Giveaway Winner!

The winner of the Strawberry Ancho Preserves is Ellen H.!  I know you'll love this jar of jam, Ellen, and I can't wait to hear how you enjoy it! 


It's Mother's Day, and (appropriately maybe) it's my last day off before outside employment begins!  I'm having a quiet day as the littlest boy naps, and the other is outdoors riding his bike with the neighborhood kids.  I can't seem to shake how absolutely ordinary everything is. I tidied up the house, washed the bathroom sink.  After these few words I'll turn that pasta above into an Asian inspired asparagus salad with the addition of some radishes and maybe some sunflower microgreens - I've been eating those on everything lately.  I have a dear friend coming for dinner tonight, and we supposed that it was actually spring here in the Midwest and decided to throw sausages on the grill.  While sunny, it's still chilly and I broke down and put a sweater on because I refuse to close the windows...

My other big plans today include prepping galette dough for a dinner later this week and going to forage for a few ramps, after that sleepy little one wakes up.  Maybe we'll grill some ramps along with walking onions, which are proliferating down my backyard hill and out into the field, walking the way they do.  I'm trying to organize my thoughts in a way that don't revolve around meals and Monday being wash day.  It's all too easy to be sad, and yet, the sun comes pouring in and I am overwhelmed with the divine providence of it all and just how thankful for each moving piece that has perfectly slid into place.  Off to the next adventure!

(PRiMO Strawberry Ancho Preserves + Giveaway)


I took a deep breath while standing at my kitchen sink this morning after doing the breakfast dishes. One boy ate leftover blue cornmeal pancakes from yesterday morning, and the other several leftover rolled up crêpes spread with an iteration of Megan Gordon's chocolate-hazelnut spread. My timing was on. It was 7:15 and everything was cleaned up.  I had my pre-measured coffee beans in the grinder and ready to brew, 2 hours before I usually even think of making my coffee.  Not taking into account the time needed to dress myself appropriately, I feel like I'm getting this.  My new life is about to start and I have one last week of daily homelife to myself before embarking on this new adventure, new chapter in my life.  Before it all begins for real.

As this space where I collect my kitchen life felt slowly more and more neglected, I have found all the words pouring around in my head.  A food blog is no place to recount the details of broken hearts, and lives forever and irrevocably changed.  Or maybe it is.  The truth of it all is that the broken bits of my life that have suddenly arranged themselves into a brand new pattern, one I probably would have never put together myself, but also intricate enough that I know the Almighty power behind it all: the One pushing me out and into a place that might feel foreign and uncomfortable.  A brand new normal with all of the knowledge of the past decade to back me up.

I hesitate to go into detail. Every relationship that comes to an end has moving pieces and two sides to the story. But my conscious is clean. It's the only path through that I could see. For the immediate time being, I'll move through life once again a single person - albeit one with two boys in tow. The inner workings of a girl who has spent 10 years cultivating a home, growing boys and plants, becoming a preserver, a baker, a writer are tough to separate and sift out. I continue to struggle with the feeling that my life, the essence of my personhood, is changing. I'll no longer measure my days with sourdough feeding and line dried clothes. But the slow timing in so much change has convinced me that it is, after all, only change. I'm going to stand at the helm of my kitchen with less time, but never without homemade bread.  I will still be me, just with a little less time.

Meanwhile, I have been wordless at the outpouring of support from the people in life that have graced me with their friendship. There have been quick notes from those in my tribe, the Internet friends that are real and living and aren't at all hollow and dismissive, and there have been too many coffee beans dropped at my doorstep to count. I am bolstered by support of people who get what it is to be forced into so much change, those who have been through something similar themselves, those whose voices echo that yeah it is hard, but you are able and that trials in life are not purposeless. Those that remind that something good will come again and that it really is an adventure to find out just what that will include.

image from PRiMO

image from PRiMO

I wondered if this was the right post to include my review of PRiMO's new Strawberry Ancho Preserves, and offer up a jar to give away.  I mean really.  Life changing, deep sorrowful stuff, written with total ambiguity?  But it can't be any other way.  Somehow all the little pieces of this gigantic puzzle also include this small company, and their truly homemade jams.  Somehow them sending me a jar in the mail (and they have IMPECCABLE packaging which always makes me smile even wider) for me to give my honest opinion of made me feel validated as a small time food writer and recipe developer. 

This jar was bright and warm, not spicy really - but like the blend of chiles only added to the "strawberryness" of the strawberry.  I originally thought that I'd come up with something complicated to showcase it, a mole maybe or a marinade for meat.  But then I realized that complicated is just not what I do anymore.  I make scones instead of croissants and other laminated doughs. I make a big pot of dal and we eat it for days in a row instead of cooking every night. And this special jar of jam fit right in with the timing of my life which I am ever so mindful of right now. It is perfectly enjoyable on a spoon, in plain yogurt, on toast. It complements all the most comforting things, because after all it is strawberry jam and strawberry jam is king of the jams. And royal jam is meant to be eaten so that you can really taste it.

strawberry-ancho ricotta

Crêpes might seem like a luxury, but they don't actually take too much time - especially if you mix the blender batter in the evening and let it laze about in your refrigerator for a couple of days.  They actually only improve with time. When you get to making the actual crêpes, layer them on a large dinner plate with a square of waxed paper between each and let them cool completely before stashing them in the fridge. Covered well with plastic wrap, you can get another 2-3 days storage out of them.  Don't worry if you need a bit of practice to get nice, round crêpes, all of your practice is edible.

Crêpes with Strawberry-Ancho Ricotta

for the crêpe batter (Alton Brown's is best in my book):

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 c. ap flour
  • 3 T. melted butter
  • 1 T. granulated sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend well.  Transfer to a wide mouth canning jar and let rest at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours.  (Stir gently to recombine if resting for a long time.) Cook the crêpes using a scant 1/4 cup batter in a nonstick skillet, using a brush of butter after each one. (If you want to use them for savory purposes, omit the granulated sugar and vanilla.)

Strawberry-Ancho Ricotta

Mix 2 parts premium ricotta cheese (homemade ricotta would also be stellar) to 1 part PRiMO Strawberry Ancho Preserves in a bowl. (6 T. ricotta and 3 T. preserves makes enough to fill at least 6 crêpes.)

Spread the preserves/ricotta mixture evenly on a crêpe and fold in half and in half again. Melt a little butter in a skillet and gently fry them on both sides until browned and crispy around the edges. Dust with powdered sugar and do eat with mint leaves if you have some growing as I did.

crêpes with PRiMO

The generous folks at PRiMO have offered up a jar of this new release Strawberry Ancho to one lucky reader! Please comment on this post with a simple but favorite food that brings you comfort and inspiration before midnight next Friday (May 6th, 2016) and you might find a jar in your mailbox shortly thereafter. You may also decide, and rightly so, that you can't wait for all of that and find your new favorite strawberry jam at PRiMO's website.  I'll number the comments and select the winner at random.  (Please be sure to shoot me an email from the contact tab at left if your comment isn't attached to an email/blog/way to get in touch with you.)

I've spent the past month gearing up for my new job, outside of the home, out in the big world that lies past the threshold of my own kingdom. It's been a good run. I'll look back on my 30's at home with general good thought and pride in my independent work. I'll remember all of the lessons learned and remember there are still more to come. When I prepare for the workdays ahead, I page through some of my most favorite simple food books, Peter Miller talking about collaborative lunches at his bookshop, Cal Peternell's chapter on toast, and Tamar Adler's making the most of boiling pot of water and I know life doesn't end with work outside the home no matter how scared I am of that. It's just another chapter in my own running story, one that's still developing and "fast breaking". And that chapter includes a ton of simple food and the pleasures found therein.

Is there room for preserves?  Most definitely. Certainly, there is ample room to purchase a few jars this year as well, and from a small producer like PRiMO, I'll almost consider them my own.



Disclosure: PRiMO did send me a jar of their preserves for review, but as always my thoughts and opinions are fully my own.


Beyond Canning Winner! (Bonus: GF Peanut Butter Granola Recipe)

Congratulations to the winner of Autumn Giles' Beyond Canning book: #14 Sheila!  Sheila, please email me your particulars and I'll be in touch.  I hope you'll give canning a go after you read this book, and it has plenty of information for new canners as well!

One thing that I don't think Autumn even made a mention of in Beyond Canning is that she is unable to have gluten.  Gluten intolerance and sensitivity has definitely hit the mainstream, but for those with celiac disease like Autumn, gluten is not even a consideration. Whatever your feelings about those who choose not to eat gluten on a regular basis, in my opinion it's more of a flavor choice to consider other options.  So many alternatives to wheat are just more interesting and flavorful, like these crackers for instance which I'm going to make later today...

Some things, like granola, are inherently gluten-free.  Oats are naturally free of gluten, but are sometimes processed in facilities that handle other grains. If you are not able to have any gluten, it's best to purchase certified gluten-free oats processed in a gluten-free environment. 

My house has been box cereal free for going on 5 years (except for the occasional "treat" for my boys), so granola is a very good thing for me to have on hand in the cupboard. My oldest son used to eat a steady diet of granola, but as my resident picky eater, he grew out of it - or maybe just grew tired of it - and hasn't been convinced of eating it in a long time. He also used to eat more peanut butter than is probably recommended for a kid, every day, for what seems like (and probably was) years.  Then, without warning, he was over peanut butter as well.  Until I brought these two things together, I was convinced he would never eat either again.

peanut butter granola

This has become our staple granola; it's one I've been making weekly for several months. Sweetened with a bit of maple syrup and even without using exact measurements (sometimes I can't be bothered with that), it always bakes up extra crunchy with a few clumpy bits that always get picked out and eaten first. It's a granola that can continue to adapt with you too. 

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Granola

(yields about 1 1/2 quarts)

  • 1 quart (4 cups) rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. cashews, chopped
  • 1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened flake coconut
  • heavy pinch of salt
  • heavy pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/3 c. maple syrup
  • 1/3 c. peanut butter
  • 2 T. (or a bit more) of coconut oil

Preheat oven to 325.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. 

Mix dry ingredients, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  In a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup, peanut butter, and coconut oil.  Heat over medium heat until it's well combined and runny enough to coat the dry ingredients, then pour it over the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour the mixture on the prepared sheet pan and gently tamp it down into a single layer.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Cool completely on the baking sheet before storing in glass jars.  You can stash it in the freezer to store extra long and to keep it extra crunchy, but it stores well at room temperature for 3 weeks or so.  If you can make it last that long.

peanut butter granola

Beyond Canning! (And a Giveaway!)

It has been an embarrassingly long while since I've updated this space and without divulging the details of my completely overturned world I'll just say that when this book arrived on a very dark and cold day in February it lightened my heart in more ways than I can mention.  I think I have read Autumn's blog since forever, although I can't even remember exactly when that began. I love her candid way of writing and her spot on recipes, everything she does she does with passion and excitement. I could tell from the beginning that this was a girl who loved to make, and was going to make well for years.

I enjoyed this new book for so many reasons, but especially for small (even on occasion single jar) recipes that other makers just "get". Maybe the reason I've liked Autumn for so long is that she understands the need to make that drives us fellow makers on a daily basis.  There is a deep need to find satisfying homemade goods for our own bellies and those of our families, friends, and neighbors if you are a maker. You makers know who you are: you probably already make all of your own jams, krauts, and condiments.  This, then, is the book you will want to pull out when planning your spring and summer preserves, but also your fall and winter ferments.  This is the book that will make you love Autumn and follow up on her for the coming years.

chocolate banana icebox dessert.

If life hadn't gotten in my way, I would have made more recipes right away.  So far, I've only tried a couple.  The first was a take on a chocolate-hazelnut spread, only it was nut free and made with bananas.  I know a couple of banana haters, and if you dislike banana this definitely isn't your jumping off point.  But if you like happen to like bananas, you will cook them down with a bit of cocoa powder and a pinch of cinnamon and come up with a chocolaty banana base for toast or little icebox desserts like I made.  (I used barely sweetened whipped cream with layers of Maria cookies.  These keep amazingly well stored in the fridge for at least a few days.) 

As a self-proclaimed condiment junkie, I pulled a recipe to highlight here that I just assumed after reading that I would love, and I was more than right. I do love it. And I've been eating it on everything sandwich related for the past week - you know, the way you do with a new condiment crush.

Rhubarb Cardamom Chutney

Cardamom is a fickle spice, I love it but it seems like too much can tend towards bitter. When I saw that there was a chutney with a whole tablespoon included I almost read no further.  I had to make it for myself and I'm so glad I did.  The cardamom is mellowing nicely as the open chutney ages, and splurging on a half cup of 25$ per pound dried cherries was good for my soul.  I pulled the rhubarb from my deep freezer; my stash from last year still safe and needing to be used up quick before the new season is upon us.  I always think to myself that I don't have the pretty pink "food blogger" rhubarb... my family heirloom plants are the mostly green "industrial" workhorse rhubarb variety.  So my chutney is more mauve and not quite as beautiful as the one pictured in Autumn's book - but I'm sure it's every bit as delicious.  When I see some pretty pink rhubarb in the markets this spring, I'm likely to buy a pound and make this all over again to store on my shelves.

Rhubarb-Cardamom Chutney (Autumn Giles, Beyond Canning)
Cardamom and tart rhubarb together in a chutney that will be the star of your cheese plate

¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons whole yellow mustard seed
1⁄3 cup diced white onion
½ cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into ½ -inch chunks
¾ cup apple cider vinegar

Basic supplies for vinegar preserves (see page 78)

Yield: about 2 half pints

1. Combine all of the ingredients in your preserving pot.
2. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir frequently as it comes to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture has thickened and the rhubarb has broken down completely, about 20 minutes. Toward the end of the cooking time it may be necessary to stir the chutney more frequently to prevent scorching.
4. Ladle into prepared half-pint jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe rims. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the bands until they’re fingertip tight.
5. Process in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude if needed.
6. After 24 hours, check the seals. Label, date, and store out of direct sunlight without the bands for up to a year.

Rhubarb Cardamom Chutney

I didn't actually can this chutney, I left it portioned into three jars to enjoy now and share with friends.  (Or maybe just hoard to myself since I haven't actually given any away yet...) It's tart and the texture is great with the cherries and mustard seeds.  It's not too sweet and it really is good with any kind of cheese (that is a smoked swiss above).  I need to include it on some grilled cheeses, and I need to get some brie ASAP, since I feel it would be an especially good compliment.

I'm so happy that I am able to offer one copy of Beyond Canning to one lucky reader so he/she can begin to make pretty, fermented Pink House Kraut, Pickled Figs with Port & Black Pepper, and a single jar of Rosé Wine Jelly for him/herself.  To enter, please leave a comment telling about one thing you love to make (or would love to make) on this post before next Wednesday, March 16th (11:59 p.m.) and I will assign each name a number and choose a winner via Random Number Generator.  After commenting, hop over to visit Autumn Makes and Does to catch up on all the beautiful things that come from Autumn's hands.  You can also catch other recipes and reviews of Beyond Canning throughout the month of march with a virtual book tour on a host of other wonderful food blogs.  Find the complete list and dates here.

In my current days of uncertainty, it's good to mosey over to the fridge and see some very certain and comforting jars of chutney peering back at me.  And books like this make me so thankful to be a tiny part of a large network of amazing people.  Autumn, this book is totally the first of many and I'm just thrilled that I could have one of the early copies in my hands from the start!

Rhubarb Cardamom Chutney

On to 2016! And a Simple Yeast Bread to Take You There.

I’ve said before that the time frame between Christmas and New Year’s Day seems like bonus time to me.  Like the 52nd week in the year is a free space on the calendar that simply exists for me not to put anything into.  There is always ample food.  And sweets: those are always even more plentiful than actual sustenance.  I find that I eat often, too much, and continually all at once, and getting back to a more austere schedule with a brand new year ahead is always a very welcome sight.

But being interested in food means that the end of a year also signals a slew of “best of” lists and new year in food predictions. The last week of the year and even the first few of the new one I spend in my own mind reflecting on my favorite things in my personal kitchen, what new cookbooks I can’t imagine living without, even what old year recipes were on my radar but never seemed to materialize.

For the past 2 years, I kept track of every loaf of sourdough bread I baked by photographing them and putting them in flickr albums.  This year in review got me thinking about how our appetites wax, wane, and change, and how my solid wild yeast addiction has changed over the years from my first intrepid loaves back in 2010.

I logged 114 loaves of wild bread in 2014, and only 83 this past year.  The odd 30 loaf change spurred me to thinking about my bakery habits.  My daily life has changed enough that bread isn’t as romantic as it used to be, it’s more methodical and dutiful.  I don’t enjoy it any less, but it is a hard fact that the time I once had for experimentation and 3 days cultivation has temporarily left me.  I’ve made more quick breads, many (many) more tortillas, and towards the end of 2015 huge batches of whole wheat chapatis thanks to Hot Bread Kitchen.

While I still feel that long, slow bread is best, I also have cut myself some slack in the whole foods prep department.  I do not have the time to soak every almond and walnut, I do not have the time to even keep a yogurt culture from dying out on me and I’m going to say that is okay.  I also know that “quick” yeast bread that came out of my kitchen is (in my opinion anyway) infinitely more healthy than planning a trip to and picking out a store bread devoid (for the most part) of character.  There are good bakeries out there, there are good bakeries here in Milwaukee! But there is still something about bread coming from my own hands, by way of my cheap (but oh so accurate) Hotpoint oven that I will never get over.  

It’s what gives me the soul of a baker I think, that as the years pass it’s the one constant I insist I produce myself.

Instead of a 2016 sourdough only flickr album, I’ve decided to include all breads (I’ll omit flatbreads - unless something really stands out - since they are last minute additions to a meal and let’s face it, we need to eat!).  This is the first loaf of 2016, which brings me all the way back to the beginning of my bread baking life (I still have Jeff Herzberg and Zoe Francois' first 2 books).  A friend of my mom gave her a “loaf of bread in a jar” gift for Christmas, and we baked it when I was visiting.  The flour was a blend of coarsely ground wheat and plain old AP, but it tasted so good.  And I didn’t even weigh the ingredients!  When I double checked, I found that it was a ratio from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day which were the first hearth-style loaves that I ever made.  I hadn’t revisited it in years, perhaps due to my bread snobbery, but it has a place in my kitchen once again.  

"artisan bread"

What’s interesting is that I never baked Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day right after the first rise, I always aged it in the fridge for a few days.  Baked fresh, and with freshly ground flour, it has the simplicity of a soda bread and a soft and nubby texture.  It’s crust is soft too, and while I do miss the chew of my old bread, this is nice for sandwiches, for toast, for 2 year olds with problems chewing his food well enough sometimes. 

My ratio for a single loaf was 3 oz. coarsely ground spelt, 3 oz. whole wheat flour, and 10 oz. AP flour.  Mix in a generous teaspoon of salt (more if you like saltier bread), 2 1/4 t. instant commercial yeast, and 1 1/2 cups 100 degree water and mix well - but don't focus on kneading.  Cover the bowl and let it rest at room temperature for about 2 hours until it has risen at least double.  Transfer the dough to a well floured surface and form into a round loaf.  Let the loaf rise at room temperature (I like to let it rest on a sheet of parchment for ease of transport), and when a gentle finger poke shows an indent that doesn't pop back score simply, since there won't be a ton of oven spring, and immediately bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 30 minutes or so until nicely browned and hollow sounding.  (Internal temp should be around 200 degrees.)

I baked in without a pot (transferred with the parchment to a sheet pan) at my parents' house and the crust was about the same as when I baked in a preheated iron pot with a lid on.  If you choose to bake it in a pot, bake it for 20 minutes with the lid on, then remove the whole loaf from the pot and finish baking for 10-15 minutes directly on the oven rack.


I've never included a detailed list of my year end favorites, but I think I'll give it a go since I read a number of really lovely baking books this year.  I'm sure it's far from complete as there were titles I probably didn't get to or know about in 2015, and unfortunately some I may have forgotten.  Some of these are may be older but I read them for the first time last year.  Going forward to 2016 with a broader world view of bread once again, I'm excited to dig in and bake a little more liberally from some of these!  Happy 2016 to you!

(In no particular order:)