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Spiced Pear Preserves

Spiced Pear Preserves, originally uploaded by sarahhopeh.

I have this passion. I absolutely love canning things. I only really started about a year and a half ago, but what started as a cheap Christmas present idea has completely taken me by storm.

It is so addicting!

You spend this time stirring and tasting and adding little bits of this and that. Then when you’re done, you get to enjoy the results over the next year! Peaches in December, pears in March…the glorious fruits of…using your fruits!

James has taken to calling me the fruit bandit.

My favorite way to preserve things is by getting the fruit for free! Now you may be asking yourself “how in the name of Pete does this girl get free fruit?!”

You see, Texas actually has tons of fruit that grow wild including: Prickly Pear fruit, Mustang Grapes, Pears, Peaches, Apricots, Apples, and even Blackberries! The trick is, you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled for them everywhere you go.

Thusly, I am the fruit bandit. Bandit-ing fruit where ever I find it.

Today I would like to share a shell recipe for preserves that requires about as little hands-on time as any canning recipe out there. This is a good thing folks, trust me.

Embrace the slow-cooker my friends, embrace it.

Spiced Pear Preserves

Ingredients

5 Quarts Peeled, Cored, and Thinly Sliced Pears
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Lime or Lemon Juice
2-3 Teaspoons Spices

Directions

Using a slow cooker liner if you’ve got one, add all the ingredients to a 6 quart slow cooker. Stir to incorporate. Turn the slow cooker on high and place the lid on half way.

Forget about the preserves for 8-10 hours.

Come back and stir the now, caramelized, reduced, and delicious preserves you effortlessly made. Taste and add any other desired spices. Ladle preserves into jars and hot water bath process for 15 minutes.

Eat well and love much,

Sarah

PS- for those of you who don’t can, check out the resources from fellow blogger Food In Jars
http://www.foodinjars.com/canning-resources/

PPS- Use what ever combo of spices suits your fancy! I use allspice, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

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Back Living

Well world, I am officially back from the dead. Not in a zombie sort of way, but in the I-don’t-have-any-more-school way. No more late night papers, projects, and that irrepressible feeling of knowing there is always something I should be doing that I am not doing. I do apologize to all two of you who have been reading the non-updates during my summer-school hiatus. Breaks, like school, are a necessary evil.

Today, I happily debut my new baby. Well, not an actual baby, but she’s close enough. Thanks to all my lovely family and friends, I was able to purchase my first DSLR for graduation. I decided to plan a little bit a head and not get the cheapest option, but instead I ultimately decided on the Nikon D90 after much anticipation and deliberation.

Now let me be the first to admit that I am more than a newbie with DSLR photography. I have read, and read, and read, but nothing teaches how much you don’t know like actually practicing the thing you thought you knew.

Did that even make sense?

Anways, so I can’t wait to share with you guys during this learning time for me as I get acquainted with taking “good” photos of people, places, things, and FOOD!

My first model is, of course, the cutest nephew in the whole world.

He likes to moonlight as a shaggy-haired male model. šŸ˜€

For my first new-camera recipe, I thought it best to keep it simple.

Summer is still in full swing here in North Texas, which means refreshment is always on order.

This drink delivers just that.

Strawberry Soda

1 Cup Strawberries, hulled

1/2 Cup Simple Syrup (1 cup sugar simmered in 2 cups water until all sugar is dissolved)

2 Tablespoons Lime Juice

1 Cup Soda Water

Add strawberries, syrup and lime juice to a blender and blend until there are no more chunks. Pour mixture into a glass, top with soda water and then stir.

Enjoy and feel refreshed!

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I’m a little short on time this week as the summer semester has begun but I have the promised recipe! When I return with longer posts I’ll know infinitely more about wines, liqueurs, and beers. I can’t wait to share some of the fun with all of you! In a way less school-is-boring way that is :D. Well here it is boys and girls!

Rosemary Ginger Shortbread

Serves: at least 12, this is uber rich stuff!

1 lb (2 cups) Butter, softened

1 3/4 cups Sugar

4 cups Flour

1 tsp Kosher Salt

2 large Eggs, beaten

1 cup Crystallized Ginger, chopped

3 tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped (may use 2-3 tsp dried rosemary for a milder flavor)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.Ā  In another bowl sift together flour and salt to add some air. Add this mixture to the butter and sugar and mix just until combined. As always, do not over-mix. Add approximately 3/4 of the beaten eggs and reserve the remaining 1/4 for a glaze. Add the chopped ginger and rosemary and mix until well incorporated.

Spread the mixture into a 9″x13″ pan. No need to grease it; it has plenty of butter already in there! Mix that 1/4 egg mixture with 1 tablespoon of water until a pale yellow color. Brush this over the shortbread batter.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 to 45 minutes, until glaze is a light golden color and a toothpick comes out clean. Cut into 2″ bars when cool!

You might think 2″ is really tiny when you look at it, but these babies are like tasty flavor powerhouses!

Give ’em a try today!

Eat well and love much,

The shortbread girl

ps- I hope you see one of these at least once in your life!

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Kefir Jam Muffins

When I first made these muffins I was really feeling rather…uninspired. The days have been long and rather dull for me as I gear up for my last two months of school. Boredom kills my motivation and inspiration unlike anything else.

I needed a simple breakfast recipe that could be made well in advance and only used ingredients I had on hand. I searched online and in my cookbook/magazine stash for nearly 2 hours before finally settling on a recipe for “Morning Magic Muffins” by Arlene Stolley. The recipe looked very simple and I had everything on the list of ingredients except for one thing: buttermilk. Usually I would have done the teaspoon of vinegar in your milk alternative but I’ve been experimenting with something called Kefir and decided to give this probiotic-heavy option a try.

This is an easy recipe for an on the go breakfast and the results are fantastic, fluffy muffins!

Grab from the pantry and fridge: flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, kefir (or buttermilk), canola oil, applesauce, an egg and your favorite jam (mine is some home made blackberry jam).

Mix all your liquids in a bowl (except for the jam).

And mix all your dry ingredients in the bowl of your mixer until there aren’t any more clumps of brown sugar.

Make sure you’ve got your muffin liners ready to go right about now.

Then mix the dry and wet ingredients together just until the batter comes together.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin liner or until 2/3 full. If making jam muffins, place 1 teaspoon of favorite jam in the center of each muffin and lightly press it into the batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Oh yum. The crumb on these guys is fantastically moist! Whip up a batch today!

Kefir Jam Muffins

Slightly adapted from Cooking Bouquet by Arlene Stolley

2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup packed Light Brown Sugar

1/4 cup Sugar

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 cup Kefir (or buttermilk)

1/3 cup Canola or Vegetable Oil

1/3 cup Applesauce

1 large Egg

Jam or Jelly

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In bowl of stand mixer mix all dry ingredients until there are no more clumps of brown sugar. In separate bowl, mix kefir, oil, applesauce and egg. Add liquid mixture to flour mixture and mix just until the batter comes together.

Using 1/4 measuring cup or ice cream scoop fill muffin cups 2/3 full. If making jam muffins add 1 teaspoon of jam to each muffin and lightly press into the center of each muffin cup.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins are set and golden on top.

Notes from the book: Arlene notes that you can refrigerate the mixed batter in a container for up to one week if you need to make these very well in advance. Additionally, the recipe for this muffin is easily adapted for many other variations such as blueberry, banana, cinnamon-sugar, or any other variation you can think of!

Eat well and love much,

The Muffin Woman

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If you didn’t notice already, I have a rather insatiable sweet tooth. I blame…uh…the Texas heat? genetics? the smell of baking cookies? Oh, who am I kidding? My sweet tooth is my own fault. You see, every time I read blogs like Bakerella and Tartelette, it’s like tossing another gallon of gasoline on the flame. This afternoon I was minding my own business and checking up on my RSS feed of Tastespotting when along came a recipe advertising itself as “The Fastest Dessert You will Ever Make.” Well of course I couldn’t resist trying it with a few tweaks of my own. For all you wives and mommas out there, this is picky-husband approved!

To whip out this quickie you need the following:

My favorite kitchen tool, the food processor, suar, cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract and whatever flavor you would like to impart in your cheesecake cups. I used berries and a touch of strawberry creme tequila but you can use any fruit, nutella or even caramel if you want!

Dump your cheeses in the workbowl of the food processor with some sugar, milk and vanilla.

Give the blade a whirl until it looks very smooth. No chunks here folks! It should look very liquidy, but be fairly thick and look like this when you get some on a spoon. Yum!

Now I went ahead and put some of this mixture in some pretty cups to keep some plain because I didn’t think my hubby would like the strawberry flavor I was about to make. (I was wrong, but oh well, it’s all delicious!)

To make said strawberry awesomeness grab a few fresh or frozen strawberries. I had frozen so I plopped 4 in the bowl with a splash of strawberry creme tequila to highlight the strawberry flavor.

Give that a whirl and then marvel at the pretty pink color it makes.

That’s it! Stick it in the fridge for a while if you want it to firm up a tad, or just eat it by the spoonful right there! I’ll leave it to your imagination which I did first…ahem.

I like to stick my desserts in pretty cups because it makes me feel pretty…or something like that. šŸ˜€

This husband approved dessert just might become your new favorite go-to dessert. It’s one of the top desserts in my list now!

Quick Cheesecake Cups

8 oz (1 cup) Cream Cheese, softened

4 oz (1/2 cup) Mascarpone Cheese

1/4 cup Granulated Sugar

1/3 cup Milk (I used whole milk)

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Whatever Flavorings you Want: 1/4 cup fresh or frozen fruit, 1/4 cup Nutella, 1/4 cup caramel sauce, or 1/4 cup fruit preserves.

Process all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor until smooth.

Place in cups or containers and refrigerate 40 minutes until set.

Eat and fall over in surprise at how good this simple dessert is!

Eat well and love much,

Dentist-bound-sugar tooth

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Simple Black Bean Dip

So last week the Cinco de Mayo sort of caught me by surprise. It was like I woke up and suddenly couldn’t wait to make something zesty and break out some fun margaritas. After work, I came home, perused my pantry options and came up with this super, fantastically easy bean dip. Try it sometime and see if you don’t find yourself addicted to its surprising heat and complex flavors.

Grab your ingredients and handy-dandy food processor.

Grab a can of black beans, drain them of their liquid, rinse them under some water and dump them in your work bowl with a healthy pinch of cayenne, plenty of salt, fresh cracked black pepper, cumin, and a little paprika for sweetness.

Turn your food processor on and let it work some magic until the consistency is as smooth as you like it. For me, it looked like this.

Then just plop it all in a bowl and serve with your favorite chips! I used the Garden of Eatin’s Red Hot and Blues tortilla chips for some extra heat and deliciousness.

Simple Black Bean Dip

1 15 oz can of Black Beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 tsp Ground Cumin

1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper, if you dare

1/4 tsp Garlic Powder

1/4 tsp Paprika

Kosher Salt to Taste (about 1/2 tsp ish)

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

Directions

Add all ingredients to the work bowl of a food processor. Process to desired consistency. Place in serving bowl and enjoy with chip or crudite of your choice!

Eat well and love much!

Sarah

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I have another confession.

I know, I know. You’re bound to be wondering how deep my rabbit hole of a mind goes.

Deep, man, deep.

I feel the best way for me to address this confession is directly to the person who I have kept this secret from.

Dear Coffee,

Our affair was passionate. I adored you completely. Your scent intoxicated me, relaxed me, and comforted me. Curling up with you and a book in a classy coffee shop was my idea of the perfect afternoon. Or evening. Or forever.

But then you started giving me headaches. Light sensitive headaches when all I wanted to do was sleep in for once. So I decided to quit you. Just like that guy couldn’t do in Brokeback Mountain. Well I’m stronger than him dang it!

At least I thought I was. Summer rolled around again this year, and when the heat rolled back in, all I could think about was a tall glass of you over ice. Oh, and some cream and sugar on top. I felt so weak.

But I just can’t do it Coffee. The pain isn’t worth the gain. So I’m writing to say, I’ve found someone new. His name is Chai Tea Latte, and he’s just as great on ice as you ever were.

We’re through for good coffee.

Sincerely,

A recovering addict

To make my hero lets gather some super simple ingredients

A 1 quart container (mine is an old Promise Land milk bottle), sugar, some chai tea bags, and some water (duh…not pictured).

Put a quart of water in a small sauce pan and turn it on medium. We don’t need it boiling hard, but just to the brink of boiling.

Take 4 bags of tea out of their packages and tear off their little tabs.

When your water is just barely boiling, drop in the tea bags and let them steep for around 5 minutes. If you leave them too long the natural tannins in the tea seep into your concentrate and make it a little bitter. Bitterness is not good for any hero.

Go ahead and turn off the burner while the tea is steeping and get a half cup of sugar ready.

After your little 5-minute tea timer goes off, take the tea bags out of the concentrate and stir in the sugar until it is all dissolved.

Let just pretend that last photo was in focus because my camera can focus on things in motion…yeah.

Now pour all that delicious chai goodness in your container of choice and make your favorite hot or cold chai latte as soon as possible.

Ta-da!

Chai Tea Concentrate

Ingredients

4 Chai tea bags

1/2 Cup sugar

1 Quart water

1 Quart container

Instructions

Bring water just to boiling in a small saucepan. Add tea bags and steep for 5 minutes but not longer. Take tea bags out. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour into container of choice.

To make a Chai Tea Latte

1 part Chai Tea Concentrate

1 part Milk

Pour together into cup and be thankful you found a hero to save you from the coffee headaches.

Eat well and love much you beautiful people,

Tea-tastic

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