Berry Jam

Happy Saturday!  I mentioned in my previous post that I’d share my easy jam recipe.  I don’t use pectin or spend hours making jam.  This jam is bright and fresh and can be modified to include your favorite seasonal berries.  I’ve made variations with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and mixed in different herbs like thyme and basil.

I love it and everyone I’ve made it for loves it!  It’s yummy on toast, scones, biscuits and makes an incredible topper for ice cream.  If you’re like me and scooping up all the fresh, local berries you can right now, give this jam a try.  It’s easy and delicious!

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Start with berries.  It’s strawberry season so that’s what I’m using.  Slice them and place in a medium saucepan.  Lightly mash the berries.  Add maple syrup, lemon juice, orange juice and herbs if you’re using.

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Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 55-60 minutes.  Cool and jar it up!

Super simple.  This also makes a fun gift that’s jam packed with love!  🙂  The full recipe is below. Have fun!

From the heart,
Shannon

Berry Jam

Ingredients
About 6 cups berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries–use one kind or mix)
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Optional:  2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or basil or rosemary leaves

Directions
Place the berries in a medium saucepan. Lightly mash the berries (you can use a potato masher, pastry blender or a fork). Add the maple syrup, lemon juice, orange juice and herbs if using. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 55-60 minutes until thick. Cool for about 2 hours. The jam will continue to thicken. Refrigerate in air-tight jars for up to 1 month. Spread on everything!

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Strawberry Fields and Cake

It’s summer break and we’ve had lots of rain here in NE Ohio.  School’s out and our schedules have shifted nicely to planning days packed with fun and nights that go a little later to allow for a decent amount of hammock time, games and star gazing (and more wine).

One of the many things I love about this time of year is all the fresh, local produce.  It fills me with joy!  A couple weeks ago, we grabbed strawberries from Huffman Fruit Farm at the Countryside Farmers’ Market.  We almost ate all of them before we got home!  All of a sudden, it tasted like summer.  I’ve been making a list of recipes I want to make over the next couple months and Strawberry Chamomile Olive Oil Cake with Honeyed Ricotta (mouthful), was on deck.  I found the recipe on one of my favorite blogger sites, Half Baked Harvest, and I knew it would be amazing! Everything I’ve tried on her site has been simple and yummy.

We decided to pick strawberries at Rittman Orchards and what a fun time!  We took Carrie’s friend and Daisy and started picking.  The weather was perfect and the view was incredible!

I couldn’t wait to get started on making something strawberry!  I made jam ASAP (I’ll share that recipe next) and then prepped everything to get going on the cake.  I’ve never made an olive oil cake before and my daughter, Hannah, and I were talking about making one the next time we’re together.  After making and eating this one, I’ll make an olive oil cake anytime!

This cake is light and refreshing and made me feel happy while I ate it.  It’s not too sweet and just melts in your mouth.  I love the simplicity.  It’s quick and easy to prepare for summer get togethers, brunch, birthdays or the upcoming Father’s Day weekend.  What dad wouldn’t love this?

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It all starts with fresh ingredients.  The cake is easy to prepare and using local eggs makes all the difference.  I used eggs from Mud Run Farm and that color is just what you want for this cake.

Once the cake was in the oven, I steeped chamomile tea bags in local honey from Brighton Wool and Honey.  The sliced strawberries took a dip in the infused honey.

This picture captures the moment nicely.

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Next up, was the honeyed ricotta.  Ricotta with honey and lemon whipped in the food processor until smooth and fluffy.  Easy.

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Did I mention Carrie’s friend slept over?  Here’s a view of our kitchen while I was making cake and breakfast.  This is real life and pictures that usually get posted don’t always share what’s really happening behind the scenes.  I love it! Could there be more going on in that small space?  🙂

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The cake finished baking, the strawberries were soaking and the ricotta was setting up in the fridge.  On our way back from taking Carrie’s friend home, I saw daisies growing on the side of the road and a bunch came home with us.  Some went in a mason jar while others adorned the cake.  So sweet.

I had so much fun putting on the finishing touches and photographing this cake.  It was even more fun to eat and I highly recommend making it! Just look at the inside.  It’s a beautiful color and texture.  I am delighted when baked goods turn out so well!

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As we were eating it, we talked about what we’d change or add.  It would be amazing with blueberries or raspberries!  I liked the ricotta but I think I’d substitute mascarpone next time.  I love the taste and texture of mascarpone and think it would compliment this very well.  You can also do whipped cream but the idea of whipped ricotta or mascarpone make it feel a little more special and unique.  Try it.

I did some research on how to share recipes I’ve found in cookbooks or online.  I made slight changes to the recipe, but not enough to take any credit for it.  Go to Half Baked Harvest to follow it exactly.  While you’re there, try all of her recipes.  She’s amazing and I’m thankful she shares her love of food with us!

This cake is versatile and you can easily modify to make it your own!  Let me know if you make it and how you like it!

From the heart,
Shannon

School’s Out (and a banana bread recipe)

It’s the end of the school year.  Wait, what?  Wasn’t it just December? We were so exhausted from all the homework, studying, play rehearsals, field hockey games and practices, voice lessons, ski club, swim meets, theatre classes, lacrosse games and practices, birthday parties and everyday school and work life.  It felt like there was no end in sight!  Yet, here we are and school is winding down and summer break is here and I’m not at all sad about it!

Last summer, was the summer dreams are made of.  We went on an amazing trip out west.  Carrie, Daisy (our beagle) and I drove across the country from Ohio and met up with Casey (my husband) in Salt Lake City, then headed to Lake Tahoe.   The drive was long, tiring and exhilarating all at once!  Daisy was so confused but quickly learned about long stretches in the car, bathroom breaks at random gas station grassy areas and hotel elevators.  It was quite the adventure driving to Tahoe.  Once there, we hiked, swam and played continuously for a couple weeks.  Carrie turned twelve in Tahoe and I wanted to stay in those moments forever.

We left (reluctantly) and she started 7th grade with all the excitement the start of the school year brings.  We heard this year would be brutal and that was no lie.  She’s learned a great deal about time management, BIG school projects, hours of studying and relationships (good and bad).  I learned a lot about patience, acceptance and letting go and maybe some new wines I hadn’t tried. 🙂  Middle school is hard!  Of course, she got through it and I’m so proud of her for trying new things, getting good grades and navigating through some tough situations!

We usually go all out on end of the year teacher gifts.  Last year, we made these cute baskets for DIY Sparkling Rosemary Lemonade and relaxation.  Big surprise…I like to go the homemade route!  They were so fun and the teachers loved them!  As a matter of fact, most of them told me the only thing missing was vodka.  Truth!

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This year, Carrie’s a little older and we’ve done teacher gifts throughout the year and I’m not sure it’s still “cool” to give teachers big homemade presents.  So, for the last day, we chose to do something a little more simple by making homemade banana bread and include sweet notes and gift cards from Carrie.  Teachers work countless hours and we hope this small, but loving, treat helps them know how much we appreciate them!

I’m sharing a banana bread recipe I’ve made for years.  It’s not heavy because it calls for yogurt instead of a ton of butter and oil.  You can also make it your own by adding all sorts of things like coconut, chocolate chips, toasted walnuts, pecans, cinnamon…the sky’s the limit!  Go BANANAS!  I’ve included other options below in the recipe.

You’ll start with some super ripe bananas (I didn’t get a picture of those before I started making this recipe).  Measure out your dry ingredients, prep loaf pans and combine the small amount of butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy and add eggs, one at a time.  Then add mashed bananas, yogurt and vanilla.

I made three recipes here and I wanted to make mini loaves.  I wash and reuse the foil loaf pans and simply spray them with coconut oil.  You can use a larger pan or make muffins, just adjust baking time. I also use really good vanilla when I bake.  My favorite is Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract and I mostly buy it on Amazon. I buy in bulk and just keep refilling my smaller jar.  Can you tell it’s been with me forever?

Once the batter is combined, pour into pans or muffin tins.

For this recipe, I kept the batter plain because I didn’t want to worry about nut allergies or anything.  To make it feel a little more special, I love to sprinkle raw/turbinado sugar on top to give the bread a little crunch and fun sparkle.

Bake the bread and let cool slightly, then remove from pans and allow it to completely cool on a rack. By now, your house will smell amazing and you should probably make sure the bread is everything you want it to be.  Have a fresh, warm slice.  Smear it with almond butter or peanut butter or cream cheese or honey.  Brew a pot of coffee.  Take a moment to breathe and indulge.  Yes, please do all of this because it’s almost SUMMER!

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Back to the task at hand.  Once our loaves cooled, we placed them in bags and attached notes from Carrie.  I love that she enjoys hand-writing thank you notes.  She took some time and reflected on her school year and thought about what each teacher means to her.  Writing thank-you notes and giving a homemade gift is such a win-win.  It feels good all around!

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This bread is so easy, makes the perfect gift for anyone in your life and can be frozen for special weekend breakfasts and snacks.  Heck, you don’t even have to wait for the weekend!  I saved a loaf to have for our first official day of summer break breakfast.  Yes! I hope you make it and love it and give it!

Classic Banana Bread

Ingredients
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or use whole wheat pastry flour (I love King Arthur flours)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar (you can use coconut sugar or granulated white sugar)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray (coconut is my preferred)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist.  Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan (or mini size pan or muffin tins) coated with cooking spray.
  6. Bake at 350° for 1 hour (or less if you use a smaller pan) or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap or place in a storage container to keep fresh. Freezes beautifully!

Your can make this banana bread fit what you’re craving by following some of these options:
Marble style: Stir 1 cup batter and 1/2 cup melted semisweet chocolate chips together in a small bowl. Spoon plain batter into pan, alternating with dollops of chocolate-chip batter. Drag a knife through batter to swirl. Bake as directed.

Berry style:  Fold 1 cup fresh blueberries into batter. Bake as directed.

French-toast: Cut bread into 3/4-inch slices. Toast until slightly crisp on both sides. Whisk together 2 eggs, 2 Tbsp. milk, ground cinnamon and nutmeg to taste as well as a pinch of salt in a shallow bowl. Dip bread in mixture, let excess drip off, then place on a hot griddle, turning once.

Chocolate-chip style: Fold 1 cup dark  or semi sweet chocolate chips into batter. Bake as directed.

Streusel style: Combine 2 Tbsp. rolled oats, 2 Tbsp. flour, 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. butter, melted, and 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg in a medium bowl. Divide batter among 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Top with streusel. Bake at 350°F until done, about 25 minutes.

Coconut style:  Fold 1 cup shredded coconut into batter.  You can even add lime juice and zest or make a lime glaze for the top to take you away to the tropics.  Bake as directed.

*Recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine

 

 

S’mores Bars

Happy Friday!  I’m sitting in my kitchen looking at the sunshine hitting the trees in my backyard and hoping it’s going to be a nice weather day.  That sun gives me life!  Memorial Day weekend is upon us and the official summer kick off begins.  In honor of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice, the veterans and active service women and men, I thank you!

I don’t have Memorial Day traditions.  When I had Rosie, I was usually at events over the weekend and prior to that, plans always varied.  I’m looking forward to three full days of Carrie time and wrapping our heads around school winding down and summer getting started.  I hope we get to hit a bike trail, get to some local markets and soak up as much outdoor and mama/daughter time as possible.

Outdoor time usually means a little fire pit time for us and that means s’mores time!  Not too long ago, I started making these S’mores Bars and the kids at Carrie’s school have really fallen for them.  We LOVE s’mores!  Recently, I started making my own graham crackers and also learned to make marshmallows.  As a matter of fact, I think I’ll write a post about those so you have recipes to make your own for your s’mores adventures this summer.

These bars aren’t my idea of the healthiest things to make (store bought marshmallows–not usually my thing) and eat, but they’re a fun treat and kids (of all ages) enjoy them.  They’re perfect to take to get togethers and might be fun to make and take this holiday weekend.  They’re easy and gooey and give you that s’mores feeling even when there’s no campfire. HOWEVER, if you have a chance to have a fire, do that instead and make s’mores or just grab one of these beauties!

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It all starts with making a graham cracker crust that’s less of a crust and more like a chewy, graham, buttery cookie.

How cute is that little bowl and whisk with the eggs in it?  My bonus mom got that for me from a pottery place in Tennessee for Christmas and it’s perfect for whisking and pouring eggs.  Pottery is just the best!

Once the crust is made, save about 1/4 of it and press the rest into a 9 x 13 pan that is lined with parchment paper and sprayed.  Trust me on this step!  Do you see who’s watching to make sure I do this right?  🙂 Thanks, Daisy Mae!  What a cutie!

Next is just layering the chocolate and marshmallows.  I used a combination of semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips.  You can use chips, chunks and any flavor you like.

For the crust you saved, press it into flat rounds and lay out over the top.  Leave room for the marshmallows to come through so you can see it all when it’s baked. So simple!

Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes and cool completely.  This is when the parchment paper becomes your best friend.  Lift the bars out and cut them with a sharp knife.

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When they’re still a little warm, the marshmallow pull is satisfying and kind of makes me want to sit down, indulge in one immediately and simply enjoy all the graham, chocolate, marshmallow goodness.  I mean, why not?

I made these to share with all the kids in the middle school musical.  They had a big dress rehearsal and I thought it would be a fun treat to celebrate all their hard work and wish them luck in their performance. They’re easy to package and the kids gobble them up!

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Make these for all the people in your life, especially, the little ones!  For some reason, s’mores anything gets the kids (and grown ups) excited and, just like that, it feels like SUMMER!  Let me know if you make these bars (recipe is below) and, if so, what you think.  Here’s hoping for nice weather and outdoor time so we can all enjoy our weekend!

From the heart,
Shannon

Ingredients
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar packed
2 large eggs lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (you can use chunks as well)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. and grease and line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper, ensuring that the paper along the long sides extends above the pan a bit, to act as handles to remove from the pan later. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  4. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Reduce mixer to low and slowly beat in the flour mixture until combined.
    Remove and set aside about 1/4 of the dough. Press the remaining dough into the prepared pan to form a thin, even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Top with chocolate chunks, then marshmallows. Scatter the reserved dough over-top in clumps. Don’t place too close together so you can see the marshmallows.
  6. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack to cool completely, then lift out of pan by grabbing the parchment paper. Remove to a cutting board. Cut into squares.