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Giftable Granola

December 20, 2012

Giftable Granola from My Pantry ShelfGranola is a hot item in our house these days. Though its name may be the butt of jokes in some circles, granola deserves credit for being not only full of healthy whole foods, but also incredibly tasty. Perhaps if Santa had to choose, granola might end up on the nice AND the naughty list.

Giftable Granola is my favorite granola recipe. It is sweet with a touch of salt and packs an endearing crunch. It tempts as a mid-day snack and turns a bowl of fruit and yogurt into a great morning. The recipe is incredibly flexible, so feel free to add your own favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. The granola keeps for weeks in a sealed container, but not at our house. This batch is mostly being bagged up and given to friends, an antidote to the ever-present indulgence that is December. Make a batch of this now for gifts, or save the recipe as a kick-off to your New Year’s resolution. I think you will love it.

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Habañero Pepper Jelly

October 27, 2012

The rains came this week and called the official end to summer.  The cool weather came a bit late if you ask me, our sweaters and socks, not to mention our umbrellas, were looking mighty lonely. We picked our last lug of peppers just in time, hauling in a respectable bounty before the soaking.  Our pepper plants have nearly given us more peppers than we know what to do with, or than we would know if we were not busy making all sorts of yummy pepper dishes every few days.  There was no question of how to prepare this last harvest of peppers.  For the last year there has been a habañero pepper-sized hole on my pantry shelf (and in my heart- sigh).  Before you jump to judgement and label me as a dramatic preserved foodaphile, let me explain.  I started making a version of this jelly years ago.  In the early days of our relationship, my husband and I would make whole meals out of Swedish crisp bread topped with cream cheese and pepper jelly.  It was so good, we dubbed it “THE snack”.  It became a staple in our pantry and our diet.  For some reason, I never got around to making it last summer, so there was sweet relief in filling the pantry void with this jeweled treat.

Sweet, tart, and spicy, Habañero Pepper Jelly is nearly irresistible.  Habañero peppers have a robust flavor that infuses the jelly, but they are very spicy.  For this batch, I used a combination of semi-hot Hungarian wax peppers and a handful of habañeros.  There is a serious kick.  More often I pair the spicy habañeros with sweet bell peppers.  Of course, you can add whichever kinds of peppers you wish.  Not a fan of the heat?  It is fine to use only sweet peppers.  The only guideline is to try to use peppers that are in the same color range.  I once tried to use green, yellow, and red peppers and the result was a murky brown jelly.  Serve this jelly with a cheese course (great with goat cheese, brie, or cream cheese- a sharp cheddar is good too).  The jelly adds a serious kick to a simple grilled cheese or spread it on a turkey sandwich.  Come to think of it, this would be a wonderful hostess gift for Thanksgiving.  This recipe is all the reason you need to run out to the Farmers’ Market today to snatch up the last of the fall peppers.  You will not be disappointed.

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I am back.  This last month I took an unexpected, but much needed break from many of the details of my life, including keeping My Pantry Shelf full of new pictures and recipes.  After many anxious months, I finally had my chance at desperately needed back surgery.  The weeks that followed proved that I am not very good at resting (big surprise).  Luckily my incredibly generous and talented friends stepped in to make sure that my family and I were eating in style.  They dropped off pot pies and meatloafs, quiches and casseroles, salads and a notable tub of pad thai from my friend at Make Room.  It felt so indulgent to lie around while others fed me, but I could not be more grateful for the support.  The flip side of course was that I was hardly cooking at all and certainly nothing “blog-worthy”.  Then we took off for a couple of weeks of true rejuvenation in the best place on earth (no- not Disneyland, how could that be rejuvenating?).  Now I am back.  Back to my energetic, pain-free, and most importantly happy self.  It is good to be me…again. Read the rest of this entry »

School has been out for two weeks now, the sun is blazing, and the canning pot has reasserted its dominance on my stove top.  Hello summer!  Canning is usually a solitary sport for me, squeezed in the early hours of the morning or late at night when the kids have finally succumbed to sleep.  While the bubbling caldron of jam is still a bit much for my youngsters, they are quite capable of helping me to process the fruit.  My son found the cherry pitter to be quite a lot of fun and was thrilled when I handed him the knife to cut the cherries.  Who needs summer camp when you can enlist your kids in practical life skills at home?  (Of course, give me a few weeks and I may be screaming for them to go to any sort of camp that will take them!)

Cherry Rhubarb Jam is a delightful balance of sweet and tart with a rich background note of vanilla.  The color is absolutely divine.   This is my second attempt at this type of jam and it is an absolute hit.  There is a relatively small amount of sugar added.  Cherries are so naturally sweet that it is very easy to over-sweeten them. The fruit macerates for an extended time before cooking.  This reduces the overall cooking time, since the fruit has already given up its juice.  Shorter cooking times mean fresher tasting jam and more vibrant colors.  This jam is sure to a new June tradition in our house. Absolutely delicious!

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The holidays are upon us.  Anticipating a busy couple of weeks, we have transformed our home into a full-fledged  Christmas scene.  The tree is up, Santa Lucia is perched on the buffet, and the winter mugs in the morning coffee rotation.  While trying to convince the over-eager children that it is too early to start hanging ornaments on the advent calendar (whose idea was it anyway to decorate for Christmas in November?), we have been brainstorming ideas for edible holiday gifts.

I love making edible gifts for just about any occasion. Cooking for others is a way to treat those we appreciate with a delicious treat and share a bit of ourselves in the process.  It is best to plan ahead and start cooking early so that the making and giving does not become a stressful burden.  Riding the food hangover following Thanksgiving, our first foodie gift to make was Cranberry Cashew Granola Bars.

These granola bars are just sweet enough to count as a treat, but full of wholesome ingredients so they are also right at home in your little one’s school lunch bag.  The bars hold together pretty well, better than other granola bars I have tried.  Any crumbly bits taste tremendous sprinkled atop yogurt and fruit for breakfast.  Feel free to change up the types of nuts and dried fruit, just be sure to use equal quantities.  If you are using roasted nuts or toasted wheat germ, do not toast them again in the oven, instead add those items to the bowl with the cranberries.

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Banana-Lovers’ Muffins

October 1, 2011

The other day when a friend offered me a whole tub of over-ripened bananas, I knew immediately what to do with them.  For a couple of years, I have been eying this recipe for banana muffins.  We enjoy banana bread fairly often, but I rarely have the 5 ripe bananas this recipe requires to dedicate to baking. This was a perfect opportunity.

These truly are Banana-Lovers’ Muffins.  With a base of five whipped  bananas and only the simplest of ingredients (flour, butter, salt, baking soda), these muffins sing of bananas.  The effect is quite different from the standard banana bread that is more bread than banana.  The bananas also lend an incredibly creamy quality to the texture of the muffin.  Indeed, though creamy is admittedly a strange descriptor for muffins, it is absolutely apt here. These muffins are moist without being dense making it easy to take down more than one with the morning coffee.

Banana-Lovers’ Muffins is adapted from a recipe from the Kona Inn.  The only thing I changed was to reduce the sugar by half.  I am not a fan of super sweet morning food.  To our family they still seemed plenty sweet with the reduced added sugar and the natural sweetness from the bananas.  We will definitely make these again.

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The peaches have been calling me this summer.  On my last trip to the farmers’ market, I gleefully strode away with a huge box mounded high with beautiful peaches and nectarines.  Fortunately, this coincided with an almost unprecedented two free days without the kiddos.  Oh, how productive this mama can be when the children are away!

There were enough peaches to make a few different types of products.  It was hard to resist making the Perfect Peach Cake (it really is soooo good), but I did.  Instead a made a batch of pie filling inspired by this recipe from Mrs. Wheelbarrow.  A few pounds went to making a puree for peach ice cream (still working out the kinks on that recipe).  With the bulk of the peaches I made one of my favorite pantry items, Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam.

This jam is special.  Sweet white peaches, earthy rosemary, and just a hint of spice from the cracked pepper, the combination is delightful.  I serve it with cheese such as brie or chevre.  It is a definite crowd pleaser and an excellent hostess or holiday gift.

Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam

adapted from Martha Stewart

makes 5 half-pints

3 pounds white peaches (you can use yellow, but I prefer the white varieties for this jam)

1/3 cup lemon juice

3 cups sugar

4 large sprigs rosemary

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Peel and pit the peaches. (Very ripe peaches are very easy to peel with a knife.  If your peaches do not peel easily, they are probably not ripe enough.  If you must make the jam without allowing them to ripen further, you can boil them for one minute, then plunge into cold water to loosen the skin.)

Slice the peaches into 1/2 inch slices.  Place peaches in a large bowl, add lemon juice, sugar, rosemary, and pepper.  Cover and let stand for 4 hours.  Stir every hour to incorporate the sugar.

Transfer peach mixture to a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook for 15 minutes, until mixture is syrupy.  Lightly mash the mixture to break down peach slices, leave 1/3 of wedges intact.  Discard rosemary sprigs (you can fish out the individual rosemary leaves if you want, but I leave some in for color and interest.)

Ladle jam into hot sterile jars.  Leave a 1/2 inch head-space. Top with a new lid and band. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes for half-pint jars.  See Home Canning Basics for more information about the canning process.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe:  Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam

You may also like:

Perfect Peach Cake

Mango Cranberry Chutney

Caramelized Onion Relish

Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam on Punk Domestics
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