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Archive for June, 2012

L getting eating by the sculpture

This was an “accidentally” cool trip.  My daughter and I had gone to Abington Arts Center to join the Abington Township Pool, Penbryn.  Once we took our pictures for our cards, we had time to explore the area.  We stumbled upon the sculpture park.

Abington Sculpture Park

It was sooo cool!  There were tons of interactive sculptures like the mouths above, and lots of grass to run around, and a short paved trail through the woods with more sculptures.

Sculptures Hanging from a Tree

Sculpture hanging from a tree above a bench in the shade where we stopped to rehydrate and have snacks.

Flying Birds from Afar

A stage like platform where we could run around under another sculpture of yellow birds flying through the air.

Front of Wood House

Back of Wood House

Inside of Wood House

I felt like I was in Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Here we were, trying out the desk, laying in the bed, sitting on the bench . .

The path/nature trail paved with sculptures

All in all, the sculpture park was a great activity!  If you’re ever in Philly or have one in your own city, it’s the perfect morning or afternoon excursion.

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So after my round of blueberry picking, I decided there was no way I’d be able to preserve them.  They were too good and we all just wanted to eat them fresh.  However, I found that I had enough blueberries to make the BEST gluten-free blueberry muffins I’ve ever eaten, EVER!

This recipe came from The Baking Wizard, Greg Patent, a man (who after reading his bio), has truly done amazing things in his life.  His passion was inspired by the cooking channel on the first TV his family had ever owned.

Below is his recipe and my adaptations:

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Yields: About 30 mini muffins

Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar
2 ½ cups (12 ½ ounces) Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose baking flour – I used a GF flour mix I had concocted with Authentic Foods Brown Rice Flour Superfine.  The key here is to weigh your flour!
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum – my gum came from nuts.com
2 ½  teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (or 3/4 teaspoon table salt)
1 ½ cups (7 ½ ounces) fresh blueberries
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup vegetable oil – I used safflower oil
½ cup full-fat sour cream
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract – make sure your brand is GF.  I make my own.
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on muffin tops – I didn’t have any, so I just sprinkled regular sugar, but think it would have been even better with turbinado.
Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a standard size muffin tin, preferably non-stick, with nonstick spray.

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together thoroughly the sugar, flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.  Add the berries and toss to coat.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the eggs, butter, oil, sour cream, milk, and vanilla.
  3. Whisk to combine and add the lemon zest.
  4. Add to dry ingredients and fold in gently until batter is thoroughly moistened and smooth.  Let stand 5 minutes.
  5. Divide among muffin cups, filling them almost to the top. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.
  6. Bake 17 to 19 minutes until golden and muffins feel firm to the touch, rotating pan halfway through baking.
  7. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then prop the muffins on their sides in the cups to cool further. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  8. Makes 12 large muffins. These are great warm with butter.

The beautiful blueberries I picked!

The batter in the mini tins, about to be cooked in the oven.

The finished blueberry muffins!

 

Perfect!

Don’t these look heavenly?! They were moist, flavorful, and beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 In honor of my grandma, Honey

Strawberry Preserves (without pectin)

When I think of preserving, I think of my grandma, Honey!  Honey and I use to preserve every summer, and now I’ve taken it on

the book my Honey gave me

as my project.  Honey is so special to me, because she is my connection to the past, and I cherish each and every thing that she has taught me.  She also really encourages my interests, and so she special ordered me an out of print book all about preserving and canning called Fine Preserving: Jams and Jellies, Pickles and Relishes, Conserves and Chutneys and Brandied Fruits by Catherine Plagemann.  Inside the book Honey wrote:

To My Granddaughter, Annsley:
May you use this and enjoy the “fruits” of your labors for many years!
With Love,
Honey Hart

2002

Honey & Me Cooking

I used this book with love and affection towards my grandma, and adapted the strawberry preserves recipe to a bit of a more modern day standard.  I go one step beyond and always pick my own berries, too!

My daughter & me strawberry picking at Maple Acres right outside of Philadelphia
Summer 2012

Strawberry Preserves
Adapted from Fine Preserving

Just a quick note – I love this recipe, because most preserving recipes you have to do all at the same time and you have to set aside a large chunk of time to do it.  This one works in steps, and allows you plenty of time over the course of several days if you need it.

Makes 4-5 1/2 pint jars (= 8 oz.) of preserves (according to me)

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts of ripe strawberries (equivalent to 2 tall takeout containers)
  • 4 TBSP of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 cups of granulated sugar (the recipe called for 8, but 3 was plenty!!)

Cooking Supplies:
*note: You can buy store bought canning kits, but I just make do with what I have at home.

  • 1 large pot for sterilizing jars
  • 1 large and tall pot for boiling the jam
  • non-metalic bowl for mixing
  • long, shallow platter (optional)
  • wooden spoon for stirring
  • 6 1/2 pint (8 oz.) canning jars with lids and rings
  • small sauce pan for warming lids of jars
  • tongs or something of the like to remove jars from hot water, but you can also use a jar lifter
  • small metal measuring cup or ladle for pouring the jam into the jars
  • sponge for cleaning top of jars
  • several clean dish towels

So, I had never made preserves without pectin and letting it sit for several days.  This method was totally foreign to me, but came out better than all my other recipes.

According to Fine Preserving:

  1. In non-metallic bowl, gently mix together strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar.  Hands are best for this so as not to crush the berries, but I used my wooden spoon.
  2. Let mixture sit for 3 hours or so to draw out the juice.  (I love this part, because I can do other things in between.)
  3. Put the mixture in a large kettle (larger than you think because the foam rises high as it boils), and boil the mixture for about 15 minutes.  While the mixture is boiling, constantly stir it so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  After a few minutes, scum will form.  Skim off the scum.  (I use my wooden spoon for this, and I reserve the delicious tasting foam and it can be used like a simple syrup.)
  4. Pour the boiled preserves into a non-metallic bowl. (I use the same one, but just wash it.)  Cover it and let it sit for a day.  Stir it gently from time to time.  “This is the secret of making really fine-quality strawberry preserves.  The process plumps up the berries and counteracts their tendency to float to the top.”  If the jam is not thick enough, pour it into a large, shallow dish or platter and let it sit until it reaches the desired consistency.
  5. (This is where the book tells you to can and be done, but I take safety precautions so . . . )  I pour the preserves back into the large pot and bring it to a rolling boil for about 5 more minutes, so the preserves are hot.
  6. While the preserves are boiling, I put another large pot on the stove and add my glass canning jars to it (without the lids).  I fill the pot so that there are several inches above the jars, boiling them completely submerged for 10 minutes according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Environmental Science.  (If you are at an altitude of 1000 feet or more, add 1 minute of sterilizing time for each 1000 feet of altitude.)  Keep the jars in the hot water until they are ready to be filled.
  7. In a small sauce pan, I add the lids and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  DO NOT bring them to a boil; You don’t want to burn the rubber of the seals, you just want to make the rubber malleable for a good seal. Reduce heat from a simmer to keep them warm.  You DO NOT need to heat the rings.
  8. Fill the jars using the measuring cup as a pourer into the jar.  (You may use a funnel if desired).  Leave 1/4 inch of space at the top of the jar.  (I only fill one jar at a time since the preserves are still warm and then put the lid on.  Not sure if you can fill them all first or not . . .)
    Filling Jam Jars
  9. Wipe the rim of the jar off with a damp sponge to ensure the lid will seal properly.  Then put on the lid and the screw ring.

    Lid with Preserves

    Strawberry Preserves (without pectin)
  10. Return the sealed jars into a not quite boiling water bath (as long as the preserves inside the jars is still hot).  When lowering the jars into the bath, make sure that you have grabbed them below the neck of the jar and the ring band.  Do not tilt the jars, so that the seal stays intact.  Immerse the jars so that they are covered by 1-2 inches of water.   Turn up the heat to high and add the lid.
    Removing from water bath
  11. Bring to a full boil before you boil for a full 5 minutes (for pre-sterilized jars) and a full 10 minutes for jars cleaned prior to use in hot water or by a dishwasher.  Again, (if you are at an altitude of 1000 feet or more, add 1 minute of sterilizing time for each 1000 feet of altitude.)
  12. Remove jars and allow to cool on dish towel at least 1 inch apart from each other.  Allow jars to sit undisturbed for 12 – 24 hours until they cool and vacuum seals is drawn into place with a click.  DO NOT push in the lid, otherwise it will not have sealed properly.  DO NOT tighten the ring bands.
  13. Remove the ring bands and place any jars that DID NOT seal into the refrigerator and use first, or reseal them again following instructions from step #9 by removing and replacing the lid.
  14. Label and store sealed jars in a cool, dry place to enjoy for another time or give as gifts!
    Finished Canning Jars

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