June 2012

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One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to go to farmer’s markets. I love to buy fresh, local produce to use in my cooking and baking and to support local farmers. (Plus you can usually find some blueberries!)

Farmer’s markets are really the link to fresh fruits and veggies where I live. There are farms nearby, but there are not any produce stands. It never occurred to me growing up that such a place could exist. I lived in Amish country after all. There are farm stands everywhere there.

Thursday evening, Pierre and I decided to head out to the Green Tree Farmer’s Market. It is located in Green Tree Park next to Parkway Center Mall off of 376. There are tons of signs so that you know exactly where it is located, as well as a police officer directing traffic.

The market starts at 4 p.m. and ends at 7 PM in May and June however, it is open until 7:30 in July through October. There are a variety of vendors, not limited to fresh produce. There was someone selling different types of cheeses, a pizza stand, an Italian Ice cart, the Pierogi Truck and many others.

I was very excited with all of the items that we purchased. We got blueberries, nectarines, 2 dozen eggs, 3 large cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, a zucchini, green beans, and tomatoes.

We will definitely return to the Green Tree Farmer’s Market in the future.

We have always been a blueberry family. I think a lot of that is because I grew up in Amish County and fresh blueberries were available in the summer for about $5 per quart. Now that I live in Pittsburgh, I know how insanely cheap that is. One summer, my mom decided that she wanted to have enough blueberries for the entire year. I happened to be in Spain studying at la Universidad de Salamance. When I returned home, one entire freezer was filled with quart-sized bags of blueberries. Go big or gome home, I guess. That year we ate tons of blueberries.

Luckily, I love blueberries. Pierre is from Maine (I think it might be a law that they have to love blueberries and maple syrup) so he loves them too. My dad has always been more of a lemon or coconut kind of guy. This year for Easter I was trying to come up with a dessert but no one would help. My dad of course requested something that was lemony. I was on a blueberry muffin obsession so I went on the search to incorporate both flavors. I stumbled upon this recipe from Martha Stewart. It was not exactly what I wanted, so I made some changes.

The blueberry muffin recipe that I am so obsessed with is from Cook’s Illustrated. You can find it here. I love the jam-like swirl in the muffins and thought that would be an excellent addition to Martha’s cake.

First, you need to make the jam. Add a pint of blueberries and 1 teaspoon of sugar to a medium-sized skillet.

Cook on medium until reduced by almost half  and thickend. The picture below is not done yet.

Now it is done. It is thick and reduced.

Now, set this aside and allow it to cool for a while.

Once the jam is cool, you can start mixing the cake.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start with the dry ingredients first. I like to mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in the bowl with a whisk. I am way too lazy to sift my ingredients.

On to the wet ingredients. I start with 2 sticks of room temperature butter. To avoide clumps, I beat the butter with my hand mixer first.

Then, I add the sugars. I reduced the sugar from Martha’s original recipe. I like less sweet desserts. Plus, it allowed me to make lemon ice cream for easter and lemon sauce for father’s day!

Then mix until light and fluffy.

Begin adding the eggs one at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding another.

After all 4 eggs are incorporated, add the vanilla. Then, begin alternating between adding the dry mixture and the yogurt. Martha said to use sour cream however, I like to cut some fat where I can. (Martha also did not use whole wheat pastry flour.)

Gently fold in the blueberries and lemon zest.

Spray your bundt pan with cooking spray.

Then add half of the batter.

And half of the jam.

And swirl! I use a butter knife. Repeat with the remaining batter and jam. It should look like this (pretty).

Put on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes. Test before removing from the oven.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Then invert and allow to cool on a rack.

Serve with lemon sauce and whipped cream.

Blueberry Bundt Cake with a Jam Swirl

by Jessica

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 60-70 minutes

Keywords: dessert July 4th cake summer

 

Ingredients (12-16 slices)

For the Jam

  • 1 pint of blueberries, cleaned
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

For the Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) of softened butter
  • 3/4 cup light-brown sugar, not packed
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 pint blueberries, cleaned
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • nonstick cooking spray

Instructions

For the Jam

1. Add the blueberries and sugar to a medium sauté pan to make the jam.

2. Cook on medium for 5-10 minutes or until reduced by about half. It should be thicker and the berries should be broken. It should not look watery.

3. Allow jam to cool for at least 15 minutes.

For the Cake

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy.

4. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

5. Add the eggs one at a time. Make sure they are incorporated.

6. Add vanilla. Mix to incorporate.

7. Begin alternating additions of flour and yogurt. You should have three additions of flour and two additions of yogurt.

8. Gently fold in the blueberries and the lemon zest.

9. Coat a bundt pan (at least 12 cups) with oil.

10. Add half of the batter to the pan. Then, add half of the jam. Use a butter knife to swirl. Repeat.

11. Bake on the bottom rack for 60-70 minutes of until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool on a rack for about 30 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely.

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Daily Dish Magazine

When I was a kid, we went over to Grandma’s house for dinner at least once a week. Each dinner included a salad, meat, potatoes, vegetables, and a dessert. Sometimes the dessert was super simple like baked apples. Other times she made apple crisp, jello with apple snow, or tapioca pudding. She even made Jiffy cake mixes and put Jiffy icing on top. Do you even realize how gross those are? Have you looked at the back? About a year ago, this huge craving hit for one of them. Pierre went to the store and proudly returned with a yellow cake mix and the chocolate frosting. The one slice I ate fulfilled my craving and then Pierre took the rest to work.

One of my favorite desserts that she made was Gingerbread Cake with lemon sauce. She always made homemade whipped cream to go on top. You can find a recipe for that here. She really did not have a secret Gingerbread recipe, she just used a box cake mix. However, the lemon sauce was the secret serum to take the boring mix to a spectacular dessert.

First, Put 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (if you like a thick, gooey sauce add 2 tablespoons), 1/2 cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1 cup of boiling water to the pan.

Then, bring to a boil stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. It will only thicken slightly.

Remove from the heat and add the juice of 1 lemon and the zest from the lemon.

I think it is best served hot over cake or ice cream. It is tart, sweet, and adds the perfect zing to Gingerbread cake or Blueberry Bundt cake.

Some people in our family will just eat the lemon sauce by itself (Dad).

Lemon Sauce

by Jessica

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Keywords: dessert

Ingredients (Sauce for about 8 slices of ca)

  • 1 tablespoon of corn starch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest

Instructions

Mix the cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a sauce pan.

Stir in the boiling water.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened.

Remove from the heat.

Add the lemon juice and the lemon zest.

Mix well.

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This spring, I took a dessert to an event and explained that the whipped cream that I brought was homemade. Someone said that they did not know that it was possible to make whipped cream. Whipped cream is one of the easiest things to make. It really puts the finishing touch on your delicious desserts. It is an impressive finish to those desserts that you spend hours making, a tasty addition to a bowl of fruit, or a homemade addition to a store-bought dessert. The best part is that it takes less than 5 minutes!

First you need to gather your ingredients.

You need heavy cream, some kind of sweetener, and vanilla. I like to use maple syrup because it is a natural sweetener. However, my grandma always used powdered sugar. If you learn anything from me, unscrew the lids before you start .

It is best to use a metal pan that you put in the refrigerator for a few hours or in the freezer for 30 minutes. You can also put the beaters in the bowl. This works best when the bowl, beaters, and cream are very cold.

Add the cream to the bowl and mix with your hand mixer or stand mixer. At first it will splatter. I am not a patient person when it comes to cooking. I am patient in almost everything I do except waiting in the kitchen. I always turn it up to high and splatter a little bit of cream on myself. I am willing to sacrifice for the slightly faster whipping time. If you are patient, I would suggest setting your mixer to a medium speed.

It will start to get thicker in a matter of minutes. When it starts to look like cool whip consistency, add a splash of vanilla.

I did not give an amount because it is all based on your taste.  I add about a teaspoon. Then, add a splash of maple syrup. I like a very small amount of sweetener. You may like it sweeter. I use about 2 teaspoons.

Then, it is done. It will look like this…

Scrape down the sides and store in a container with a lid. It is best served the same day. We will eat it for a few days.

See how simple it is? You will be so impressed with yourself. Good luck!

Maple Vanilla Whipped Cream

by Jessica

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients (12-16 servings)

  • 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
  • maple syrup
  • vanilla

Instructions

Whip cream until it becomes fluffy.

Add vanilla to taste.

Add maple syrup to taste.

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Chicken is boring. It seems like it is always the same. I like a little spice in my life. Last summer, I decided that I needed to challenge myself more in the kitchen. I wanted to try something new and use our new grill. We just finished building a deck on the back of our house. I did a lot of the planning and we ended up building it during the week of 4th of July last summer. It literally took us one week. One very long week.

In order to celebrate the fruits of our labor and enjoy the brand new grill, I decided on a whim to make Jerk Chicken. The problem was that we lacked some of the spices. All of the recipes required 5 Spice, an ingredient that I did not have. So, I looked up the ingredients and made my very own 5 Spice in order to make my own Jerk Seasoning.

This recipe is so delicious. You can make it as spicy or mild as you wish using more or less habanero. Pictured below is using a whole chicken that Pierre broke down however, we much prefer the recipe using chicken wings.

After you have made both the 5 Spice (or used something from a jar) and mixed the Jerk Seasoning, add the following ingredients to the food processor: 2 tablespoons of jerk seasoning, 1/2 small onion, 2 whole cloves of garlic, 2 habaneros (cut the tops off), 1/4 cup of soy sauce, and 1/2 of a tablespoon of oil.

I only used 1 habanero in the picture because my mom and brother were coming over for dinner and they do not like spicy food.

Process the mixture on low until it is an even consistency with no large chunks.

Add the chicken (either 1 whole chicken broken down or about 3 pounds of chicken wings) and the jerk mixture into a plastic, zip-top bag.

Store in the refrigerator and allow to marinade at least overnight. 24 hours is best.

Remove from the bag and grill until cooked through. Enjoy with Pineapple Habanero Salsa. It is a salty, spicy and savory chicken recipe that is good served hot or cold.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

by Jessica

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Keywords: grill entree July 4th summer

Ingredients (6-8 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons of Jerk Seasoning
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 2 habanero peppers
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • 1 whole chicken broken down or 2-3 pounds of chicken wings

Instructions

1. Combine 2 tablespoons of jerk seasoning, 1/2 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 habaneros, 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 1/2 tablespoon of oil in the food processor.

2. Process on low until the mixture has an even consistency.

3. Pour the mixture into a zip-top plastic bag and add chicken.

4. Seal the bag and squish the mixture until all of the chicken is covered.

5. Allow to marinate overnight. 24 hours is best.

6. Grill until cooked through.

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Jerk Seasoning

by Jessica

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients (Enough for 3-4 chickens)

  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon course ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon 5 spice

Instructions

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Store in an air-tight container.

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5 Spice

by Jessica

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Ingredients (7-8 tablespoons)

  • 3 star anise pods
  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel
  • 3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions

1. Place the star anise pods, fennel, and black peppercorns in a small skillet.

2. Heat for 1-2 minutes until the spices become fragrant.

3. Pour the heated spices, plus the cinnamon, and ground cloves in a coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder.

4. Store in an air-tight container.

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Foodie Friends Friday

My favorite food is most definitely chips and salsa. I love all kinds of salsa. Especially fresh salsa in the summer. In my opinion, there is no better way to use fresh, local tomatoes then by making salsa. I love all kinds. I like to go to restaurants that serve chips and salsa.

My salsa tastes in the winter change due to the lack of fresh tomatoes. I prefer salsa made from canned tomatoes or jars of salsa with my chips.

In addition to salsa preferences, I also believe that different types of chips go with different types of salsa. In the summer, the salsa is so juicy and delicious, it is vital to have a chip that allows you to enjoy the super flavorful juice. For me, that chip is the Multigrain Tostitos Scoops. They allow you to get some of the sweet pineapple as well as the garlicy, salty, and spicy juice all in one flavorful bite. During the winter, for jarred salsa, I prefer regular tortilla chips.

This recipe for pineapple salsa is quite simple. It does take a little work and a little bit of knife skills. I like to use a whole, fresh pineapple that I slice and core myself however, you could buy one at the grocery store that has already been cored.

First I remove the skin and the core. I cut it into 4 sections.

Then I take it one-quarter at a time. I slice the quarter in to thirds.

Then I slice that into long strips.

Then I dice the pineapple into small pieces.

After dicing the pineapple, I dice 1/2 of an onion, 2-3 tomatoes, and add 1/2 tsp garlic powder and a sprinkle of onion powder. I add the juice of 1-2 limes depending on how much juice each lime yields. Then I add the salt.

For fresh salsa, I really like the flavor of Hawaiian Black Sea Salt. It gives an earthy, rich flavor to the salsa, more than kosher salt or regular sea salt. I purchased mine from Crested Duck Chartcutterie in The Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District in Pittsburgh, PA.

Next, I add the cilantro. Finally, I add the Habanero. I always save the hot peppers for last. Why? I like to clean my cutting surface immediately after cutting the peppers. Also, I have started wearing gloves for this task because I have stuck my finger in my eye a few too many times after cutting hot peppers. The most recent time I thought that my eye might burst in my head. Lesson learned.

Then I stir it together to combine. I taste it for seasoning using a chip so that I know what it will taste like with the added saltines of the chip. I add more salt if needed. Then, we try very, very, very hard to not eat any for a few hours to let the flavors meld and the juice to form.

I like to serve this with Jerk Chicken or in Homemade Burrito Bowls. Yum!

WARNING! It is very difficult to stop eating this!

Fresh Pineapple Habanero Salsa

by Jessica

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: N/A

Keywords: raw appetizer snack vegan vegetarian sugar-free soy-free nut-free Cinco de Mayo July 4th summer

Ingredients (8-10 cups)

  • 1 pineapple, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • Juice 1-2 limes
  • 1-2 Habanero peppers, diced
  • Handful of chopped cilantro
  • Salt to taste (I like to use Hawaiian Black Sea Salt)

Instructions

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Best served with Tostitos Scoops so you can eat all the yummy juice!

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Now that it is oficially summer, it is time to start thinking about a few cool treats. Luck for those who hate hot, humid days, the high today is only supposed to be 73. As for me, that is very sad. I LOVE the heat. I like the heat and the humidity.

Because the weather is so cool today, it is a perfect opportunity to stock up the freezer with some homemade popsicles. This recipe could not be easier.

Pierre loves popsicles so it is important for us to always have a stash on hand. However, I hate buying popsicles in the store. They either have too many ingredients or are super expensive. These are neither. They come in at only about 53 calories per popsicle and contain exactly 5 ingredients. (That is if you include the water. Maybe the lime zest and lime only count as one also.)

These could be great if they became ‘adult’ popsicles with the addition of a little rum or tequila. I hope you enjoy!

Lime Mint Popsicles

by Jess

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Keywords: dessert snack vegan vegetarian Cinco de Mayo summer

Ingredients (6 large popsicles)

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 16-20 mint leaves
  • zest of 2 limes
  • juice of 3 limes

Instructions

Add 1/3 cup of sugar and 2 cups of water to a saucepan.

Cook on medium until sugar has dissolved and come to a boil.

Remove from the heat.

Add 16-20 mint leaves and lime zest.

Allow the mint leaves to steep in the mixture for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the mint leaves and add the lime juice.

Allow mixture to cool.

Pour mixture into popsicle molds and allow to freeze until solid (about 3 hours).

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Yesterday we went to a first time event in Pittsburgh called Hometown-Homegrown. It was located at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District. The fun filled event featured shows by Rick Sebak and Chris Fennemore as well as a Virtual Cookie Table Contest and a cookbook exchange. I scored two new cookbooks at the exchange including one about Thai food and the other containing local recipes.

While enjoying the special events, the $10 admission was for both admission to the museum as well as admission to the event. While we enjoyed the special activities like the scavenger hunt, we also looked at the exhibits. Pierre, my Bruins loving husband, became a Penguin for the day!

We each got a pickle pin from H.J. Heinz and learned some fun facts while we used the Smart Steps.

The Heinz History Center is a great place to spend an afternoon. It is filled with the history of Pittsburgh. However, the highlight of the day was the vendor sampling on the 5th floor. There were fantastic samples. I forgot to take pictures of the food. Oops!

I will definitely return next year!

Welcome to Simple, Clean, and Homemade! This is a site dedicated to simple, homemade recipes and clean home projects. My name is Jessica. I am 28 and live outside of Pittsburgh with my husband Pierre and our two minature poodles, Jimmy and Harney.

Pierre and I got married on July 20, 2008 in Victoria, British Columbia. At that point we were eating a lot of frozen, precooked food as well as packaged items where we could not pronounce the ingredients.

In May 2010, I decided that I should give up one of my favorite things on the planet, diet Pepsi. That really started my new approach to food. I began reading labels not just for fat and calories but for ingredients. I started to feel better and more energized. We also started a CSA. Since thenI have not looked back. I make the majority of the food we eat from scratch, just like Grandma, and paying attention to what was in my food and where it came from.

In addition to my passion for creating simple, homemade meals, I enjoy decorating our home. I love to find a deal and fix it up. You will see our adventures in the kitchen as well as in being "weekend warriors".

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