Biscuits and Jam

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Biscuits and Jam

Hello, Sunday morning. Why don’t we ring you in with some biscuits and jam? Not any ordinary tube biscuits and off-the-shelf jam, but some quality, made from scratch kind of cookin’.

To pull together this meal, I had to do a bit of pre-planning. I knew for some time that I wanted to make vanilla peach jam shared by Seasons & Suppers, it was just a matter of getting peaches on hand and setting aside a few minutes for the project. Last week while at a local Saturday farmer’s market, I mentioned to the owner that I was hoping to make that as my next batch of jam. She’d tried my recent attempt at mango lime jam and really liked it, so she offered to sell me all the ugly peaches she had on hand at a big discount…provided I brought her some jam the following week. Deal! Cheap organic peaches and something to hold me to following through on the jam. In fact, the peaches were very ripe, so I had to make the jam that same night if it was going to happen at all.

The recipe was easy to follow. I liked it because it was made without commercial pectin – it was just the natural pectin from lemon seeds! Cool! It calls for using cheesecloth, which if don’t have on hand can be purchased at your local fabric store. Also, I asked the blog author about omitting the butter. She said that the butter could certainly be left out (which makes the recipe vegan) and that its purpose is just to help minimize foaming. Any foam that does appear can be scooped up. I actually didn’t notice any foam on my batch. I saved some of the jam for Sunday morning and the rest went into small containers for freezing. One of those containers goes back to the farmer’s to hold up my end of the bargain.

I also had my eye on a biscuit recipe. I wanted something quick so I could make it with little effort in the morning. There’s nothing like a fresh from the oven biscuit! I found a great biscuit recipe at Happy Herbivore. It’s actually part of the author’s biscuits and gravy recipe, but it was easy enough to figure out what I needed for just the biscuits. I was pleased with how easy the recipe was to make and to salvage, seeing as I nearly screwed it up in my half-away state.

The end result? Great big biscuits and fresh vanilla peach jam. I have had biscuits and jam for most of my life and although these were not identical to what I grew up with, I certainly had no complaints! As a matter of fact, I am already thinking about how these might taste with some savory spices rolled in…it would probably make a pretty good dinner biscuit!

A Joyful Kitchen: Roasted Pumpkin

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pumpkin makes my heart sing. I am happy to eat it all year round, but it really feels right to be eating it in the fall. Too bad I'm living in Florida and it still looks every bit of summer as it did on the 4th of July. Oh well. Pumpkin makes me feel like I am back in the Midwest where fall brings cooler temperatures and beautiful new scenery.
So there's pumpkin to be eat that doesn't come in a can? Yes, it's true. Roasting a bit of pumpkin is so easy and can be made very healthy. This is not the kind of pumpkin dish to be slathered in butter or covered in marshmallow! Just enjoy the flavor of the pumpkin for what it is. This is also not a strict recipe so there are no measurements. Experiment and see what flavors you want to draw out the most.


Roasted Pumpkin

Ingredients:
Fresh pumpkin (I use Jamaican calbaza because it is handy, but others would probably work, too)
Walnuts
Dried cranberries
Maple syrup
Cinnamon
Olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Discard the seeds of the pumpkin (or set aside if you plan to roast them as an additional treat). Remove the skin of the pumpkin. (It may be easier to carefully chop this off instead of trying to use a peeler.) Cut the pumpkin into approximately 1 square inch pieces. No need to be exact here. The important thing is that the pieces are roughly the same size so they cook evenly.

Toss the cut pumpkin, walnuts, dried cranberries, maple syrup and cinnamon into a baking dish. Remember, the quantity is going to be to your liking. Add a drizzle of olive oil - just enough to prevent sticking to the pan. Stir everything together to make sure the pumpkin has been evenly coated. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Carefully stir the ingredients and cook for another 20 minutes.

That's it! You can get the kitchen cleaned up well before this is done baking and your house will smell nice to boot :)

5 Ways to Help Vegetarians Survive Non-Vegetarian Potlucks

Friday, September 10, 2010

A couple times a year, my office hosts a potluck luncheon. Starting with the first one I attended, I saw that they were really meat and starch fests. Everyone seemed to be content with it, so I didn’t want to criticize, but this time ‘round I DID want to bring a little something different to the table. Literally. 

Usually, I’m the veggies and dip girl, which I don’t mind. The trouble is, I end up with very little on my plate and hunting down sweets a few hours after lunch. Since our last potluck, I have become much stricter vegetarian and dabbled in veganism, so I knew I needed to come prepared. Sure, I could fill up on dinner rolls, but that’s not exactly nutritionally dense food. I like some bang for my bite. I also don't want to gorge on the dairy and egg dishes. I'm to the point where I'm trying to avoid that as much possible. Rather than the veggie tray provider I’ve been typecast as, I brought veggie chili. (Vegan, in fact, but I didn’t label it so because it was pushing my luck enough to bring meatless chili. Vegan labels might scare my co-workers off all together!) It went over well, and I didn’t end up leaving the luncheon hungry.
 
Are you going to a potluck? Need ideas how to manage so you aren’t left peckish due to an abundance of meats and no plants? Don't leave yourself to the mercy of others, especially because there's a great chance that they don't know your personal food preferences. Here are some ideas to get you going…
 
  1. Talk to the coordinator
    Make the effort to chat up whoever is coordinating the event. See if they are requesting special items, doing a sign up, or letting things go as a free for all. At least you will know what to expect when you arrive at the potluck. Thanks to asking in advance, I was comforted knowing that I would have at least a veggie side dish and fruit dessert to count on.
  2. Eat in advance
    Don't walk in on an empty stomach! You run the chance of getting irritated with lack of choices or caving in to something you normally wouldn't. My bad today...I was running on empty when I joined the luncheon and definitely made some food choices I wish I hadn't. I definitely won't do that again.
  3. Pack some extra snacks
    You don't have to bust your extra chow out in front of everyone, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have some back up snacks set aside. You know, just in case things don't work out as well as you hoped. I had a salad stashed during today's luncheon and fortunately had enough that it wasn't called for. Delicious spinach for another day...mmm...
  4. Bring a vegetarian dish
    Don't be shy! Bring a veggie dish that you know YOU will like. That way you know you have at least ONE good option there! Plus, you're doing the community good by potentially introducing them to something new. I'll admit, sometimes I'd rather be the person chipping in a few bucks or bringing the chips to the potluck, but that won't carry me very far when the actual meal comes around. I say suck it up and sign up for one of the featured dishes. My contribution today was veggie chili, something I knew I could fill up on if I needed to.
  5. Enlighten others
    You don't have to gloat about what you're eating (or rather what you're not), but don't sit facing the corner. Have a good time socializing and if someone asks you about your food choice, enlighten them. My trouble is that I get excited and start to ramble. Today I had to force myself to stay quiet when I was repeatedly offered a dessert smothered in gelatin. I wanted to tell the world what they were eating! But I didn't think that doing so while they were scarfing it down would be very appropriate timing. By playing it (mostly) cool today, I got some great feedback from my co-workers on the chili. Many of them enjoyed it and several commented on how they were surprised how good it was without meat. Go figure!  

Taking the Good with the Bad

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One week ago, I received some very sad news. My grandmother, who we called Mamaw, passed away. I was expecting the news to come any day because she had been in hospice for quite a while. However, I did not expect the news to come of the first day of a much anticipated vacation.

Fortunately, I made several trips cross-country in the last few months to see Mamaw. We talked and laughed, and I was able to do some special things with her to help keep her mind off her condition. I'm so glad I made that effort while she was here. I learned the hard way how much that matters from not having done so when my grandfather was ill years ago.

So there I was, only six hours away from  home and six hours away from my final vacation destination. I could go to a funeral or I could go to my college stompin' grounds and attend my sorority reunion. All the times I had gone home while Mamaw was alive (and through numerous phone calls), I had discussions with my parents about flying in when Mamaw did pass. It was inevitable, so might as well be emotionally prepared, right? We all agreed whole heartedly that time and money was better spent visiting while she was with us, and I was content with that decision...until the very day when I had to act on the decision.

I was standing with my husband and mother-in-law at the moment. I was choked up, but not the emotional wreck I had been several months prior when Mamaw's health really took a turn for the worse. It was as if I had finally come to terms with it.

I remembered the discussions with my parents and how Mamaw did not want me to spend time crying over her...yet it was hard to accept the fact that I wouldn't go to a funeral when it was so possible to do so. I had paid all the respect in the world to her. I had been in touch with my family throughout her hospice stay to offer my support. I had said my goodbyes every time I ended a visit with her.

I turmoiled over my decision for the whole day. It wasn't until a late evening phone call with my dad that I felt better about what I was going to do. He said he'd do the same thing if he were in my shoes. Considering this was his mom that had passed, I counted that as his blessing.

So I didn't go to the funeral. It sounds sooo weird to say and equally so to write it! I was really worried about what the extended family would think of it all. I didn't want them to misunderstand this as any kind of disrespect. My parents doubted it would be an issue and said they would take care of anything that came up. They felt that anyone attending the funeral would know better because the of life-long relationship I'd had with Mamaw.

I traveled to my sorority reunion, staying in contact with my family the whole time. I planned out a special memorial dinner with my younger sister, who happens to be attending the same school that I was headed to. We took time away from the social activities to spend together and made a classic Mamaw meal: greens, soup beans, cornbread, fried potatoes and sweet tea. We ate and laughed and talked about life...it was good. Sure, I missed seeing my family that would have attended the funeral, but over the dinner my sister and I made, we built a memory. Mamaw would have wanted it that way.

During every moment of my vacation, I was surrounded by people I care about, laughter, reliving memories, and thoroughly enjoying life. Someday, when I am in Mamaw's shoes, I want my family out doing the same. Don't feel sorry for me. Don't sit around waiting for something to happen. Do things that will allow you to look back and smile. Get busy making every moment count because you never know when you are going to enjoy your last one.

Love you, Mamaw.

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