Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

If you have been following my blog for some time, then you probably know by now that I like to make all of my own jam.  In fact, I haven’t bought jam in several years.  I process and can several different kinds every summer, in hopes that it will last us until next summer!  And, we eat A LOT of jam.  I love knowing exactly what goes into the jam, rather than eating all those preservatives and goodness knows what else.  It also just tastes so much better than store bought.  I like to be able to play around with different flavors.  Definitely more exciting than the typical kinds you find in the grocery store.

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

Of all the kinds of jam I have made, this is one of my all-time favorites.  I made it last year for the first time, and couldn’t wait to make it again this summer.  Vanilla beans are a wonderful addition to anything, but combining with peaches?  Amazing!!  I love how there are little chunks of peaches in the jam.  Especially when I spread it on toast, it’s like little flavor explosions in each bite.

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

This is a no-pectin jam, but don’t let that intimidate you.  Even if you don’t cook it as long as it should, it will still taste great.  So, grab the last of the summer peaches, and make this jam.  It is well worth the effort!

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

Yield: about 6-7 half-pint jars

  • 3 pounds ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out, pods reserved
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions

In a large pot or Dutch oven, combine all ingredients (including vanilla bean pods) over medium heat.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to a simmer.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has partially caramelized and turned a dark orange color, about 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours.  To check if the jam is ready- spoon a little on a small plate.  Place in the refrigerator or freezer until cool.  Then, run your finger through the center.  If the jam separates then slowly returns to the streak, then it is ready.  Remove and discard vanilla bean pods.

Divide the jam evenly among sterilized half-pint jars and can using the water bath method. Process the jars for about 15 minutes.  Or store in sterilized jars in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. (They may last longer, but I have never experimented, so do so at your own risk.)

Source: Cook Like a Champion

Rustic Peach and Strawberry Tart

Peach and Strawberry Rustic Tart

I still can’t get over that there are so many apples on our trees already.  I am looking forward to picking/eating apples, but I am still holding on to summer fruits.  I still have a couple of peach recipes to share with you all, so bare with me!  (The next one I am going to share- you definitely don’t want to miss!)

Peach and Strawberry Rustic Tart

Believe it or not, I don’t think I have ever made a rustic tart before (also known as a galette).  Strange, I know.  I guess I just have never really seen a recipe that peaked my interest.  That is, until I saw the recipe for a peach and strawberry tart.  I had several peaches sitting on the counter that were just begging to be baked.  I had a pint of heavy cream in the refrigerator left over from something else, and a quart of strawberries.  I love it when things work out like that!  It was meant to be.

Peach and Strawberry Rustic Tart

This tart is super simple, and super delicious.   I opted to sweeten the fruit with honey instead of sugar, but you can do either! It’s even better topped with freshly whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It is a perfect treat to celebrate the dwindling days of summer.

Rustic Peach and Strawberry Tart

  • 2 ripe fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 Tablespoons honey (or sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup cold water, plus more as needed
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
  • additional sugar for sprinkling

Directions

To make the filling, mix the peaches and strawberries together in a medium bowl.  Add the honey and vanilla, tossing well to coat the fruit.  Set aside and allow the mixture to steep as you prepare the crust.

To make the crust, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse, pea-sized crumbs.  Add 1/4 cup of the cold water, stirring with a fork until completely incorporated.  Add up to 2 more tablespoons of cold water if the dough seems dry.  Gently knead the dough a few times in the bowl until it all comes together. Shape the dough into a ball and slightly flatten.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Once the dough is sufficiently chilled, preheat the oven to 425°F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle.  Transfer dough to the prepared baking sheet.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop the fruit (not the juices) into the center of the dough, leaving a 2-3 inch border all around.  Gently fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, overlapping the dough as necessary. Press gently to seal the edges. Spoon a couple tablespoons of the reserved fruit juices over the fruit.

Brush the crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

The tart is best served the day that is made, but can be kept well wrapped in the refrigerator for three days.

Source: Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Peach Pie Scones

peach pie scones

As the summer progresses, I always look forward to the certain fruits that come into season.  Berries are my favorite, but, I am slowly starting to look forward to peach season as well.  I was never a big peach fan as a kid, but as an adult, I love them!  My particular favorite thing to do with peaches is to cook them.  So, when I stumbled across a recipe for peach pie scones, I couldn’t resist.

peach pie scones

These scones are moist, flaky, buttery, sweet, and just downright delicious.  I couldn’t wait to have to these alongside my coffee for a few mornings in a row.  They are the perfect indulgence to enjoy the last of the summer flavors.  Speaking of which, I can’t believe I am already seeing pumpkin flavored drinks around and Halloween isles in the stores!  I am looking forward to comfort foods and curling up by the wood stove, but I am definitely not ready to give up fresh summer vegetables and fruits.

Peach Pie Scones

Peach Pie Scones

  • 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed and cold
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fresh peaches, diced
Vanilla glaze
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Then, cut in the butter with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream, sour cream, egg, and vanilla extract. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Gently fold in the peaches until combined.

On a well-floured surface, turn out the scone dough and pat into a small disk that’s about a 1/2″ thick. Cut into 6-8 slices, and transfer to the baking sheet. Brush each scone with just a little bit of heavy cream.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or just until golden brown. Allow to cool.

For the glaze, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream. If the glaze is too thick, continue adding in heavy cream, one 1 tablespoon at a time, until it has reached the desired consistency. Pour over warm scones and serve.
These can be stored covered in the refrigerator for 4 days.
Source: A Latte Food

Farfalle with Bacon, Toasted Corn, and Tomatoes

Pasta with toasted corn, tomatoes and bacon

I seriously can’t believe it’s September 1st today.  Where did the summer go!?  I am already looking forward to cozy sweaters and warm cups of coffee.  But, I am not really ready to move on to pumpkin and Halloween like the stores are insisting upon.  My daughter started her first day of first grade today, and my son started his first day of his last year of pre-school.  OMG!  They are are growing up way too quickly.  But, I must say, I secretly did a little mental dance in my head after my daughter got on the bus.  Isn’t that horrible?  Maybe a little selfish, but I always look forward to the times I get just with baby.  The house is actually quiet for more than 30 seconds when it’s just her and I at home…

Our tomatoes are just now turning ripe.  I must say, I am pretty excited.  I was so afraid, that after the deer snipped a lot of the tips, that the tomatoes weren’t going to produce.  Alas, they look pretty happy still!  Now that I have several different kinds of vegetables ripe in the garden, I am trying to take advantage of them to their fullest.  That means, lots of vegetable dishes.  Especially since I seem to have monstrous zucchini every time I go out the garden. I am serious.  I swear they magically grow between the morning and the evening, because I go out there usually twice a day.

Moving on.

Pasta with toasted corn, tomatoes and bacon

This pasta dish is the perfect way to enjoy fresh, in season vegetables.  Pasta and vegetables are my favorite combination.  Oh, and cheese!  That is very important.  So is bacon.  I mean really, you can’t go wrong with chopped bacon with pasta.  Chop up some fresh herbs, and you have yourself a quick and easy meal.  But definitely not lacking in flavor.  I can’t wait to make this again.

Farfalle with Bacon, Toasted Corn, and Tomatoes

Yield: about 6 servings

  • 8 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 5 ears corn, husked and kernels cut from cobs
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 pound farfalle
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat, discard the rest.  Add the corn to the skillet with the reserved fat, as well as 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Stir well and cook until spotty brown, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes and cook until slightly softened, 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt.  Cook until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Add the bacon, corn mixture, grated Parmesan, and basil.  Toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add reserved cooking water as needed to adjust consistency.  Serve immediately with extra grated Parmesan.

Source: Adapted from Pasta Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

chocolate strawberry shortcakes

Okay, I promise, this is my last strawberry post for a while.  Peaches are now in season!  I have several, very exciting recipes to share with you in the near future.  I just have to take advantage of fruit whenever it is in season.

As a child, I wasn’t a huge fan of strawberry shortcakes.  My mom, who wasn’t a huge baker, would either buy the store bought biscuits which were always dry and crumbly and stick-in-your-thoat kind, or she would make biscuits.  Those weren’t much better either, they were always not quite sweet enough and usually dry, because she always got distracted with a million other things while baking.  (A mother of four, a nurse practitioner, on a farm with many animals and large gardens- do you blame her for getting distracted!?)  So, needless to say, I wasn’t a fan.  I usually would eat the strawberries and whipped cream and maybe take a few nibbles of the biscuit.

chocolate strawberry shortcakes

As an adult, my experiences have been much better.  The more I bake, the better I can understand a recipe to know if it’s going to be decent or not.  (At least I like to think so-ha!)  I have made several different shortcake recipes that really haven’t made me jump for joy.  So, when I saw Annie’s recipe for chocolate shortcake, I couldn’t believe how genius it was!  One of those moments where the lightbulb comes on.  I made the whole batch, then froze what we didn’t use to have for future desserts.  These were rich, chocolatey, moist and perfectly sweetened.  Just the way the ideal shortcake should be.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

Yield: about 12 shortcakes

For the shortcakes

  • 1 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the strawberries

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 3-4 Tablespoons sugar
  • lemon juice

For the whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 2-3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • dash of vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together the milk, vanilla and egg.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1/2 cup of sugar together.  Add in the butter and toss to coat the butter in the dry ingredients.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two knives, until the pieces of butter are no larger than small peas.  Mix in the chopped chocolate and stir to combine.

Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and stir gently until a sticky dough forms.  Very gently knead the dough just until most of the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Be careful not to overwork the dough.

Scoop the dough in about 1/3 cup mounds onto the baking sheets, leaving a few inches in between.  Gently pat the mounds to about 1-inch thickness.  Sprinkle the tops with sugar.  Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the shortcakes are puff and give just slightly when lightly pressed, about 15-18 minutes total.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the strawberries, combine the berries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl.  Toss well to coat the berries with the sugar and let macerate at least 30-60 minutes.  If desired, mash lightly with a fork.

Just before serving, make the whipped cream.  Place the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on high speed until medium-stiff peaks form, being careful not to overbeat.

To serve, split each shortcake horizontally.  Top the bottom half of each shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream, spoon some of the berry mixture over the top, and replace the top half of the shortcake.  Serve immediately.

Strawberry Jam

strawberry jam

I am sorry that this has taken me so long to share this recipe.  I hope, that since it has been so long, that you are still able to find some local, fresh strawberries to make this jam.  But, if you are not able to, the imported kind will suffice.  But, definitely use local if you can, it will yield a much better taste!

Anyway, this jam is killer.  It is sweet, and just bursting with strawberry flavor.  As you all probably know by now, we eat a lot of jam.  Mostly in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that are consumed daily by the boys in the family.  My favorite way to enjoy homemade jam, is on a buttered piece of toasted homemade bread.  With a cup of coffee alongside.  Perfection at its’ simplest.

strawberry jam

On a completely different note, I am super excited to share with you that we are slowly changing the kitchen.  I finally painted over the hideous yellow with white.  It feels so fresh and crisp and like a whole new room now!  I was recently so generously given a gorgeous, large piece of granite on a metal table for my island which makes a HUGE difference.  I have been baking nonstop for the last two days just because I’ve been so excited to use the table.  Next up, is painting the cabinets!  That, and installing a dishwasher, because washing dishes for the amount I cook and for 5 people is just not fun.  Also, I want to take down a single awkward cabinet and put up a few open shelves for all the dishes we use.  I can’t wait!! I promise to share a few photos when I am done with the painting.  (Can you tell I am excited or what?)

Strawberry Jam

Yield: about 8 half-pints

  • 2 quarts strawberries, hulled and washed
  • 1 package powdered pectin
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 7 cups sugar

Directions

Place strawberries in a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Crush with a potato masher until there are no large pieces remaining.  Stir in pectin and lemon juice and place over medium-high heat.  Bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally.  Add sugar and stir until completely dissolved.  Return to a rolling boil and let boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner, or refrigerate for 1-2 months.

Source: Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

Summer Life and a Visit with Annie and Tara

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Please excuse my prolonged absence.  Things have been a little busy here.  A good busy, but busy.  It’s amazing how you can get caught up in the summer whirlwind of activities. My oldest just completed two weeks of her first, real summer camp.  (The same one I went to as a kid!)  She absolutely loved it, but it was always a rush, twice a day, to drive the 10-15 minutes to get to the bus on time.  But, it was well worth the time!

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We have been soaking up the beautiful weather to the maximum, working in the gardens, playing at the beach, and taking walks.  Summer is good!  And baby has started walking!  She has taken off running and is very happy about it.  Also, going out to dinner with an old childhood friend of mine that moved away when we were still children, was a definite highlight.  We only get to see each other about once a year when she generously makes the long trek to Maine to see old friends.  I always look forward to her visits! It’s hard to believe that school starts in a matter of weeks.  That will be a bittersweet event!

One of the highlights of my summer was meeting and befriending two fellow bloggers that I have been following for several years.  Annie and Tara were both vacationing at the same time on Mt. Desert Island.  We agreed to all meet for dinner in Bar Harbor (sans kids for me) at a cute little restaurant named Havana.  We all spent the evening getting to know one another, chatting, eating and having a good time.  (Caroline and I had an intense conversation about our cats, it was very sweet.)  Since this is a food blog, I have to share what I ate!  I had their empanadas which definitely brought back memories from my time in Nicaragua as a teenager.  And for dessert, I had their affogato.  For some strange reason, that was my first time having it, and it was delish!  Definitely something I will be ordering again in the future!

Two evenings later, Annie and family, generously invited the kids and I to their rental place for a lobster boil dinner.  (And no, I didn’t provide the lobsters, but I did provide goat cheese from the farm down the road from our house and local bread!)  Our kids played together and spent time picking blueberries while we cooked and chatted in the kitchen.  The kids all wanted to participate in cooking the lobsters, of course.  And, they occasionally came in to not-so-sneakily steal a deviled egg.  It was another lovely evening!

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My husband I had invited everyone to go for a little boat ride on his lobster boat, and haul a few traps to show them how lobsters are caught.  It was THE perfect evening.  I mean seriously.  The water was like glass, the sun was setting, which made the colors beautiful, all the kids were so excited and had a blast, and Tara made amazing bars to accompany the boat ride.  We even found some seals!  My husband showed the basics of the trap, the rules about what lobsters you can and cannot catch- pretty much all of the basics.  It was fabulous.  Except when my kids had hit their limit and may or may not have had a total melt down as soon as they got off the boat.  I managed to get them into the car in one piece with only a few bite marks.  Ha! Ah, children…

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To finish the week of their vacation, Tara and her husband invited us all to their rental place for brunch.  They both cooked a wonderful breakfast, which we all enjoyed in the brilliant sunshine on their little deck.  It was wonderful way to finish up the lovely week we all had together.  They were all sweet and incredibly generous to squeeze me into the vacation plans!  I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know everyone.

(Please excuse the fact that all my pictures were taken with my iPhone because I was foolish and forgot my camera… Who does that!?)