31 August 2011

Plum overloaded

This morning I sliced and de-seeded about 20 plums. The last of our stash of roughly 20 pounds. That's a lot of plums. They arrived at my door by way of my friend Christiane. She was gifted 30 pounds of fruit and a ton of generosity.

The sliced Italian Plums, also called prune plums, were headed for the dehydrator. As Seth put on his bike helmet and gloves, getting ready to head out for work, he said, "It's like you're a squirrel getting ready for winter."

Exactly. That's what preserving food is about. Delicious berries? Not around come December. But sweet jams take their place. And there's the pickling and the flavored vinegars and the sauces and chutneys. So much goodness, it's going to be hard for winter to dampen my craving for summer foods.

So, those plums? Well, after I, too, gave away a generous amount to neighbors, I got to making a Chinese Plum Sauce. It was so delicious and simple. I canned mine, but this recipe would be just fine eating fresh. Get to it now, while the plums are ripe and ready. It's from Sherri Brooks Vinton's book "Put 'em Up!" This book offers some great ideas for preserving, and I love how it's organized by fruit or veggie. It goes well beyond jams and ice box pickles.

We slathered grilled chicken in this sauce and ate it atop brown rice and grilled summer squash. Nothing to complain about there, but the options are endless. It would be a delicious dipping sauce for just about any roasted veggie, spring rolls, chicken, pork, noodles and even sandwiches. And if my picky eater liked it, I'm going to call it kid friendly for the masses.

Chinese Plum Sauce
from "Put 'em Up!" by Sherri Brooks Vinton

2 pounds of plums, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

2 garlic cloves
1 star anise

Combine the plums, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and star anise in a large nonreactive pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Fish out the star anise and discard. Puree the sauce with a stick blender. Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. OR Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Notes: I chopped the plums by lightly pulsing the food processor. Then, I dumped almost all of them out and added the lightly chopped ginger and garlic. Then, I pulsed more to chop those more finely. I used anise seeds and made a sachet from cheesecloth for them and fished that out after cooking.

24 August 2011

Giving in and getting lunch

We are waging a battle of control around my house. It's me versus a nearly 3-year-old. And some days, he is on top of his game. But who gets the upper hand is a constant struggle because the decision-making just doesn't stop when you're a toddler.

Can you throw your rock collection down from the top of the stairs? Of course not. Is it OK to jump on the couch? Depends on Mom's mood. Is picking your little brother up in a headlock OK? Not a chance. Can you pee on my leg? Um, no. Will Mom feed a baby doll breakfast, too? You bet.

See what I mean about the battle? This is his response when I say, "Look at the camera."

That last one is so tough for me to say no to even though it means another three minutes before I get to sit down and eat my own breakfast. I'm always the last at the table anyways, so what's it going to hurt to pull out another plate, cup, spoon, bowl and do NOT forget the napkin?

When I was Jasper's age, I had an imaginary friend named Lucy. And she truly looked like Lucy, the Peanuts character. Yep, she was a cartoon, which is perfectly acceptable given her imaginary state. I know, it's not that unusual for kids to have a vivid imagination, but to what extent the parents play along is the bigger question. My parents went all the way, or out of their way may be the better way to say it. They stopped our car in front of the same stranger's house daily and honked the horn. Then, we'd all sit in the car and wait for Lucy to hop in.

I think I turned out all right, my own neurosis aside. And so will my little guy.

Here's a nice nibble for mom that comes from most of the same ingredients you can make a kiddo lunch from.

This pic isn't that great, but you get the idea. The kiddo spilled a full cup of milk while I was taking this.

Mom's Quick Sammie

Sliced bread, preferably a crusty loaf
Grainy mustard
Apples, thinly sliced
Cheese, try sharp cheddar, Swiss or Gruyere
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up. Mix roughly equal parts mustard and honey in a small dish and spread onto one side of the bread. Put the bread on the baking sheet. Place the apple slices on the bread next. Top with cheese. Pop under the broiler until the cheese is slightly browned and bubbly. Remove and cool for a couple of minutes. Top with salt and pepper and serve.

18 August 2011

My 3-year-old could do this

If there is no one in your house who would think this looks like a perfect meal, please, go to Fandango, buy tickets to see a documentary and hit the wine bar before the show. You are clearly too cool for me or for these cut up hot dogs in corn bread.

I'm a big fan of anything that makes my life easier. I've also become a fan of picture books. My oldest is now able to look at the pictures and tell me the story. We read him "The Poky Little Puppy" for bedtime last night. It's a Golden Book I remember from my own childhood. In my mature age, the story just seems drawn out in a way that can only mean one thing: No one edits those books.

The pictures were good enough cues, though, for Jasper to retell it this morning while I made mini corn dog muffins. Here's to hoping I can tell a story, or a recipe, through (mostly) pictures.

I cut eight hot dogs into six equal pieces each to make 48 mini muffins.

I made my usual cornbread batter. Any recipe would work. Mine typically makes a 9x9 pan of bread, and it was enough batter for four dozen mini muffins. If you need a good recipe, try this one.

Fill greased mini muffin tins about 1/3 full. Place a hot dog slice in the center of each. Bake at the temperature your recipe directs, but the time will be far less. Mine took about five or six minutes to bake.

Let them cool in the muffin tins for a few minutes, then gently remove and place on a wire rack for further cooling, or serve immediately. After cooling, I transferred this rack straight to the freezer. Once frozen, I tossed them all in an airtight bag. Reheated for about 5 minutes in a 350 degree oven.