Market Finds

Market Finds
Farmer's Market Bounty

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Can Can Girls

The Can Can Girls: Brenda, Nancy, Renee, Jennifer, Lea and Mallory
The iconic glass Ball jar is a staple in many kitchens.  Some use them for drink ware, others use them for their intended purpose of preserving seasonal bounty.  Fortunately for me, I grew up in a family that practiced the latter.  Both of my grandmother's kitchen cupboards were always stocked with delicious pickles and jellies.  I have fond memories of driving to Gaffney, South Carolina with my paternal grandmother to buy bushels of fresh peaches for her famous peach jelly.  Equally as memorable, was the cut glass pickle tray, overflowing with bread and butter and okra pickles, that adorned my maternal grandmother's dining table.  While I always thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of my grandmother's labors, sadly, I never paid much attention as to how these sweet and savor delicacies were made.  My eyes were always firmly gazed on the end product. As my grandmother's aged, the cupboards grew bare of these jarred treats that I was so fortunate to enjoy for the majority of my life.  It was indeed a sad day, one that I remember well, when I opened my last jar of peach jelly.  Years have passed and I still yearn for some of my grandmother's jellies and pickles.  I was resigned to the fact, that the gentle pop of of opening a Ball jar would have remain a happy memory.  But as we all know, the world works in mysterious ways, and about three years ago, I received a gift of home made jam.  This small gesture, set me on a path to become part of a group that is preserving the past, in a thoroughly modern way.

The lovely ladies pictured above have all been canning together for quite awhile before I joined the group last year.  Thus far, I have canned pickles, tomatoes, onion marmalade, and just this past weekend, chow chow and strawberry jam.  These "Canning Summits" are quite an undertaking, as canning on such a large scale, requires lots of produce, jars and canners, along with nimble fingers to chop, stir, fill, wipe and seal.  We all have a job assignment and work as a team, while the sounds of 80's songs and burbling pots provide the perfect background music.  After a long morning of work, we sit down to lunch.  This has become and event in and of itself.  We are a group of passionate cooks, bakers and wine connoisseurs, and our afternoon meal is a genuine reflection of all of our collective talents.  

With full bellies, we tackle the afternoon's task of filling and processing the remaining jars.  Clean up, labeling and distribution cap off an exhausting, yet satisfying day of work and sisterhood.  I covet my beautiful Ball jars, filled with good things that I helped to make.  I know that these jars are just as precious to me,  as those my grandmother's used to share with me.  I feel honored to be able to spend the occasional Sunday afternoon with a group of women who's talents are great and who's passion for food and tradition equal my own.

Adorable labels designed by Jennifer

Perfectly hand chopped veggies, cooking down for the chow chow.  Thanks to Brenda, Mallory and Renee for  sacrificing some of their Saturday morning for prep.
Chow Chow jars are filled and ready for processing
The strawberries must be stirred constantly 

We know this is good, because we could not resist sneaking a taste 

Lunch! Photo courtsey of Jennifer

Action Shot of me at the lid station

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pretty Peppers

 What is is about things in miniature that tug at our heartstrings?  Whether it be babies, puppies or mini sweet peppers, they all evoke a reaction of "Oh aren't they just adorable?" I love these little peppers that are now so readily available in most grocery stores.  They are extremely versatile, tasty, and oh so cute to look at.

Today's recipe stems from one of those days where Chef Nancy and I get to play our own personal version of "Chopped"in the kitchen. There are ingredients on hand and we need to make an appetizer.  This stuffed pepper recipe was a huge hit at last night's poetry reading at Cancer Wellness.  This is a quick and easy recipe that can be prepped ahead of time, then popped under the broiler for a few minutes just before serving.  Your guests will certainly be cooing over this oh so cute and satisfying creation.

Cheesy Stuffed Peppers:
1 bag Mini Sweet Peppers (about 20 peppers)
2 8oz blocks of Neufchatel Cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup Light Olive Oil Mayonnaise
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Red JalapeƱo Peppers, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
2 Scallions, finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, grated (use your microplane)
2 Tsp Ground Cumin
2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
Salt and Pepper to taste

Make sure ingredients are thoroughly combined
Step One:
Cut peppers in half lengthwise, removing any seeds.  Place peppers cut side up on a foil lined baking sheet.

Step Two:
Combine both cheeses and mayonnaise in bowl until well incorporated.  (A potato masher works great for this part).  Next, add the jalapeƱos, garlic, scallions, cumin and paprika.  Stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

The easiest way to stuff these beauties is with your impeccably clean or gloved hands

Step Three:
Fill each pepper half with just enough cheese to fill the cavity. Try not to overfill, or you will have a big oozy mess when they come out of the broiler.  You may have some filling leftover, which is not a bad thing.  This cheesy goodness is delicious cold, spread on a cracker.

Beautifully browned and oh so adorable!

Step Four:
Place peppers under the broiler, on the top rack of  your oven.  Watch them carefully as they will brown very quickly, 1-3 minutes at most.  Remove from broiler and place on a serving tray, and wait for the oh's and ah's from your guests!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Simple Sandwiches

As I sit down to write this blog entry, I am finding my mind to be uncharacteristically clear, and words slow to hit the page.  I suppose that I am actually relaxed and at peace. This is a combination of feelings that has eluded me for quite sometime, so I am going to embrace it.  It is this relaxed state of mind that has allowed me to more easily appreciate some of the less complicated pleasures of life.  One of those being, enjoying a simple sandwich, on the sand.

My kid and I never embark on a day at the beach with out a cooler full of cold drinks and carefully packed Ziploc bags of sandwiches for lunch.  We are not talking gourmet panini here.  We are talking white bread, yellow mustard, real mayonnaise and processed meat and cheese.  Basically, this is the lunch that goes against everything that I know and preach about about a nutritionally balanced meal. It is this healthy chef's dirty little secret.  My kids love this meal just as much as I do.  In fact, my teen aged daughter stated on multiple occasions, en route to the coast,   "I can't wait to eat sandwiches on the beach".  It is nice to know that even at her sometimes difficult age, she can conjure up a Proustian remembrance of a flavor that reminds her of something special.  

What's not to  love? Sun, surf and a once a year indulgence are the things that memories are made of.  Soon enough, we will be back to work, school and our whole foods lifestyle.  But for the rest of this week, my kids and I will continue to enjoy a week of our delightfully sinful indulgences.
A mustard smiley face is a must!

Sometimes, I get fancy and add some fresh cilantro.  If you have never tried fresh cilantro on a sandwich, you are missing one of life's great pleasures.

This is the life!
Zach skips the cilantro on his sandwich, but instead piles on a handful of potato chips between his slices of bread.

Let's face it, it is easy to be passionate about almost anything while a the beach!