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Resolution Recipe 7: Almond Date Breakfast Bars


Getting caught up on recipes and posts before school starts up so here’s the last one I have in the queue that I’m getting around to posting about. 20140825_215216 These bars are really easy to make but they do require a few different ingredients you probably don’t have in your pantry. These include dates and wheat germ. I definitely had to make a stop a Sprouts to pick up these items as well as the oats, almond butter and almonds since I didn’t have those in my pantry either. I thought I had whole wheat flour on hand but I didn’t. This always seems to happen to me with one ingredient! You would think I would have learned by now, but nope. I’m learning to be the substitution queen. In this case I felt lucky because whole wheat flour seems like an easy thing to replace with regular flour. However, I’m wondering now if it would have helped with holding them together since it is more course then regular flour. Noted for next time. 20140825_215438 I was able to find pitted dates at Sprouts so I encourage you to try and find the same if you can since I imagine pitting these guys is not the easiest thing to do since they are a bit on the sticky side when cutting into them. I have to be honest. These look like bugs to me….cockroaches to be exact….so I pretty much never eat them if I can help it, let alone work with them. I got over my squeamishness a little bit working on this recipes, but just know the sacrifice it took for me to do this you guys….it was a big one. (Dramatic much…:) 20140825_221817   Recipe is easy…combine dry ingredients as seen above. Then…. 20140825_223325   Combine your dry ingredients until you reach the smooth texture you see here.

This is the point in the recipe where things went a little south for me…unfortunately. I’m learning the ropes in my parents kitchen since I recently moved home. (Side note…had to move from Whittier to Corona because they are selling the house I lived in. Sad to leave but happy to have a place to transition to while I figure out where I’ll live next. Rent free and nice kitchen to cook in is a super bonus, but commute to work/school went up so we’ll see how long I last). Being in this new kitchen has been lovely. More surfaces to use and better kitchen supplies on hand…all great. What is not great is the bummer process of learning how you mother stores her ingredients the hard way. She has an olive oil bottle (seen pictured above with ingredients) that HAS been used for olive oil in the past. I swear! Recently she put a different kind of oil in there…thinking canola oil….and uses olive oil straight out of the bottle. *sigh*. And guess who did not smell the oil to make sure it was right?! Yep yep, this novice right here. Lesson learned.

20140825_223447I sadly ended up using the canola oil which, let’s face it, does not taste as good as olive oil. As soon as I poured it in the bowl I knew I had done something wrong because the smell was more of the oil used in deep frying and I had pictures of deep fried treats dancing through my mind as soon as the smell hit my nose. NOT the taste or smell you want associated with your healthy breakfast bars. I kept hoping that the taste would not be affected, but sadly it really was. It had an unfortunately greasy taste to it and I don’t think that’s what we were going for with these. Ugh. 20140825_223655 Back to the recipe…after you get the creamy consistency of your wet ingredients you’ll combine it with the dry and mix until well coated. You’ll pour that into the pan and do your best to press the mixture down into the pan to make it as compact as you’re able. I do not think I did as good of a job at this as I could have. I know that would have made the difference in how well they were able to stay together in the end so learn from my mistake please!20140825_223951 Deb gives a suggestion to do two crisscross pieces of foil or parchment paper to help with removing the bars after they have cooked. Doing this also makes for an easier clean up with all the oil you’re using as well so I suggest you take her tip. 20140825_230658 You won’t notice a major change in color once it come out but the oats will be a bit more brown like an apple crisp (my only real comparison…haha). She suggests that you let them cool inside the pan for a bit and then to take them out with your foil and place them on a cooling rack before cutting them. I did try to do this but when I went to take them out, they began to break apart. I was able to do it in part to get a picture but they are pretty fragile.  I ran into the same problem the next day so I wasn’t able to really cut them into easily removable bars that would hold up long term. Again, I’m sure this was due to me not packing them in very well so there is hope for success next time. 20140825_233144Instead of keeping them in crumbly bars, I ended up breaking them up into the chunks of granola they were naturally falling into. I figured the crumbles would make good bite sized versions. It would also be a good yogurt topping as well if you’re a yogurt lover.  The think I loved about these clusters/bars that is different from anything I’ve had is the orange zest! It’s a different but lovely flavor to have in bars like these. I might also want to add dried cranberries when making these again since they would complement the freshness of the orange. Can’t wait to try them again with all the right ingredients!

RECIPE:

Once again I’m flying and not able to post the recipe without the book so I’m redirecting you to another blogger who has done the recipe and an excellent job of taking pictures of what it SHOULD look like! Check out the details on the blog Cafe Carol.

Thanks for reading everyone! Next post will be about my foodie adventures in Delaware and Philadelphia! I got to check something off my Philadelphia bucket list while I was there so I’m excited to pool my pictures and share about my good eats from my trip.

Also, if you’re a fellow Pinner, be sure to check out some of the stuff I’m pinning on the Novice Cook Diaries Pinterest Boards  if you haven’t already! Tell me which boards have the tastiest looking recipes and if I get enough feedback and I’ll pick a recipe from that board and give it a try.

Follow Novice Cook Diaries on Pinterest!

 

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Resolution Recipe 4: Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby


Final DBIf you’re looking for a simple and fun breakfast idea that is outside of the norm, then try this little guy. Such a quick and easy thing to throw together and the sky is the limit for what you can add Deb has one on her website that is great for this season since cherries are plentiful …check it out (Cherry Almond Dutch Baby). Serving size is 1 to 2 people. If you’re a WW person then probably you should share since it’s a bit higher in points. Ingredients

Ingredients for this recipe include: 

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsulfured molasses
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Confectioner’s sugar, maple syrup, or heavy cream, to serve.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Run the eggs in a blender until they are pale in color. Blender with Eggs
  • Add remaining ingredients except butter and confectioners’ sugar and process until smooth.

Blender with all ingredients

  • Melt the butter over high heat in a 9 inch ovenproof skillet and swirl it up the sides, making sure the pan is nicely coated. Butter in Pan
  • Pour the batter into the prepared skillet, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cake in PanPan in Oven 2
  • Slide pancake onto a plate. Serve with powdered sugar maple syrup, maple syrup, and/or a drizzle of heavy cream. finished in ovenOn Plate from side 1

I don’t have any tips or tricks for this one other then just follow the directions and it will turn out great. This is a rarity that I get a recipe right the first time but I’ll take it. WEIGHT WATCHERS MODIFICATIONS: For those of you doing weight watchers with me I recommend splitting this guy with someone so it’s only 9 points for you since it’s 18 for the whole thing (not counting syrup or confectioners sugar). One modification I thought of is not using butter but spraying the pan down with a low point spray. The butter probably helps give it flavor but also keeps it from sticking so that would be a 6 point reduction making it 14 points so 7 for half (but make sure to count the spray you use).

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Resolution Recipe 3: Plum Poppy Seed Muffins



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Plum Poppy Seed Muffins

Okay, we’re back in business! Happy to be blogging once again. Thanks for your patience loyal readers. I hope this is worth it!

I actually just made these muffins yesterday because even though this recipe was next in the book (back in January),  it wasn’t plum season. I figured I would postpone this recipe and come back to it in the summer…well…summer is here. What a coincidence! Small advantages for not having time to blog!

These muffins were pretty easy and delicious. They yield about 12 muffins according to the recipe, but in honor of making things more Weight Watchers friendly, I decided to make mini muffins instead. Using a Tablespoon I was able to make 37 muffins.

 

TIPS: 20140613_1902241. CHOOSING PLUMS: I would make sure to use plums that are not tart or sour. She says you can use any kind of plum ( I guess I didn’t realize there were other kinds then the reddish ones I see in the store, but there are….even Italian plums! Wanna see some pictures?? Click here) I mistakenly used the first ones I bought at Wal-mart and didn’t really make sure to buy those which were sweeter and riper. How does one do that you ask…well let me tell you. According to the helpful blog entitled “Just Plums” you do not look for plums with your eyes, but with your nose. They indicate that plums that are ripe and un-ripe are the same color. They say that a ripe plum will smell sweet and fruity where an unripened plum is not going to have a smell to it at all. Other sites mention that the plum will have a give to it if you press on it and the opposite is true for an unripened plum. If you have unripened plums that you want to use for this recipe, refer to the post from WikiHow about “How to Ripen a Plum.” I found this very helpful….AFTER doing this recipe. Yes, I’m proving very much to be the novice I claim to be when I do stuff like research the ingredients after I work with them.

2. MINI MUFFINS: Yes, mini muffins are just mini versions of muffins. 20140613_195557It’s not magic at all. However, if you are wanting to watch your waistline or you’re a WW point counter, then mini muffins are the way to go. This recipe went from 5 points a muffin to about 2 points a muffin if you yield 37 muffins when you only use a tablespoon of batter. I highly recommend this as an alternative because as WW people know, 2 point snacks are the best things to have on hand. You can still use the same recipe and enjoy, but in moderation that works for you.20140613_193049

3. MAKING BROWN BUTTER: I love that Deb Perelman simplifies what sounds like a potentially scary process of browning…not burning…butter. In her cookbook she takes you to a dessert recipe to learn how to make the brown butter. Her suggestions are as follows on page 202 of her cookbook:

  1. Using a pot, heat the pan to medium low heat
  2. Drop in your butter
  3. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden, and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty.
  4. Stir frequently, scrapping up any bits from the bottom as you do.
  5. Don’t take your eyes off the pot. You may be impatient for it to start browning, but the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a min.

She has a lot of other tips and tricks but I have to leave something for you to read when you buy her cookbook!

REVIEW: I think you’ll love this recipe any time of the year. I love how it’s summer but with the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg I felt transported to fall with one waft of amazing from the oven. I would love to see how these turn out with other kinds of fruit. I happen to find the most sour/tart plums on the earth that were most definitely under ripe…now that I know what to be looking for…ugh. The great thing about this recipe is that the sweetness of the muffin batter helps balance out the sourness of the plums so be encouraged if you too end up making these with a few bad plums. You might actually like the way they turn out! Hope you give these a try this summer. You won’t be disappointed and they are fun change to the muffins we all know and love.

Happy baking, friends!

 

PLUM POPPY SEED MUFFIN RECIPE

Ingredients

YIELDS 12 MUFFINS (5 WW Points) , 37 MINI MUFFINS ( 2 WW Points)

6 T. unsalted butter, melted and browned and cooled, plus butter for muffins cups

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1/4 c packed dark or light brown sugar

1/4 c. sour cream or a rich, full-fat plan yogurt (WW: use light/low fat sour cream to keep muffins low points)

1/2 c. whole-wheat flour

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp table salt

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

2 T. poppy seeds

2 cups pitted and diced plums from about 3/4 pound of Italian prune plums (though any plum variety will do). (NOTE: If doing mini muffins, consider doing 1 1/2 cups instead).

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Butter muffin tins
  3. Whisk egg and sugars in bowl
  4. Stir in brown butter than sour cream
  5. In separate bowl, mix flours, bp, bs, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and poppy seeds
  6. Stir dry  mixture gradually into wet mixture “until it is just combined and still a bit lumpy.”
  7. Fold in plums
  8. Divide batter into cups.
  9. Bake for 10 -12 min (mini muffins) 15-18 (regular size muffins)
  10. Allow to cool in pan for a few min before removing to cool on rack

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Resolution Recipe 2: Cinnamon Toast French Toast



Final Plating 2

Recipe 2 is complete and I’m excited to say how easy this resolution has been so far. It’s always a major drag to start a New Year’s Resolution and within the first week you know just how hard it is going to be to keep it up.

However, before I get too excited, let’s consider that I’m still on vacation, school hasn’t started back up yet, and I am not back to my regularly scheduled program. Who cares…I’m going to continue to be optimistic about this one!

On the brighter side, I’ve had more viewers, visitors, and new subscribers  to my blog generated off my last post then I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong…we’re not talking bunches and bunches (more like 3 or 4) but everyone has to start somewhere. Thank you new subscribers for making my week exciting! To those of you who decided that I might have something interesting to say about food…I warn you…I probably do not. But if you like a little comedic relief in your life, I do believe this blog may meet your needs with my questionable writing, overly detailed anecdotes, and dumb cooking mistakes. I’ll take any audience. But seriously…thank you. It is fun to do this whether people are reading it or not, but it makes it a ton more fun to share the experience with others.

Recipe Number 2: Cinnamon Toast French Toast

(from Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook [smittenkitchen.com])

You can read Deb’s original post about this recipe by clicking here. You’ll get to see just how fun she is with her easy to read instructions and beautiful photography. I’ll let you check that out for her exact recipe and instructions.

For this post, I just wanted to show-and-tell about my adaptations to her recipe that went well and…not so well.
Tray of cin toastFirst of all, I decided to half Deb’s recipe since I was just cooking for myself. I’m glad I did this because it produced enough breakfast for me to enjoy for the next few days but not the next few weeks! We’ll see how it heats up tomorrow to see whether it’s left over worthy.

Instead of the suggested 16 slices of toast I only did 8 and used parchment paper to lay it out. I have never done toast in bulk like this, but it was so easy that I do believe it will be my new method for toasting (…the art of toast making of course…) if I’m ever cooking breakfast for an army. I just need to remember 450 degrees for 7-10 min. 7 min was perfect in my oven.

Toast with Custard 2

Deb has a very long explanation of how you should cut your toast and place it in the pan. I was reading it through with a scowl  on my face because I thought…”Why in the world is she telling me how to cut and place the toast in the pan like it’s a Jenga column?? It’s french toast for goodness sake…you just put it in the pan and call it a day!” (If you read her directions you’ll know what I mean) Well, she’s not being a pest by telling you to cut and place your toast like that in your pan. You’ll see in my picture that I just cut all the pieces in half and filled my pan. What you’ll notice about hers that is different from mine is that you can see all the pieces of toast in her pan from the middle to the top. More on what I think that was all about towards the end…

Flipped and soaked toast with custard 2

Final plating 1I was a little concerned that the “custard” to toast ratio was going to be way off.  Splitting the recipe in half was not a big deal but when she says the toast needs to sit 15 min to soak up the custard, I was not totally sold that it was actually going to happen. Be encouraged! It does indeed happen. If you notice in the picture, the custard reaches about 3/4 the way up the cut toast in the pan. You’ll see the next picture was taken after 15 min or so when the custard had saturated the toast. To help it along, I did flip the toast from crust side up to cut side up. That seemed to help soak up the last of the custard so the bottom of the pan was nearly dry. 

Something that Deb says in her recipe is to butter your pan well. I thought I had buttered my pan just fine, but I ended up having quite a bit the toast sticking to the bottom and a ton of fun scrubbing that pan afterwards. Since I had crust side down, many of the pieces I pulled out were less then attractive so do yourself a favor and do as she asks. Butter liberally…even if there are chunks of butter on the side. Who cares anyways…it’s butter!

Okay back to the crazy instructions on cutting and placing your toast in the pan…I think Deb suggests you cut and lay your toast in such a way so that you don’t end up with soggy bread. I think mine was a little softer then I would have liked it for french toast, and I’m thinking that if the pieces had been more exposed, they would have firmed up better. My trouble was in having a pan big/small enough to allow me to set up my toast to look pretty like hers. The 9×13 was way too big for half the recipe so I settled for a square casserole dish which held all the pieces just fine (if you sandwiched them against each other like I did!) but was not a good set up for her method. It might be worth making the whole recipe if you don’t have a small enough pan…or halving the recipe again to fit the small pan. I’ll have to let you know how it works as left overs to help you decide what the best idea is for you.

Overall, I REALLY liked this way of making french toast. Her recipe is delicious and it came out to be the best french toast I’ve ever made since the flavors were so much better set into the dish then I’m use to. If you want an easy do-ahead breakfast then Deb has some tips for you about how to go about doing that this dish.

I hope you give her recipe a try. You won’t be disappointed!

COMING UP NEXT….I’ll be attempting Deb’s next recipe which is a Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby….wow, right? That just sounds super impressive. I think we are wandering quickly out of…”I’ve got this” territory to….”uh-oh…do I even have all the kitchen items required to make this/what the heck is a Dutch Baby??”. Looks like I’m going to have to invest in both a blender and an iron skillet before I make this recipe next weekend. I may be calling my sister to tell her I’m coming to her house to make breakfast Saturday morning since it may not be in my budget to buy new supplies just yet. I’ll let you know how that turns out…haha.

Happy cooking readers! If you haven’t already done so, please take the poll about this New Years Resolution adventure!

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Resolution Recipe 1: Peachy Sour Cream Pancakes!


Final ProductHappy New Year! Hope you had a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends!

It’s time to get started with resolutions and I’m happy to say that I’ve made it into day two and been mostly successful….I’ll take it :o) As you know (since you’re a faithful follower of this blog…), one of my New Year’s resolutions is to do something I’ve always wanted to do and that is cook through a cookbook, cover to cover. Refer to my last post for details of this fun adventure and get excited that you’re reading blog post numero uno, folks! The journey begins now….

I think I haven’t actually cooked anything since August so this post is long in coming! I’m a little rusty in the kitchen but I’m ready to get start working on this NYR, so let’s do this!

Peach and Sour Cream Pancakes PagesRecipe Number 1: Peach and Sour Cream Pancakes (inspired by Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook) Read more from her blog at : http://smittenkitchen.com/

Peaches! Delicious right? Well, leave it to me to pick a cookbook for my resolution that starts with a recipe that has fruit out of season. Well done, Jessica. This novice cook decided to rise to the challenge and give it a whirl. I’m happy to say that my modifications still equaled delicious pancakes! Especially since I’ve never even made pancakes from scratch before.

Being a moderate fan of pancakes myself, I like the challenge of using a recipe that is non-traditional since, to me,  pancakes are a little on the bland side and not the most appealing breakfast food. This recipe had a few unique ingredients (sour cream, cinnamon, and nutmeg), that made me change my thoughts about what a good pancake should taste like. The flavors and smells reminded me more of a yummy peach cobbler then a breakfast dish which was quick to sell me on this recipe!

Okay…here’s the quick run down of the ingredients:Ingredients

1 large egg

1 c. sour cream

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

2 T sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground nutmeg

3/4 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 baking soda

Butter for pan (and the top of course)

1 peach, halved, pitted, and very thinly sliced (about 1/8-inch slices)

(modification) 1/2  to 3/4 cup canned peaches sliced thinly (great substitute for real peaches)

(modification) syrup from canned peaches (used to thin out the batter to desired consistency)

HOW I MADE IT:

Whisk together some of the dry ingredients (salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, baking powder & soda) then in a separate bowl combine the remaining ingredients (sugar, egg, sour cream, vanilla). Fold dry ingredients into wet.

Funny looking p-cake 1 because of thicker batter

Funny looking p-cake 1 because of thicker batter

(Recommendation) I didn’t realize until after I started to scoop and pour the batter for my first pancake that the batter was too thick. I decided to add a little of the syrup from the peaches to thin it out. I probably only added 1/4  to a 1/2 a cup, but it helped and the pancake batter did not lose its consistency. I think it actually helped enhance the peach flavor in the cakes. So, if you have to go with canned peaches like I did because you’re making them out of season, might as well use the syrup.

Heat pan to medium low heat and melt a pat of butter.  (Deb recommends a heavy bottomed pan or iron skillet) Use 1/4 cup of the batter to make your pancake. I recommend spraying your measuring cup before scooping to make the batter come out quick and easy.

Place sliced peaches on the top of your pancake and wait for the signs to flip (bubbly center and dry edges). Flip and let it cook through for a few minutes.

Pancake 3Deb recommends heating your oven to 250 degrees so you can keep your pancakes warm until ready to serve.

I was able to make about 7 pancakes with the recipe but she suggests there is enough batter for 8. If you’re anything like me when you’re getting to the end of your batter, the final pancake is enormous. That means I have a huge peach pancake in my fridge for breakfast tomorrow! Which also means, yes, you should be able to get 8 pancakes out of the batter.

WHAT WOULD I DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?:

Pancake non peach side 31. I would like to have an audience to cook for! It’s so much more fun to cook breakfast for others then just for yourself! My BF David volunteered to be the victim of my next pancake making adventure so I’m sure that will be much more enjoyable as long as I don’t mess it up…which could definitely happen. You’ve been warned ;o) 

2. I would use real peaches! I think the canned peaches were really tasty but cutting them was really hard to do which is why you’ll notice they are all different shapes and sizes in my pictures. Again, no regrets with the canned peaches, but they will look so much prettier with real peaches. The beautiful thing is I have a peach tree in the backyard of the house I’m living in so I’ll know when to try this recipe again!

3. I would try this with other fruits like apples! I love apple cinnamon Pancake done 2anything so it would be fun to play around with the recipes and apples. It might be good to bake the apples to soften them up a bit so maybe that can be done in a pan on the side with butter and cinnamon before they are put in with the pancake batter. I imagine bananas would be good too, but since I refuse to eat bananas (…Lord spare me if there is a recipe in this cookbook with bananas that I have to eat…gah!), I won’t be trying that any time soon.

Final on plate 24. I would drink milk with these p-cakes! They were not as sweet as I was expecting but a tall cold glass of milk would have cut the sweet that was there. I felt jittery for a few hours after but I’m a weakling when it comes to caffeine and sugar. It doesn’t take much and I get the shakes.

5. Though this didn’t make an obvious difference, I would get my measurements correct for the baking powder and baking soda. Almost positive I got them switched around. haha…makes me very happy that I named my blog what I did. I’m not trying to hid behind any fancy title here. Nope! This blog is all about my epic failures and successes in the kitchen so let’s just add this one to the list of failures and learn from my mistakes…haha.

That’s it! I hope you give these pancakes a try. Deb’s recipe won’t disappoint. I don’t think you can mess these up too much but if you do make any changes, let me (the one reader I have :o) know about it so I can give it a try too!

Happy cooking all!

Final with bite

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The best Apple Crisp…ever…



It’s been a long time since I’ve posted because life has been so busy, but this recipe is going to allow me to come back with a bang. This recipe is awesome!

You can find this recipe at AllRecipes.com and something you should know about this site is that user reviews is what is going to make these recipes go from good to great. I’ve taken a few recipes from here over the years and learned  that if someone is going to give their input about a recipe, it’s a good idea to listen up. Especially for a novice cook like me. Let others go before me and make the mistakes that I would have made because I didn’t know any better. If you like input on recipes, this is an awesome site to help you out.

This recipe drew my attention because it meant, I didn’t have to go to the store to pick up any special pantry supplies. Low on money right now so I love that. Also, I had just been apple picking a few days before which means the fruit was taken care too. Success!

The recipe is simple and basic but some users gave some helpful tips that I took into account when I was putting mine together:

1. Replace the water with apple juice

2. Replace the full amount of white granulated sugar with half white sugar and half brown sugar

3. Don’t cream together butter and sugars, but use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter. This will allow there to be a crunchy topping without the oatmeal

4. Cook the crisp for 50 mins instead of 30-40 minutes.

Here are a few things I would recommend as well…

JA Tip 1: BUY AN APPLE CORER. I splurged and bought one for this project with a gift card from Jamie for my birthday. It’s exactly what made this whole recipe easy.

JA Tip 2: Peel your apples and rub the outsides with lemon juice so they don’t get brown before you cut them up. If you do use the corer make sure to put some lemon juice down in the core of the apple too. I didn’t think about that till I cut my apples and found the cores browning already. Some apples are better then others so you may not notice as much but since I used a variety of apples I used the lemon juice on all of them.

This recipe is set for 6 servings but I made mine for 8. The website will help you alter your ingredients for the larger serving size.

Here’s the recipe without the adjustment I indicated above:

2-2/3 cups sliced apples
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish.
2. Place apples in prepared dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Pour water over all. In a bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Blend in flour. Sprinkle mixture evenly over apples.
3. Bake in preheated oven 30 to 40 minutes, until apples are tender and crust is golden.

I hope you try this recipe! It’s one of the easiest and tastiest desserts I have made in awhile and will definitely make again soon since it is apple season!!!

UPDATE AS OF 10.22.12: I just made this recipe again but didn’t measure my apples and I also cooked it in my mom’s smaller toaster oven. These two changes made for a less crunchy top. I’m not sure if any extra apples caused more moisture or if the toaster oven just didn’t get the topping firm enough, but I would suggest that you actually measure your apples and if you’re cooking in a smaller oven, to maybe put it down 10-25 degrees for the same amount of time or longer if needed. I had to pull mine out before the 50 mins were up because things were going from caramelized to burnt. The lower temp for longer time, might have done the trick. Let me know if you have any suggestions or if one of these causes you the same problem. Would love to get some wisdom on the soggy crust dilemma.

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Canning Attempt 1: Peach Jam



It is peach season and our tree is overflowing with peaches. Last year I wanted to cook and bake with them, but I didn’t make the time for it. These peaches on this tree are amazing and my favorite version of them is right off the tree when they are juicy and warm from the sun! De-lic-ious!

I’ve never really done a lot of baking with fresh fruit. If I’ve made any kind of fruity desserts in the past I’ve cheated and used canned fruit or mixes with the fruit in them.  So, this was a new challenge for me to undertake. I’ve also never canned anything. I had watched my mom make her own apple sauce growing up and I’ve chatted with her about the canning essentials so there was a little knowledge going into this recipe. I learned a lot through this process, so if you’ve never done any work with peaches or canned anything before, you may find my new found wisdom helpful.

I bought all my canning supplies from Fresh and Easy. I’ve seen these kits with the jars, jar tongs, funnel, measuring stick, and magnetic wand and other stores too. Fresh and Easy’s always seemed to be the most reasonable so I ended up with them. I bough two flats of jars (half pint and pint size jars). The half pint jars are a great size  for jam.

Step one is cleaning the jars and lids and screw tops. I needed to wash my stock pot so I decided to use that as a way to start heating up my jars and wash them as well. The instructions for any canning recipe will say to make sure jars are clean and that you have a canning pot. I, of course, did not have one of those, so I used the tallest pot we had and it worked just fine thought I was limited to how many I was able to put in at a time.

I used smaller sauce pans for the lids and rings and for helping seal and keep warm some of the jars warm while I worked on the peaches. You’ll need a pot for the peaches blanching process too if you’re using fresh peaches. The skins need to come off before you work with them so blanching is the easiest way to save as much of the peach as you can. Needless to say, you’ll be using a lot of pots for this process so borrow if you need to.

Throughout this process I learned a lot about blanching peaches.  The biggest lesson I learned is that unripe peaches do not like to loose their skins. I would make sure that all your peaches are softer before you start working with them. They only really need to go into the boiling water for 60 seconds for the skin to slip off without the peaches getting pulpy. I had better luck when making my peach cobbler (post to follow) when the peaches were nice and soft. This recipe required that I leave the peaches in the water for longer but some of them got pulpy. The preserves and salsa ended up doing just fine but it just seems like I could have done better…and I did on the 2nd attempt at blanching peaches.

You’ll need to have your bowl of ice ready for the peaches when they come out of the boiling water. My food network knowledge tells me that this ice bath (sorry, my ice had melted before taking this picture) is what will shock the fruit and keep if from cooking any further. When blanching veggies, it helps keep their color looking bright. I had a bowl for the completed peaches and then you can see I used my measuring cup for the skins as they came off. Some slipped off beautifully and others needed some help with a paring knife. That only happened for those which were not yet soft, so don’t be afraid to pull those firmer peaches out before you try blanching them. They are going to cause you a lot of extra work if you try to peel the firm peaches before they are ripe. I suggest putting a baking sheet underneath your work space to for an easier clean up. If you have one with sides, that’s ideal. I did that for my cobbler and was so glad I did. Peaches can make a sticky mess and moving peaches from water to bowls is not a dry process either. Save yourself some clean up since you’re already using enough pans that will need to be cleaned!

They look pretty don’t they! You can see the different textures and can probably tell which ones were easier then the others to peel…whoops!

Depending on how many pints you want to make will determine your lemon juice. I bought two large lemons and it gave me 1/2 a cup. I believe I set mine for 6 pints so I only needed 4 tablespoons. The web site where I found this jam recipe allows you to alter the serving. So you can determine how much lemon juice you need after you change that serving size. I was only able to get about 8 cups of peaches so I altered the recipe until it just called for 8 cups of peaches! That’s one way to do it.

I diced up my peaches so they were about 1/2 thick  and this ended up being a good size. The peaches settle at the top of the jam anyways so depending on how big of chunks you want is how small you can cut them up.

So the recipe calls for crystallized ginger, gingerroot, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ground allspice. I have never bought ginger or allspice in my life so I was beyond frustrated when I decided to switch my recipe to this one and realized I was a few ingredients short. The story of my life. I looked around and decided that pumpkin pie spice DID have allspice and ginger in it so it would have to make due. I think you can just do cinnamon and it would be pretty delicious but the additional spices gives it a savory depth of flavor. I used the recommended measurements for cinnamon and ground cloves and then did 1/2 tsp of the pumpkin pie spices.

You will add all your peaches, sugar, lemon juice, spices and then fruit pectin to the sauce pan. I was not happy with how runny my jam was even after adding the pectin and letting it sit on the heat. I followed directions, but I think I may have let it sit on the heat a little too long. I ended up adding more pectin and praying it would turn out okay.  I did a little internet research about runny jam and most sites said to put your jam back in a pot, and add a bunch of ingredients to it. Since I feared the runny jam before I had canned it, I decided to just add more pectin. Easy enough and the consistency ended up being just fine. So, I’m not entirely sure what I did right. My hint would be to not keep it on the heat too long after adding the pectin (per the recipe instructions). Get it mixed in, pull it off the heat and get it canned quickly. Before you start the canning process, make sure you have all your jars heated and lids/seals ready to go. I didn’t have all my jars heated up and ready to go so that was part of the reason why my jam stayed on the stove for longer then it should have. So…be a boyscout and always be prepared!

The funnel in your canning kit is your friend. It’s awesome and makes the pouring part go very smoothly. I used a measuring cup to get it from the pot to the jar which worked very well. No spoons necessary.

When your jars are filled make sure to add water to your pot to cover the jars. My large pot took 5 half pint jars but only four of the pint size jars fit. I used another pot that was not large enough to put water into cover the jars and I put the water to boiling which kept them warm until this larger pot was ready for them. The jars should sit there in the water for 15-20 minutes. Longer doesn’t hurt anything.

One site said 45 min, so honestly I say keep them in for 20 to 30 min. You’ll use your jar grabber (my term for it…can’t remember what it’s called) and get your jars out. You’ll know that they are hot enough and sealed when you hear them pop once they are out of the water bath and starting to cool. This recipe and other say that they need to be checked for sealing in 24 hours, but I wanted to make sure they sealed within 5 min of me taking them out. You’ll test the lids by pressing them down. If they don’t budge like a sealed jar from the grocery stores, it’s sealed. If it pops at all, then it’s not sealed. That doesn’t mean it won’t seal eventually, but I had a couple jars that didn’t seal so I put them in the hot water again while they were still warm and made them go for another 20 min or so. They did eventually seal so I’m glad I did that.

I believe I got about 8 jars out of my batch. I used the 1/2 pint jars for the jam since it was a nicer size then the bigger jars. I let it set up for 24 hours before trying to open a jar and give it a try. It set up really nicely with the extra pectin in it. I’m so proud of it!

You can find the recipe at the following site: http://www.food.com/recipe/grand-champion-peach-jam-169363. As a side note, I’m a big fan of this site! It help you alter the recipe if you want to go bigger or smaller. Not that a little math wouldn’t do my brain good. I just know that doubling or halving a recipe isn’t always as easy as multiplying or dividing by two. Some ingredients are not that easy. This site does it for you, so take a look and see if you can find some fun recipes to try. http://www.food.com.

I’m pretty happy with how my first canning experience turned out. I’m going to do another post on a peach salsa recipe I made the same day and canned as well. I hope to make pickles next! Just shopping around for the best recipe.

Happy canning everyone!