Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cooking with Kristin: Peanut Butter & Jam

Ever since reading The Culinary Couple's account of making strawberry preserves, I've wanted to make my own jam.  Go read the post now, because Emily gets straight to the heart of everything important about food to me: Each bite tells the story of a person and a place and a time; it evokes a memory.  Seriously - the blog is one of my favorites, and this post is a favorite among favorites.  Have a read - I'll wait.

Anyway, I've been interested in canning for some time, and after reading that post, jam seemed like the perfect place to start, since keeping it in the fridge or freezer means that if you mess up the canning, you won't die.  Turns out, I was right - the jam was easy to make, delicious, and kept really well.  I'm really looking forward to strawberries coming back into season so I can make even more this time (and try out some other recipes).

I made one batch, and while I'll outline the steps here, I would definitely recommend reading Emily's directions, since they're more detailed, include photos, and give some really helpful hints.

Strawberry Jam (adapted from The Culinary Couple & Certo):
  • 4 cups strawberries
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. butter
  • 1 pouch CERTO Fruit Pectin

Wash jars (I used leftover jam jars, which I'm pretty sure is a no-no for actual canning) and caps on the hottest setting in your dishwasher.  Or, boil them in hot water after hand-washing them to sanitize.
Stem strawberries and run them through the food processor or blender until they are fully crushed.

Measure exactly 4 cups crushed strawberries into a large saucepot. Add sugar; stir. If necessary, you can add a little butter to reduce foaming. Bring to a rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars into large pot of boiling water.  The water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary. Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.
Plus a third jar this size = one batch

Maple Peanut Butter
  • 4 cups roasted peanuts (salted)
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
Place peanuts and maple syrup in food processor.  (I had to do mine in two batches, so check on your processor before you overfill it.)  Process.  After about 3 minutes, it will turn into a giant peanut butter ball.  This is a good sign.  Keep processing, because eventually it will smooth out into peanut butter.  Keep processing until it reaches your desired consistency.  If you'd like crunchy peanut butter, add in a few whole peanuts when it reaches the right consistency, and process for another 30 seconds or so.  

3.5 cups fills the jar this much

And, of course, these work brilliantly together on a sandwich, or, if you're me and my grandmother, on saltines.  The really fun thing about both these recipes, I think, is that you can really try a lot of different things with them.  If you've made any jam or nut butters that you love, please feel free to share a link in the comments.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Weekend Wanderings: Catching Up

The weekends are never as productive as I hope they will be, but I did get a fair amount accomplished this weekend, which was nice.  First up was a vet trip for VW on Thursday:

Kitty hates her carrier.
 She hates her carrier, hates going to the doctor, but was generally a champ about it.  And now, she's generally a champ about taking her medicine everyday.  She had a little cold, but it seems to be going away, now that she's on her kitty z-pack.

On Friday, I saw Anne Enright read at KGB with my very talented friends Mary Block and Sophie Herron.  A really strong reading overall, and I've never read any of Enright's work, so it was nice to have an introduction to it.  A group of us headed over to Stillwater for drinks (and a not-so-great po' boy) afterward, and I was reminded of just how much I love the people in my program.  They're all brilliant, but more than that, they're all so friendly.  I can't say how much I appreciate that.

Anne Enright & some very bright light
Saturday and Sunday were all about work.  On Saturday, we went to our new favorite coffee-shop, Lenox Coffee, and I wrote my little heart out on fellowship applications and poems.  We ate dinner at our new favorite pizza place, Bettalona, and did laundry until midnight.  Oh, and I handmade peanut butter! (More on that to come later this week.)

Lenox Coffee - so great
Sunday was all about grocery shopping, a quick trip to the Studio Museum, and more fellowship application work.  Oh, graduate school.  I love you so much.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekend Wanderings: Easter

It was a lovely weekend filled with friends I haven't seen in forever and visiting our families and finishing an enormous amount of laundry.  The only thing missing was sleep: I'm exhausted, edgy, and feel like I could sleep for twenty years.

But not just yet - first, some work on Jane and then some Mad Men.  Oh, the humble life of a poet.

Friday, April 6, 2012

{This Moment}

{This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cooking with Kristin: Great-Grandma's Ravioli & My Tomato Sauce

I've written some about Irish cooking, and a little about Italian cooking, but this is the first time I'm really sharing a family recipe.  It comes from the lady at in the center here, my great-grandmother, Rachel/Raquel/Antoinette*:

We have a few recipes from her, including the one for ravioli that I'll share below.  It was (and still is) prepared by Maffei women on the baking boards that were handmade by my great-grandfather, Louis, who made one for each of their daughters.  I'm descended from one of his sons (I have no idea what they were given), so my father made two boards a few years ago, one of which proudly sits on top of my refrigerator and is used approximately once every other month.  If I had more time, I would bake and make pasta more often.  As it is, it doesn't happen nearly enough, especially since it takes a while to do, but really isn't very complicated.

My cousin Jennifer is sort of keeper of our family history, and has done a really incredible job of putting together some of our favorite family recipes together in a cookbook that's always expanding to include other treasured recipes.  This one is in there, but my copy is still at my parents' house.  So, when I texted her for the recipe, she sent it to me just like this:

At the risk of giving away a family secret, I won't give more detail here.  Plus, this is pretty much what appears in the family cookbook, and what Rachel would have told her kids.  You can figure out the proportions pretty easily yourself - just sort of mix things together until it turns out right.  How will you know it's right?  Well, it'll look like great-grandma's ravioli.**

But, to be a little nicer, I'll give you the tomato sauce recipe I adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.***
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 4 to 6 basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons oregano

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and oregano and simmer covered on low heat for 1 hour or longer.  The flavor gets better the longer you cook it, so don't worry about overcooking it. Check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors. Add half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Stir back in with the unprocessed sauce, or process all for a smoother sauce.  Enjoy!

Serving Suggestion

*Unclear what her name actually was, but several people, including Jennifer, were named after her.
**Okay, if you really want to know, shoot me an email and I'll spill the proportions I use, but only because I love you all like family, and because everyone does it their own way, so I'm owning my ratios.
***I suspect we have a sauce recipe also, but this one was, frankly, delicious, and I don't have to worry about spilling any family secrets with it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Weekend Wanderings: Spontaneity

I went into this weekend with no plans and no expectations, and somehow ended up seeing two very good friends who both live far away.  Both Shelby and Christina texted me on Thursday saying they knew I must have plans, but that they were both going to be in the city on Saturday and did I want to hang out.  Did I ever!  Roger was at a work event all day on Saturday, so it was the perfect time to catch up. 

Christina and I had a really wonderful brunch at Crema (I highly recommend the burrito de mole poblano), and caught up on all our work and life gossip.  Then we headed north to the diamond district to look at jewelry, as you do.  We ooohed and ahhhed, and tried on some pieces, and oooohed and ahhhed some more.  Not everywhere was open, since it was Saturday and getting a little late in the day, but it was still a fun afternoon.  We grabbed a cup of coffee, and then headed our separate ways. 

Shelby was with her mother and some family friends to stay at the Marriott Marquis and see a show, and I was lucky enough to meet up with them at Sephora, where she was looking at make up for her wedding this fall.  We went back to the hotel and watched the red carpet for some sort of drag awards show.  Shelby and I were last at this hotel together for our high school prom in 2004, and very little has changed.  Strangely enough, I have a dream about the elevators at this hotel at least once a year.  They were no less horrifying this time than they are in my dreams, except that this time, they just stopped at our floor and didn't maddeningly plummet to the bowels of hell or shoot through the ceiling.  We ate dinner at the hotel, which was nice, and generally enjoyed ourselves in the room (we sampled Boylan's sodas from the gift shop and chatted about the Hunger Games movie and some of the books we've enjoyed recently). 

The moral of these stories is that I wish all my friends lived in one place, and that that place was around the corner from our apartment.

Sunday was mostly quiet and work-filled. I got a bit of writing done (never as much as I'd like), and Roger and I took a brief break to go shopping.  I bought these shoes for Shelby's wedding:

and now have just under six months to learn to walk in them.  I figure if I change into them instead of my slippers everyday after work, I should be golden.  If you have any tips (I've heard "practice practice practice" and "walk heel-to-toe slightly exaggerated"), they would be most appreciated.  Roger also bought me some much more sensible and much-loved black wedges as a belated birthday gift, which I'm even more excited to wear, since I can already walk in those.  The rest of the day was spent falling down the internet hole - which led to me read about Janet Cooke and some interesting weather phenomenon.  All in a weekend's work, my friends.