It’s the last day of school.
Let me say that again.
IT’S THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!
While I love EVERY bit of teaching my kids, every teacher needs a break at some point, right?
It’s summertime. Can you believe it?
Here in San Diego, God has been showering my garden with sunshine-y goodness and I’ve been soaking it all in. I am so thankful to have a few sweet little strawberry patches, a large boysenberry ‘wall’, and a few blueberry and golden raspberry plants to round out our little backyard homestead of berries. I have learned so much about gardening the past several years. The more plants I grow, the more I want other people to experience the thrill of seeing God’s amazing creation, growing before their eyes. If you’ve been thinking of gardening in even a small part of your yard, check these out:
These books make it super easy to find a growing style that works for you and your size of yard. Like any process, gardening is about organization and planning. The seeds pretty much cooperate with any conditions as long as they have sun, water, and food (by way of awesome soil). It’s easier than you think!
Summertime means jam to me and LOTS of it. One of my favorite smells on the entire planet is that of strawberry jam cooking on a slow summer day. There is usually music playing and I try to have friends around whenever possible. Friends make the time pass by quickly and they usually get to take some of the goods home!
Jam is also a great thing to share with…well…anyone. It can be a hostess gift, thank you present, get-well gesture, teacher’s gift, or can be shared with those neighbors you’ve been meaning to introduce yourself to for the last year.
Here’s how I make my lavender strawberry jam…
Lavender Strawberry Jam
(sources: many different recipes combined over many years of good and bad jam)
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. Pomona’s Universal Pectin (found online or at natural food stores like Whole Foods)
8 cups strawberries, hulled and cleaned
2 tsp. calcium water (from the Pomona’s box)
1/2 c. lemon juice, fresh squeezed
3 tsp. dried lavender blossoms, chopped
1. Start by boiling some water in a large pot for sterilizing your jam jars, if you’re using them. Place another pot on the stove for your lids. When the water is boiled, you will add as much water as needed to cover the lids and rings. They are sterilized separately because placing them in boiling water can melt the rubber on the lid, which is needed to seal the jar.
2. Mix the sugar and pectin in a bowl and set aside for later.
3. Crush the strawberries until you are happy with them. I like mine with a few chunks so squish yours a lot if you prefer your jam smoother. This is a GREAT thing to have kids help with. They love it!
4. Bring the strawberries to a boil, then add the lemon juice and calcium water.
5. Gradually stir the pectin and sugar mixture in with the strawberries, until combined. Add the dried lavender. Return to a boil and stir frequently so it doesn’t burn.
7. While it’s returning to a boil, lay out 1 towel for your hot jars to lay on and 1 towel for the completed jars to sit on.
8. Skim the foam, if it is present (trust me, you have to do this or it will leave a funky looking white layer on the top of your jam which resembles mold. I may or may not know that from experience). Remove sterilized jars from the water with tongs and place them on the towel. Keep water boiling.
9. Carefully fill the jars until there is a 1/4 space between the jam and the top (that space is called ‘headspace’ in the jam world :)). Wipe around the rim of the glass with a clean rag or paper towel. Use the tongs to place the lid on top and then used your fingers to screw the outer rings on. Not too tight, just finger tight.
10. Place the filled jars back in the boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove and place on the towel. In an hour, tap the lids to make sure they are tight and don’t press in. If the lids do pop in and out, then immediately place those jars in the fridge. They are still good to eat. Let the others sit still for a day and then they are ready to hand out to friends and family or store away for the winter!
For some cute canning jar labels check out the link below:
Stick around and find us on:
Forgive me, I am about to go off about Downton Abbey again so hang with me if this bores you because either way, there is a drink recipe at the end.
We all know I am obsessed with Downton Abbey, like the rest of the world, it seems. I find inspiration from that time period everywhere and this time I found it in my cocktail. A month before Christmas, I threw some vodka in a few jars of oranges. It was supposed to be a Christmas present for my sister but I clearly didn’t make it in time if I thought a miracle would turn it to liqueur in time. So, I kinda forgot about it until I was suddenly craving a “Sidecar”. This lovely drink was brought about in France during/after WWI because of the 2 available liquors, Cointreau and Cognac. It apparently floated over to the U.S. during a not so convenient time, Prohibition. Today it is ever so popular because of the increasingly fascinating speakeasy establishments of today which I am kinda obsessed with right now. Obviously, purchasing alcohol is not illegal anymore and we are not threatened with imprisonment, but it’s still super-fun to be in a place that is secret or exclusive in some way, don’t you think?
I enjoy a good handcrafted cocktail, especially on the weekends when I have a chance to wind down from teaching school, managing a household, and just the running around that comes with the average week. The cleaning and the cooking always stay but that’s just the way it is. We have to eat and I prefer to have it clean around here anyway. All that to say, it’s nice to have something to relax you for the weekend or during the weekend.
For the Sidecar:
For the classic sidecar cocktail, there are supposed to be equal parts orange liqueur, cognac, and lemon juice. I made it three different ways and picked my favorite. Equal parts left too much sour lemon flavor for my taste. Cognac is often swapped for Brandy or even Bourbon. Even though I love Bourbon, I actually prefer Brandy or Cognac in mine because I think it balances better with the lemon.
In the end, I chose this combo:
1 part orange liqueur (as made below or Cointreau)
1 part Cognac
1/2 part lemon juice
Shake on ice and pour over ice.
(note: If you are planning on making this as a gift, start it about 12 weeks before you want to give it away)
4 c. vodka
4 oranges, cleaned and the sweeter the better
Simply slice all of the oranges and put them in a lidded jar with 4 c. of vodka. Place it in a cool place for at least 2 weeks (mine was a month). Then strain the pieces out and store for another few weeks. Now it’s ready to be sweetened…
1 Part water
1 part sugar
4 parts orange flavored vodka
Dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat. Cool. Now, add the simple syrup (sugar+water) to the orange vodka until it tastes the way you want it too (I use all of it:)). Put the resulting liquid in a jar and leave in a dark place for at least 6 weeks. You can find jars like mine for gifting at The Container Store.
Be sure to share with a friend…it’s always better that way.
Has anyone made it before?
What’s your favorite drink to mix it in?
I get asked A LOT about some easy and quick meal ideas. Those two words mean something different to each person because there is no way I could cook you the dinner you might be picturing in the time it takes you to go through a drive-thru. However, clearly if you read my blog you probably cook some, right? So, I thought I’d show you a snapshot of some of my “quickie” meals and snacks over the last couple weeks.
All of the above pictures were taken on instagram…just a quick snap before we ate of the deliciousness.
If you’d like to keep up with these little food snippets:
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(from top right row across)
Back in the very very beginning of my time of writing posts here, I made vanilla extract. It was a wonderful experience. No, I’m not weird for thinking that. The reason it was so wonderful was because it was SO easy. I love replacing things that I buy at the store with homemade versions, but even more than that, I love it when they are EASY projects. I do have to warn you that you will probably never buy it again if you make it. That’s probably exciting for some of you, but there are others of you who will be doubtful of it. If you were a vanilla snob already and are used to forking over $19 for the big Nielsen-Massey vanilla bottle (although my mom has given some to me in the past that she found cheap somewhere…thanks, mom). If that is you, this will definitely save you some big bucks. If you typically buy the grocery store brand of vanilla that is “imitation” and usually doesn’t contain alcohol, this will not save you money. You should still make it, though, since that imitation stuff is pretty yucky.
The only ingredients are:
Vanilla Beans (2 for every 1/4 c. vodka) & vodka
I followed this site again in their recommended ratio of beans to vodka.
Before you start, sterilize the jars in boiling water for 8 minutes. Erica is doing an awesome job showcasing this :).
1. First scrape the beans. If you slice the bean down the middle without going through the bottom layer, you can peel it open and get a good, clean scrape.
2. After a the seeds (called caviar…love that!) are removed, cut the beans in about 1 inch pieces. They will not float to the top if they are smaller pieces.
3. Measure your liquid space in the jar by using water first. Once you know how much liquid you need, you will know how many beans to use. For example, I used a cup of vodka in my jars, so I placed 8 beans inside.
4. At first the bottles will just look murky, but as you shake them every day, the fluid will get darker. For the first few days, shake them a few times a day. After that, shake them once a day for 2 weeks. Then, you can shake them only when you think of it.
After 6 months, you can strain the extract. I’ve kept mine in for a year, but I’ve heard the beans go bad after a while. You can also put new beans back in the bottles if you like.
I am aching to make something I tried today at WhiskandLadle. We went to the Scripps La Jolla Aquarium and then over to WhiskandLadle for brunch. To start, I had a piece of butterscotch banana bread with dulce de leche. Yes, it was as good as it sounds and was a perfect comfort food since I wasn’t feeling really great. I really want to make it and this vanilla extract will be perfect in both the banana bread and the dulce de leche.
Now, for some vanilla extract labels…
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