for any type of gravy, in fact the author Mrs. Catherine Vincenti from my hometown’s Little Italy Festival Town Cookbook instructs us to get “a large bowl of leaf lettuce salad with oil and vinegar dressing, a glass of wine, fresh fruits and cookies, and finish with a strong cup of coffee.”

I like Mrs. Vincenti, so far she’s put the best little hint of flair at the end of her recipe.

What you’ll need

  • 2 cups of cornmeal
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups of shredded brick cheese
  • 1/2 pound of butter

Cooking the cornmeal is similar to cooking rice and pasta in the sense that you want to put it in a pot of boiling salted water. Once you do that, stir the cornmeal constantly for about a half hour,

You’ll know it’s ready when the corn meal has thickened and is easily scrapped off the side of the pan.

Once this happens you are ready to bake your polenta. This process is similar to lasagna because you will be layering up your cheese and polenta. The first layer is the polenta, then the cheese. Continue to do this until you reach the top where the final layer will be polenta along with some pepper seasoning.

Before you place that polenta in the oven, we have one more topping to add and that topping is butter my friends.

Get your butter and a pan, melt it, and then pour it on top.

Now we are ready to bake and we will do so for a half hour at a temperature of 325-350.

At the end of the day, I prefer my mother’s version of polenta. My Italian people come more from the southern portion of Italy. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the northerners style. My genes just gravitate towards red gravy and slightly spicy dishes.

This is still a good recipe and I had a lot of fun making it with my LA bestie who had never had polenta before. She loved this recipe and I was glad she did, but I still want her to try my mama’s.

The cheese strangely gives the polenta a slight bitter flavor which I’m not used to. My experience with polenta has more of a slightly grainy and sweet flavor that gets a pop of taste when you add the marina in the mix. I’ll still give it an Italian like, despite my preferences.

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Cheesy polenta from those northerners

 

Italianlike

Italian like

Strong Independent Popcorn Who Don’t Need No Microwave!

When I first came across this recipe from Portlandia, my eyebrow curled up. Really, a popcorn recipe?

Then I remembered that there are such things as cheddar and caramelized popcorn. I tend to be a movie theater popcorn purist. I don’t even like to butter mine. It gets too greasy and if the popcorn is done right from the get go with seasoning and etc, it’s not needed. In my opinion.

I’m a strong independent woman who don’t need no butter, but this recipe is of the nacho cheddar variety and let’s face it, I’m a cheesy person. Maybe it’s time I allow some cheese in my popcorn.

What you’ll need

  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese powder or a packet of cheese from a mac and cheese mix (but then you don’t have cheese for your mac and cheese and that’s upsetting to me)
  • 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chipotle powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup of popping popcorn
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • Salt

In an appropriately sized bowl, mix all your powders and the yeast.

Then in a large pot, heat the oil and then add the popcorn. Cover slightly with a lid and pop the corn over medium heat.

Once the kernels have popped pour the popcorn into a bowl and dump the melted butter on it. Toss until butter has coated evenly, then add half of your powder mixture and toss again. Once you’ve felt it’s been tossed enough, add the rest of the powder mixture and continue more tossing.

Eventually it all be mixed and then you can add salt to your liking and enjoy!

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The Scent of Fried Eggplant

Some of you may be thinking, “Oh no…not another eggplant recipe!”

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I get it, I like eggplant, but I’m getting tired of writing about it. So how do we make this fried recipe from The Scent of Orange Blossoms interesting?

History. Provided you find history interesting. I’ll make it entertaining….

Eggplant did not come from an Isle of Eggplants, but from the regions of India and China. It then spread in both directions, west and east where it ended up in Egypt, the Iberian peninsula and finally England. The Wikipedia page on eggplant pulled a quote from a British writer that states

This plant groweth in Egypt almost everywhere. -English Botanist 1597

The people of the western side of Earth loved this purple cucumber and it followed many cultures and crossed the pond into the Americas in such a fashion that would make a bodysnatcher proud.

If this little history lesson hasn’t amped you up enough, I have another tidbit for you. Apparently at some point in China’s history the below quote was a thing.

In China, as part of her “bride price,” a woman must have at least 12 eggplant recipes prior to her wedding day. –The Elegant Eggplant

So ladies, if you’re single this is number 4 of eggplant recipes that I have written about. You’ll need 8 more if you want to get married and I’ll certainly update you if I come across more.

What you’ll need

  • 1 globe eggplant
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 12 sprigs of parsley, chopped
  • finely minced rind of 1/2 preserved lemon
  • 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar or balsamic

The first step is to cut the eggplant into 1/2 thick slices. Then place them on paper towels and salt them. This will help with the frying process later.

Let the eggplant soak in its salt bath for about 15 minutes and then turn over the slices and repeat on the other side.

This is like eggplant’s version of sunbathing/spa treatment.

After both sides have been salted, rinse the eggplant with water, pat dry, and then set aside.

Get more paper towels and line a baking sheet with them.

Side note, what did people do before paper towels for these eggplants? I’m sure they just used a towel of some sort, but it had to have been a super absorbent one right? The middle ages version of a shamwow is what I’m picturing.

We are now ready to fry the eggplant. Do so by heating two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add just enough eggplant that each slice has its space and then fry each side. You’ll know they’ve been fried enough when the eggplant establishes a light brown color. Once each side is fried, allow it to drain on your paper towel pan.

Once they’ve cooled you can garnish with garlic, parsley, preserved lemon rind, and vinegar.

After this process they are ready to be served and enjoyed!

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Eggplant, (2018) fried in pan

 

Isa’s Wild Rice Soup

This recipe comes from Isa Does It and is a vegan alternative to chicken and rice soup.

What you’ll need

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of peeled and thinly sliced carrots
  • 2 ribs of celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons of sweet paprika
  • 1 cup of wild rice
  • 1/2 cup of red lentils
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 pound of seitan
  • 1 15 ounce can of great northern beans, rinsed and drained

Being the omnivore that I am, I had never heard of seitan until making this soup. Tofu, tempeh, and soy alternatives of meat for sure, but not seitan. Seitan did remind me of something though….

Church lady nc state - Tried this new vegan meat substitute... Could it be SEITAN?!

Seems like I’m not the only one who thought of the church lady

Seitan is a popular chicken alternative because it’s denser than soy and tofu based meat alternatives. You can buy firm tofu, but usually tofu has that soft jello like texture in the middle that clues my brain into knowing I’m not eating meat.

Don’t get me wrong, I can still tell seitan isn’t meat, but it’s closer to the real thing due to level of firmness.

Which makes me concerned that maybe there’s a reason it’s called seitan. Gonna have to consult the church lady on this one.

Away with you seitan! We need to move on and talk about how to prepare this soup.

First you pre-heat your favorite pot that you got crafted in California and heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add those onions in and saute with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes or until it’s translucent. This is so seitan can see it’s soul better for stealing purposes.

Add some garlic next and saute that until you smell it. Next toss in the carrots, celery, thyme, tarragon, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir that pot up because stirring the pot sometimes gets seitan’s attention.

This may not be enough, however, so we need to throw in some wild rice into the mix along with lentils and broth. Cover the pot and bring it a hellish boil. Church lady will then come in and try to save its soul. It doesn’t work, but the heat will go to a simmer. She’ll leave the lid open slighty so redeemed souls can escape. Allow them to escape for about 25 minutes.

By now, seitan should learn about this golden opportunity to steal some wild rice souls, but like with most professionals preparations must be made.

Seitan likes to prepare itself by soaking in a hot pan with oil. Not surprising right?

Prepare that pan by heating it over medium heat and then adding the oil. Once the temperature is right, allow seitan to take an oil bath for about 5 minutes.

Seitan will be relaxing in its bath until the rice, beans, and lentils have softened. You’d think this would be the perfect moment for seitan to strike, but it won’t until we’ve tested the soup for salt seasoning.

Once that’s been prepared to everyone’s liking, seitan waits til the soup is served into individual bowls before it makes its move.

We now have a condemned soul for consumption.

Despite my bad taste of humor into turning this into a story of ungodliness, this is actually a pure soup for those of you who love animals.

I also love animals but unfortunately enjoy eating chicken. Despite this, I thought seitan was a tasty alternative. Knowing  it’s high in protein is beneficial as well.

I suggest doing your research about what seitan to use however. This was my first time with seitan, so I just grabbed what was available, but I read up on it after the fact and some pre-packaged seitan has extra additives like sodium that negate the health benefits.

Otherwise I highly recommend it as a meat alternative.

Enjoy!

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Seitan’s soup

 

Apple Meat Loaf

Do your loaves of meat need a little sweetness in their lives, then may I present to you this apple meat loaf from Cooking for Two. 

What you’ll need

  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • 3/4 cup of shredded peeled apple
  • 1/2 cup of soft bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 4 teaspoons of ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • dash ground allspice
  • 3/4 pound ground beef

The first step is to saute the onion with the butter. Probably should make sure that butter is melted at first as well. Then in a large bowl combine the apple, bread crumbs, egg, ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper and allspice.

Once all of those ingredients are fairly mixed, gradually stir in the onion and then finally the beef.

After the meat is mixed, pretend you’re Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force and make it look like a loaf of bread. Then place that meat loaf into a pan and bake under 350 for 40-45 minutes.

You now have a meathead with a touch of sweetness,

I don’t have much to say about this recipe. It’s simple and easy to make. I did enjoy the slight sweetness from the apple. Besides the apple it’s your standard meat loaf, so if you are into that sort thing, you might as well give it try.

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Meatloaf is not the most photogenic