In the Pits: Canning Stone Fruits

A simple tutorial for canning stone fruits in the home kitchen.

Peach canning has been known to give me conniptions, but of all the foods to can, peaches—and their stone fruit siblings—are straightforward and simple.

When buying peaches to can, choose freestone peaches such as Glohaven, Loring, Sun High. Redhaven is my all-time favorite for the ease with which they relinquish their stony hearts and for their reluctance to turn brown when cut and exposed to air.

Peaches must be fully ripe before canning. If they’re not, they’ll be pesky to pit. So once you’ve carted your peaches home, lay them out in a well-ventilated room on newspapers you’ve spread over plastic (because the peaches may ooze juice), to finish ripening. [Read more…]

Poor Girl Gourmet Cookbook Review, Peach Crostata & Giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winners: John, Kim and Ella!

This post could very well be titled My New Favorite Cookbook, but I wanted to lure you in with promises of a summery dessert recipe and a (yes, another!) giveaway.

Hang on, because I’m about to wax lyrical on another cookbook.

This on comes to me from the amazing Amy McCoy of Poor Girl Gourmet, one of my daily reads in the food blogosphere. She’s such a cool gal, and I was super excited to be asked to review her brand new cookbook, Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget.

For the record– I LOVE it!

Before I could even flip through the book, I had to beat back my little sister, who happened to be here when the cookbook arrived and attempted to make away with it

“But. But. It’s perfect for me!!” she protested when I removed it from her bag.

Indeed, it’s perfect for everyone, because who doesn’t want to eat like a gourmet, but still stay within their monthly food allowance?

Amy kick-starts the cookbook with some highly practical pointers on how to save money. Head over to Simple Bites to read 10 Tips to Help You Conserve Some Coin, an article inspired by Poor Girl Gourmet, plus get another fabulous recipe!

With the tagline ‘Eating in style on a bare-bones budget’, the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook takes us on a low-budget, high-quality food adventure. Every recipe is gorgeous, gorgeous, and makes you want to jump up and COOK.

Like this one, for example. Oh, and stick with me until the bottom for your chance to win Amy’s cookbook!!

Cornmeal Crust Peach Crostata

Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget
by Amy McCoy/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Cornmeal Crust:

  • 2¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (½ cup) very cold vegetable shortening, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ to ¾ cup ice-cold water

Peach Filling:

  • 6 medium peaches (approximately 2 pounds), halved, pitted, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
  • ¼ cup honey

For Finishing:

  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk (any kind)
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (sold as Sugar in the Raw), for dusting the crust

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt, mixing well to distribute all of these dry ingredients. Add the shortening and butter to the flour mixture, and blend until the fats are incorporated into the flour yet remain the size of peas.

2. Using a fork or pastry blender if not using a food processor, add the ice-cold water a tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together, meaning that no loose flour remains in your bowl. Form the dough into a ball. Place a piece of plastic wrap approximately 9 by 12 inches long on your work surface. Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap, and flatten it into a thick round. Cover all parts of the dough round with the plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the peaches and honey, allowing the peaches to release their juices, or macerate, for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 400°F and get out your 10 by 15-inch rimmed baking sheet.

5. On a lightly floured surface, working from the center of the dough round, roll out the dough to a misshapen rectangle approximately 10 by 15 inches. I like to do this on a piece of reusable silicone parchment, which makes the transfer of the dough to the baking sheet infinitely easier, as I also bake the crostata on this piece of parchment. You can do the same by rolling the dough out on regular parchment paper and then sliding the dough and parchment paper onto the baking sheet before filling it with the peaches.

6. Place the honeyed peaches and their accumulated juices in the middle of the misshapen dough rectangle, spreading the peaches around so that there is a 2-inch peach-free border of dough. Working from the long sides first, fold that 2-inch dough border back over the peaches, then fold the short sides’ 2-inch dough border over the peaches, tucking the corners up and over the dough to be sure all peaches at the edges are sealed in and leaving a center of exposed peaches, like a window of golden summer fruit.

7. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk and milk, and then brush the egg wash over the crust. Sprinkle the crust with the turbinado sugar, then bake until the crust is golden brown and the peaches are bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving it forth.

Estimated cost for four: $3.17.

Hungry yet?


This giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to our winner

John, Kim and Ella!

John, Kim and Ella said:

“My favorite is to buy local and in season! I’ve been trying to do this for the past year, and have loved it!
Thanks for the great post, can’t wait to get the cookbook and make the tart!

John, please contact me with your address and you will be receiving your cookbook shortly!

Thank you to ALL who entered!
* * *

OK, Amy McCoy is generously offering you a chance to WIN the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook. I strongly suggest you do not miss this chance to get your hands on this book.

Here’s what you need to do to enter this Giveaway:

1. Read 10 Ways to Conserve Some Coin over at Simple Bites.

2. Jump back here and leave a comment on this post.

3. In your comment, tell me ONE of Amy’s money-saving tips you will implement into your lives, OR one thing you already do.

4. Optional: For an extra entry, you can TWEET this giveaway. Leave a second comment, letting me know you have tweeted. Thanks!

That’s it! This giveaway is open until midnight on Friday, June 18.

Winner will be selected by and announced sometime on Saturday, June 19.

Good luck!!

Amy, thank you so much for the opportunity to get to know you a bit better and for your inspiring cookbook. You better believe that the next time I am coming through RI, I am stopping in for a cup of tea and your very own honey.

Tasting Summer in Bittman’s Bake

Being the lazy pie maker that I am, I really wanted to love Mark Bittman’s Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake; however it just wasn’t all that it was talked up to be. He can call it what he likes, but it was only reminiscent of pie and I found myself wishing I had turned those gorgeous cherries and peaches into a cobbler with a fluffy cake-like topping.

We still had no problem eating our way through it, however, as the combination of peaches and cherries was irresistible. Seriously summer baked in a dish!

I did like the rustic side of this ‘pie’ and it was a great dessert to make with little helpers, I will say that. You don’t have to worry about stray fingers poking a hole in your pie crust, if fact they can help lay the lattice pieces on top, like so.

Heh, maybe I need to give it a second chance, or maybe next time I’ll try Emily’s classic Stone Fruit Pie. Anyway, this lazy version of pie is easy, pretty quick, and may be just the thing to help you use up those fast-ripening peaches hanging around.

Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake
recipe by Mark Bittman

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into about 8 pieces, more for dish
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 pounds peaches, seeded and sliced (about 5 large)
1 cup cherries, stones in or pitted
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Heat oven to 400 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch or similar-size baking dish; set aside. ( I halved the recipe and made a 8 inch round. It was a little sparse, though.)

For pastry:
In a food processor, combine 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, the salt and 1 tablespoon sugar; pulse once or twice. Add butter and turn on machine; process until butter and flour are blended and mixture looks like coarse cornmeal, about 15 to 20 seconds. Slowly add 1/4 cup ice water through feed tube and process until just combined. Form dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate dough for up to a couple of days, or freeze it, tightly wrapped, for up to a couple of weeks.)

For filling:
Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss fruit with remaining flour, 3/4 cup sugar and lemon juice; place in baking dish.

Put dough on a floured board or countertop and sprinkle with more flour. Roll dough into a 12-inch round, adding flour and rotating and turning dough as needed. Cut dough into 3-inch-wide strips, then cut again crosswise into 4-inch-long pieces. Scatter pieces over fruit in an overlapping patchwork pattern.

4. Brush top of dough lightly with water and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Transfer to oven and bake until top is golden brown and juices bubble, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool; serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Strawberry-Peach Cobbler and a Father’s Day Gift

Apparently, after a recent cross-Canada poll, it was stated that the majority of dads want a flat screen TV for Father’s Day. I hope that’s not what Danny wanted because I got him something a little different…

See that cute black fellow on the right?
In a few weeks he’s going to be delivered to our place in brown paper packages tied up with string, namely as organic, free-range Angus beef! Yep, I got my hubby a cow for Father’s Day–all the barbecue he could ever want. How’s that for manly?

It’s been in the works for a while to split this locally raised yearling with some friends of ours; their cousin raises them on a gorgeous farm that has been in the family for generations in (very) rural Quebec. We drove out on the weekend to meet the farmer, select our calf and see where it was raised.
Gee, I wish I had this view. It was quite picturesque!

The cows were practically knee-deep in buttercups and clover. I haven’t seen Food, Inc yet, but I’m pretty sure that few beef cows have it as good as these ones.

Our little ones snacked on all the carrots intended for the cows and enjoyed the outing immensely; however, Mateo didn’t like it when they ‘mooed’. Cows can be pretty intimidating up close, especially the bull that stared us down.

We attempted the whole “…this is where hamburger comes from” talk with Noah, but abandoned it pretty fast. He’s extremely sensitive (he wept over the shorn tomato plants that were eaten by unknown creatures in our garden) and is much too young to be troubling his little head over such matters.

Zipping along Quebec’s rural roads, I kept my eyes peeled for a sign announcing ‘Fraises du Quebec‘. It wasn’t long before we found a fruit stand and treated ourselves to a basket of the season’s freshest fruit. We devoured most of them on the spot, but I managed to save a few for later. I stretched them with some fresh peaches I had sitting around and made a few of my favorite simple summer desserts. Perfect for bringing to a pot-luck!

I’m anticipating picking my own strawberries soon and the endless possibilities that await! For now, I’m perfectly content with my cobbler–and have 125 lbs of beef to look forward to in a few weeks.

Happy Summer!

Strawberry-Peach Cobbler
(adapted from Everyday Baking)

For The Filling:
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 pound peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices, and cut again in half crosswise

1/2 lb strawberries

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For the Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

1. Make the filling: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Wash and prepare fruit; you should have about 4 cups of strawberries and peaches. Add fruit to cornstarch mixture and add lemon juice; toss to combine. Divide filling evenly among four 8-ounce custard cups (or one 2-quart baking dish); transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Make the topping and bake: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk; stir just until a dough forms. Drop dough onto peaches, using about 1/3 cup dough for each custard cup. Sprinkle dough with remaining teaspoon sugar. Bake until fruit is bubbling and biscuit topping is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes; serve warm.

Rise and Shine

I’m not a person who obsesses over weight. I hate diets and diet talk, am not up to date on the latest weight-loss novelties, and most health-related jargon goes in one ear and out the other. My sister insists it’s because I don’t have to worry about my weight, but I insist right back that’s not true. Even if I hadn’t inherited my mother’s metabolism–she’s about 105 soaking wet–I would still eat whatever I wanted. Anyone who knows me can attest to my ‘cherry on top’ approach to eating. Yes, I want whipping cream on my Cafe Mocha, butter and cream cheese on my bagel, and bacon with everything.

However, as gluttonous as that sounds, I do watch what I eat, but not in a calorie-counting way. I’m not indifferent to the importance of a balanced diet. I could name you off ten ‘power foods’ in a flash (blueberries, avocado, pomegranate, tomatoes, kale…) I almost never eat fast food, stay far away from overly-processed foods and eat balanced meals prepared from scratch.

Still, I always get The Question. Sometimes it’s asked in an accusing way, sometimes wistful, sometimes puzzled, but there it is:

“Why don’t you weigh like two hundred pounds?”

People know how many sweets I consume, that I am a former chef and, yep, my world pretty much revolves around food, and they assume I should weight at least 50 lbs more than I do. How do you answer that? I never know. Sometimes I even feel apologetic, especially if the question is tinged with accusation.
“I’m sorry?”
Maybe I will say that sometime.

You know, I realize that weight is a huge (sorry, terrible pun, but I use that word for everything) issue for many people, and I don’t mean to make light of it (someone stop me already!). It’s just no fun to always have people telling you how unfair it is that you are not fat.

Now, I don’t want to offend anyone and so I will stop while I am ahead and tell you what got me going on all of this in the first place.

This month’s Saveur is entirely devoted to breakfast! Awesome.
Thumbing through it I was skeptical at first, a write up about the southern U.S. chain Waffle House? An article on McDonald’s Egg McMuffin? But I picked up a copy anyway, huge breakfast lover that I am, and was glad I did, for it transported me for a breakfast tour around the world that was most enjoyable, and supplied me with so many breakfast recipes that I wished it was Saturday every day so I could try them out.

Inspired by the issue, I decided to show you what I have for breakfast every morning. Perhaps THIS healthy start to my day has helped to keep my weight down, perhaps not.

Nope, not sugary cold cereal, not buttery Danishes, and no greasy fry-up, but oatmeal porridge is my standard breakfast five days a week. It’s not always with roasted peaches and cinnamon sugar, as pictured, but with a variety of seasonal toppings. My dining room table perpetually has a tray with plenty more add-ons for the hot cereal: wheat germ, coconut, honey, craisins, granola and whatever else suits my fancy.
The weekends are for the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes and the Raspberry Chocolate Muffins, but during the week the babies and I wake up together over stone-cut oats.

Seriously though, I grew up eating hot cereal and vowed to keep it up so that my children would also. My husband was raised on cold cereal and our pantry is stocked to meet his needs, however this is about to change. Noah is plenty old enough to realize Daddy’s Honey Nut Cheerios are more fun than his oatmeal. On the rare occasion he is up before Danny has to leave for work, one can usually find him sleepily trying to climb up on his dad’s lap for of bite of ‘cheewios’.

Ah, this is fascinating, stuff isn’t it?

OK, so if anyone is still reading, tell me, what do you eat for breakfast?