Archive for the 'Yum' Category

Blackberry Jam

Hubby has been growing amazing fruits and veggies in his garden this Summer. He nearly doubled its size from last year and has added many new varieties and types of plants.

Let’s be honest, I was not the most helpful gardener last year (I have pretty heinous allergies), so this year I decided to trade in my gloves for the responsibility of post-harvest management. Freezing, canning, cooking, etc. While I can definitely handle freezing and cooking, canning has been looming. I appreciate the idea of canning, but after hearing horror stores of molten fruit / veggies boiling over onto the stove – well, let’s say I’ve been apprehensive about trying it.

My family visited us at the farm last weekend, and their trip coincided with our blackberry bushes (brambles?) bursting with ripe berries. My siblings and hubby set to work picking, while my Mom (also a canning novice) and I read Blackberry Jam recipes. My mother-in-law (and resident farmer) came across this book from way-back-when and passed it along to me:

[Photo borrowed from eCrater.]

This is a small fraction of the berries they brought in for us:

We used a little less than half of the yield for a batch of Jam (we froze the rest). The recipe called for 9 cups of mashed berries and 6 cups of sugar boiled together until the temp reached 8 deg F past the boiling point of water (which varies with altitude).

It took quite a while to reach the correct temperature, but then again I was too nervous about boiling over to increase the flame beyond medium-low. Meanwhile, we filled the sink with hot water and placed our canning jars inside to avoid thermal shock (and breakage) when filled will boiling Jam.

Once the fruit finally reached temperature, I put on big silicon gloves and filled the jars, while Mom wiped off the threading and added tops. Then we placed them in a LARGE pot (which Lucas uses for brewing beer) partially filled with hot, but not boiling, water. We had put a kettle on just before filling the jars, so once they were full and in the large pot, we added boiling water over top, such that the water level was 2 inches above the jars. It took 2 kettles to accomplish this! Then, we brought the large pot to a rolling boil and waited 15 min.

Boiling the jars causes the air inside to expand and escape. As they cool to room temperature, the seals on the jar lids prevent air from getting back inside, creating a vacuum – and lasting freshness. I placed the jars on a baking rack to cool, and within the first 30 min you could hear the lids ping as they caved in due to the vacuum pressure. Success!

Please excuse my ultra-cluttered counter top, dear readers!

Ultimately, we made 8 half-pint jars of Jam. There was 1/2 cup or so left over that we stored in the fridge…after we all stuck a finger in to taste, that is. YUM! Quite a positive, not-at-all-scary experience, and some good quality bonding time with Mom!

I’ve definitely caught the canning bug. Perhaps pickles next?

Weekend Baking

I love baking pies – but as luck would have it, my husband’s Uncle owns a pie factory. They make all manner of very, very tasty pies – most of which feature ingredients grown on their organic farm in Central Virginia.  Their pies are available at our farm for much of the year: we sell them at our vegetable stands in summer and during the Fall Festival AND they bring plenty to Thanksgiving dinner every year.  So – as one might imagine – there is no point in me baking pies anymore!  But every now and again, my urge to bake a pie coincides with plenty of free time, and I MUST bake.

Last weekend was just such an occasion, so I pulled out my stack of Cook’s Illustrated Magazines (which I highly recommend, by the way) and found a couple recipes. First up, skillet apple pie – you start by sauteing peeled, sliced apples in butter:

Then you add a mixture of spices, cornstarch, and apple cider to coat the apples, and then you cover everything with a layer of crust (clearly, I’m not too fussy about looks):

I put the whole thing into the oven at 500 deg for 20 min:

And presto! All baked and pretty darn tasty!


The second and final pie was a mostly-from-scratch pumpkin pie. I started by roasting a pie pumpkin and (upon my mother-in-law’s recommendation) a “neck pumpkin” or butternut squash. I chopped both in half, then into pieces that would fit on baking sheets, and roasted them in the oven at 350 deg for 1 hr:

After baking (which I forgot to get a photo of), the walls of the gourds were soft and I easily scooped out the “flesh” and ran it through a food processor. I decided to use the pie pumpkin for the pumpkin pie and freeze the butternut squash for soup sometime later.

Fast forward to having made the crust and the pie filling (which contains the pumpkin, a can of candied yams [hence “mostly-from-scratch”], cream, vanilla, egg and spices), and having baked it – this is what it looked like as it was cooling:

It’s a much more custard-y pie than your typical canned Libby’s version, which I really liked. I think this will be my go-to recipe from now on.

And now that my baking urge has been satisfied for another few months, I’ll go back to my knitting…

Homemade Veggie Broth

I love soup. It’s probably my favorite type of food and yet I’m not so good at making it. Hubby can attest to the numerous soup-related cooking disasters I’ve had, many of which were due to an unfortunate lack of flavor. After a recent vegetable soup disaster, I finally realized my problem was the store-bought veggie broth. Have you ever tasted the stuff? Almost completely tasteless – no wonder my soups have no flavor! So I set about making some of my own. It’s SUPER tasty with very minimal effort (most veggies are chopped coarsely with peel left on).

Here’s what I used:

  • 16 cups water (1 gallon)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 carrots (unpeeled, chopped into 1/4″ rounds)
  • 2 parsnips (unpeeled, chopped into 1/4″ rounds)*
  • 4 celery stalks (chopped into 1/4″ pieces)
  • 2 leeks (chopped into 1/2″ rounds)*
  • 1 onion (sliced into big chunks)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (smashed open with kitchen knife, but otherwise whole)
  • 2 broccoli stalks (use everything: cut off florets, then cut stalks into quarters)*
  • 1/2 bag of “dried woodland mushrooms” (see photo)*
  • 20 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp paprika (this really helps the flavor!)
  • 2-3 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 tamari or soy sauce

Note that the ingredients with an asterisk * aren’t essential to the recipe; feel free to throw in whatever you have laying around in your fridge: green beans, fennel, tomato, etc.

  1. In a large  stock pot combine the water, oil, veggies, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Heat water to a boil and let simmer uncovered for approximately 1 hour.
  2. Add salt, paprika, tamari / soy sauce and let simmer for another 20 min.
  3. Strain out vegetables.

Makes approximately 14 cups of broth (you can get the full gallon if you press the veggies dry). Store in refrigerator for relatively immediate use, or in the freezer for later.

Woodland MushroomsThese are the dried mushrooms I used – very expensive, but I didn’t notice until I was checking out! You definitely don’t have to use these, but I do recommend including some type of mushroom to round out your flavors (unless, of course, you can’t stand them).

Before cookingVeggies loaded in the pot before cooking (notice I included the leafy part of the celery stalk, too).

While cooking brothMostly cooked, but before salt, paprika, and tamari were added.

Straining the veggies outAll done and straining the veggies out.

The smell that filled my kitchen from this broth was nothing short of heavenly. Hubby was watching me take photos of the broth and told me I needed to take “smell-o-graphs” rather than photographs. All cheesiness aside, he’s right. This stuff was amazing.

Huge bowl of brothVoila, very large bowl of tasty veggie broth. I used some immediately to make veggie soup using Alton Brown’s recipe and froze the remaining 8 cups for another day. And this time, dear readers, my soup was DELICIOUS!

Hearty Veggie Stew

I’ve been vegetarian for the last 10 yrs (though I eat fish very occasionally); hubby’s been vegetarian for even longer and doesn’t really remember what meat tastes like. I do remember – and there’s not much I miss from my meat-eating life that I haven’t found some veggie substitute for, but one notable exception has been beef stew. Few things are so satisfying on a cold day – like being wrapped in a blanket of comfort and heartiness.

I’ve finally found a good veggie version with the rib-sticking qualities of a real stew AND Guinness Stout (another cold weather favorite). The recipe can be found here. If you do not like Guinness, you will NOT like this stew. A few notes: I highly recommend using only 1 bottle of Guinness with the veggie broth (one bottle is plenty of Guinness flavor, even for someone that loves it); I used quite a bit of salt 1-2 tablespoons, and I added some paprika (~1/2 tbsp); I also used tempeh instead of seitan. I added one 8 oz package of Soy Boy 5 Grain Tempeh – it didn’t hold together well in the soup, but I didn’t think that was a big problem. This is what the package looks like:


Here’s a shot of the stew just after I got all the ingredients assembled:

Uncooked Stew

And after cooking (approx 45min later) – the grains you see are from the tempeh that’s fallen apart. I’ve also added lots of pepper (coarsely ground):

Cooked Stew

Delicious! And hubby seemed to like it, as well (he’s a tough crowd sometimes), so I’m calling this a very yummy success.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb scares me.  Honestly, anything that must be cooked so that it isn’t poisonous anymore AND needs loads of sugar to mask the bitter taste REALLY ISN’T WORTH IT – so I’ve avoided it all these years.


My husband, however, loves the damn stuff, so this past weekend I decided to dust off his Aunt’s Rhubarb Crisp recipe and give it a go. I didn’t follow it exactly (where’s the fun in that?), but it turned out to be super easy and – I have to admit – awfully tasty. This is what I came up with:


  • 4 stalks of rhubarb (cut in half long-ways, then chopped into 1/2 inch long pieces)
  • 1/2 quart of strawberries (leaves removed and cut into quarters)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter (I had the salted kind on hand)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1.5 cups old fashioned oats
  • Vanilla ice cream


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium sized baking pan or casserole dish (I used one that was approximately 8″ x 11″), put the cubed rhubarb on the bottom and the strawberries on top (spread both evenly).  Sprinkle the 2 Tbsp of flour evenly over everything.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients to make the crisp topping. I used a pastry dough cutter to thoroughly combine everything.
  4. Spread crisp topping evenly over the rhubarb & strawberries. It will seem like there isn’t enough to cover the whole dish…use a spatula to spread it out as you go, so there’s a thin layer of crisp over everything.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 30 min; remove foil and bake for an additional 15 min or until crisp is golden brown. Let cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

NOTE: I happened to have a bit of sugar-cinnamon mixture lying around my kitchen, which I added on top of the crisp. To do this, you would mix 2 Tbsp sugar (run of the mill) and 0.5 – 1 tsp cinnamon.

Before cooking, it looked like this (clearly, I did a poor job spreading out the cinnamon-sugar topping):

rhubarb crisp before cooking

After baking (an extra minute or two in the oven would have browned it perfectly):rhubarb crisp after bakingVoila!

Vegetable Paella

After college, I went on a trip to Europe with two good friends.  The first day we were in Spain, we ate at this adorable hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Madrid and one of my friends ordered paella. She took one bite and hated it; too “fishy”. Although I’ve been vegetarian for several years, I still eat seafood on occasion – especially if it’s good seafood. So we traded and I ate her paella dish. DE-LICIOUS! I bought a paella magnet as we were leaving Spain (much like the one below), and it stares at me from the fridge.

paella magnet,valencia

I finally worked out a vegetarian paella recipe (my husband doesn’t “cheat” with seafood). It’s simple and delicious; it takes a bit of time to make (I’d budget 1 hr total), and feeds 4 with no seconds.


  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 package of “Gimme Lean Sausage Style” (comes in a tube-like roll); here is a photo
  • 1 yellow onion; diced
  • 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 carrots; approx 12 baby carrots (chopped into 1/8″ thick rounds)
  • 2 tomatoes; chopped (or you can use a can of chopped tomatoes)
  • 2 cups brown rice (I used the Mahatma brand)
  • 32 oz Vegetable Stock (I used the Swanson brand; 32 oz is one entire container)
  • 10 threads of saffron
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon; cut into wedges


  1. In a large, deep pan (or paella pan), add olive oil over medium heat. Cut Gimme Lean sausage package in half and use your fingers (or a spoon) to scoop out quarter-sized pieces of “meat” from the package. Saute them in the oil until they are just starting to brown.
  2. Add diced onion and garlic to the pan and continue to saute until onion and “meat” are golden brown.
  3. Add the chopped carrots and tomatoes, then add 3 cups of vegetable stock, the 2 cups of rice, and the saffron. Stir, cover, turn heat to low and simmer until rice is only slightly crunchy (approx 20-30 min); stir occasionally.  Add more broth as needed.
  4. Once the rice is almost cooked (just slightly crunchy), add the peas, the rest of the broth (if there’s any left), and 1 cup of water. Stir, cover, and let simmer until the rice is completely cooked (approx 10 min).
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy!

NOTE: Thyme and bay leaves would go nicely with this dish; feel free to add these while the rice is cooking if you have them around. Also feel free to add additional veggies – lima beans, green beans, bell peppers, etc would work well.

Let me know how your dish turns out!

Springtime Supper

broccoli-carrots(Credit: iStockphoto/Albert Lozano)

Springtime is here and even though the carrots and broccoli in my veggie garden aren’t ready, I’ve been craving a light primavera-ish pasta dish for some time now. I’m trying to eat produce from my garden as much as possible this year, but really, who can wait?  Last night, I caved and bought some at the local grocery store. It turned out deliciously! Here’s the recipe:


  • Olive oil – Extra Virgin
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 carrots (full size), or 10 baby carrots
  • 2 broccoli crowns
  • 1 lb penne pasta (or whatever kind you enjoy)
  • 2 tbsp capers (or to taste)


  1. Begin boiling water for pasta. Cook (al dente) in parallel with the veggie preparation below. When finished, drain the pasta and add back to the pot.
  2. Chop carrots short-wise into rounds. When the pieces get to be larger than a nickle, cut them in half as well. They should be fairly thin slices, approximately 1/8″.
  3. Place the carrots in a steamer; I use the steaming cage at the bottom of a deep pot. Steam under low heat until tender (approx 10 min).
  4. Transfer the steamed carrots into a deep bowl. Add approximately 6 tablespoons of olive oil (this will seem like a lot), and the juice from half of the lemon into the bowl. Mix well.
  5. Steam the broccoli, again on low heat, until tender (not mushy!), approx 6 min.
  6. Add the steamed broccoli to the bowl with the carrots and mix with the carrots.
  7. Combine the marinated veggies into pot of pasta. Add an extra 2 – 3 tbsp of olive oil if needed, to coat everything in a light layer of olive oil. Squeeze the remaining lemon half into the pot. Add the capers (to taste).
  8. Enjoy!

Note: You may want to add a bit of salt here, as well. I find that the capers add the amount of saltyness that I prefer, so I don’t add any.

I paired this with a light pinot grigio (not that I’m a wine expert) and it was delicious!


Contact Me

I love hearing from my readers! Feel free to contact me via comments or at this address:

rambleonrosemary [at] gmail [dot] com

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October 2018
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