In My Life, I've Loved Them All

Playing in the Kitchen: My 1st Beer Jelly

So I’ve recently taken an interest in canning.  And when you 1st start out, Jams and Jellies are the way to go.  So far I’ve been able to can a Triple Berry Jam and a Peach Jam… so Beer Jelly is the next logical step.  Well, at least for me it is!

I decided to use one of my favorite Seasonal Beers, Saint Arnold Oktoberfest, for the experiment.  After scouring the Internet, I couldn’t really find an “official recipe.”  Beer Jelly is not too traditional.  But I did come across a lot of helpful tips.  Like “Use flat beer” and “Use a BIG pot.”  I was also reminded to add some acid so the jelly would set and not just make a thick syrup.  I decided to use apple cider vinegar (because apples remind me of Fall).

Beer Jelly ingredients

I poured 2 bottles of beer in a pitcher and left it in the fridge over night.  This seemingly flat beer still boiled up like CRAZY… something that I am sure home brewers are accustomed to.  But after the hard boil and some stirring, I was able to reduce almost all of the foam away.  The remaining jelly-foam was skimmed off and put in a tupperware for me to enjoy later!

Sadly, in my haste to get the jars in the canner pot (aka the stock pot usually just used for spaghetti),  I don’t think I screwed all of the rings on tight enough.  I should have burnt my hands just a little to make sure the were all on tight.  Oh dear.  The waterbath looks a little like one may have leaked a bit.  But looking at the jars, I cannot tell which one did.

Also, even after the jars came out of the waterbath, a couple still looked like they were releasing carbonation bubbles.  Is that right?  I don’t know.  There are no hard and fast Beer Jelly rules.  I need to wait 24 hrs to see if the jars will stay sealed properly.  At any rate, I don’t know if I’d give a jar to anyone as a gift… unless they are prepared for it to be a prototype/beta version of what I think could be something really great.

LUCKILY there was enough extra jelly at the bottom of the pot to taste test!  Paula Deen used to say “The profits are in the corners.”  Taking a heatproof spatula and scraping the sides of the pot (and the ladle) actually turned up quite a bit of jelly.   Not enough for a whole jar, but enough to save in the fridge for later!  I had several samples.

Oktoberfest Beer Jelly

Verdict:  The jelly is sweet, and still tastes like beer.  Totally edible!  I bet it would go great with pretzels, or as a glaze for chicken wings.

And I am fairly certain all of the alcohol didn’t burn off.  An adults only snack?

Be warned, making Jam and Jelly makes a stick mess all over your kitchen.  But, I think it’s all worth it.

Beer Jelly UPDATE here


My Beer Jelly Proportions:
2 12oz Bottles of Beer (flat)
1 Tbl Apple Cider Vinegar
1 box Pectin
3 1/2 Cups Sugar
Follow traditional jelly making instructions, process in waterbath for 10 minutes.

These are the webpages I found helpful/convinced me to try a beer jelly: (basic Recipe) (advice for using a flat beer and a WARNING that making jam from a carbonated beverage may be tricky) (advice for adding lemon juice or cider vinegar)
Darcie gave me some good Beer Jelly Advice via Facebook. (answer to the bubble & loss of liquid question (another answer to the loss of liquid question)

Playing in the Kitchen: My Favorite Bruschetta

If you’re lucky, summertime means fresh tomatoes from the garden!  If you don’t have a garden/green thumb, maybe you have family or neighbors who do.  Your local Farmers Market is probably bursting at the seams with tomatoes, too.

I’m a little finicky and don’t really like biting into a tomato like and apple… I like to peel and remove the inside seeds/gook first.  But after that… oh the possibilities!  Chunks of fresh tomato are great for sauces, soups, and pico de gallo.  But the snack that truely turned me into a fresh-tomato fan: Bruschetta!


Tomato Bruchetta made with Sweet Aussie Basil

I love making this because
1. It’s delicious
2. I already own the other ingredients needed
3. I love toast too
4.  You make it in advance, and just pull it out of the fridge when needed.  Grab-And-Go!
5. It’s “fancy” enough to serve to guests, and particularly great for parties because of reason #4

Each time I’ve made this, I’ve used a different type of basil.  Mainly because it was the basil my family had growing at that particular moment.  Sweet Italian is the basil most people think of when cooking (thanks to Food TV).  But I’ve had just as much success with Sweet Aussie Basil (developed in Austin, TX) and Cinnamon Basil (don’t let the name deter you; it works great!).

There are no hard and fast rules for bruschetta, but here’s the recipe I’ve has the greatest success with.  It tastes good on little toasts (recipe at the end of this post).  But if you don’t have a baguette handy, it’s delicious on Triscut Crackers or grilled chicken!


Tomato Basil Bruschetta

2 cups of chopped tomatoes (how many tomatoes is that?!)
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
Pinch of sugar
1-2 teaspoons of Balsamic (or red wine) vinegar
Koser Salt
Black Pepper

Combine above ingredients in a re-sealable container.  If not eating right away, put the mixture in the refrigerator. I make some in the morning, and pull it out of the fridge for dinner time, and it looks/tastes just fine. Making a batch 2-3 days ahead is just fine too (mare time to marinate & flavors will combine)

Crostini (Little Toasts)
1 baguette (Long skinny loaf of french bread)
olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the bread at an angle into slices about ½-inch-thick. You don’t have to be exact, just make sure the slices are roughly the same size.
Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil.
Spread out on a baking sheet and sprinkle each slice with salt. (Salt on toast- something I picked up from the chefs at work)
Bake for about 10 minutes, until lightly toasted.
Congratulations, you have essentially just made a really big crouton.


Throwback Thursday: Classic Blueberry Muffins

Throwback Thursday!?
“...You were photographing your food before photographing your food was cool.” Hearing my friend say this makes me feel much less dweeby about taking pictures of the food I make.

Simple Blueberry Muffins

Here are some Blueberry Muffins I made (and photographed) back in MARCH 2005.
Back then I was still living on the East Coast, working in NYC, with not much knowledge of how to cook food.
I’ve come a long way since then!

**Technically, I have always been a baker… and it wasn’t until 2005 that I started learning how to cook dinner/entree type food.

Sadly I am not 100% sure what the recipe for these are. I think they are from my Family Cookbook, specifically my childhood-best-friend’s mom’s Blueberry Muffins.

I guess I’ll just have to make another batch and see if they turn out looking the same (or better)!

Playing in the Kitchen: Toasted Coconut Pecan Treats

Crispy treats seem to be the name of the game this week. First I see Jeff make some goo-balls on Chopped All Stars ... then Bakerella posts her version hours later, which were inspired by these treats at Smitten Kitchen.

They have reminded me of the cereal treats I made for edible gifts last Christmas (especially since the Chopped basket had marshmallows and coconut for mystery ingredients).

Behold! Toasted Coconut Pecan Treats!
The 1st batch was shipped to my sister & her boyfriend.
The 2nd batch went to my co-worker… she said her family ate them for breakfast!


Coconut Pecan Treats

I was initially inspired by a Martha Stewart Recipe, wanting to make something unique as a Christmas gift for my sister’s Boyfriend. He loves coconut, but my sister does not. So a dessert with coconut is quite an occasion. The tweaks I made to the Martha version seemed very sensible.

The 1st batch was pretty good, but I knew it could be better. So, I adjusted the proportions a bit, and DIPPED THEM IN CHOCOLATE. This new version went to my coworker, and her family was very pleased!

Coconut Pecan Cereal Bars
Here is the updated (dare I say BETTER) recipe for you to try. Your life will be a lot easier if you use a kitchen scale to weigh out your ingredients. You don’t have to weigh everything… it is just that ingredients like pecans and cornflakes can be hard to measure with the scoop method.

Toasted Coconut Pecan Treats

7.5 oz. sweetened shredded coconut, Toasted (½ of a 15oz bag)
3 oz. pecans, toasted, then roughly chopped (3/4 of a cup, or ½ of a 6oz bag)
4 TBL Butter (½ a stick)
10 oz. Mini Marshmallows (1 standard size bag)
3.5 oz. Cornflakes (4 cups)
Non Stick Cooking Spray
8 oz. Chocolate/Chocolate Bark/Chocolate Candy Coating, melted

Spray a 8”x11” Baking Dish with cooking spray.
(The original recipe calls for 8×8, but that makes THICK squares, but 9×13 makes thin squares… any dish that seems bigger that a 8” square but smaller than a 9×13 should work out fine.)

Combine Toasted Coconut, Pecans, and Corn Flakes in a large heatproof bowl. Set aside.

Melt butter and marshmallow on the stove over medium heat. Stir constantly (to avoid burning) until marshmallow is a creamy consistency and the butter has been completely combined.

Using a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, transfer the marshmallow to the cereal mixture. Stir until all ingredients are equally combined.

Transfer entire contents of the bowl to the baking dish. Spray some cooking spray on 1 hand so you can press the treats into an even layer. Allow to cool.

Cut cooled treats into desired shapes. Hold treats at top edge and dip the bottom into melted chocolate, so the chocolate come ½ way u the treat. Let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.

Place treats chocolate-side down on a wax-paper lined cookie sheets (any flat surface will work, really) and let the chocolate harden.


How to toast CoconutDon’t know how to toast coconut? Here are some simple instructions!
It is not scary. Just don’t abandon the coconut during the toasting process and you will be fine.

I you can think of any more fun additions to the traditional Rice Crispie Treat, please let me know!

Easter Lunch- Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Strawberries

My neighbor invited me over for East lunch and served this Pork Tenderloin. It was delicious!

Ever since I tried the Alton Brown Pork Tenderloin, I’ve been hooked on the grilling method for this cut of meat. Another recipe to add to my arsenal!

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Strawberries

1 (3-lb.) package pork tenderloins
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided 10 bacon slices
2 (8-oz.) packages haricots verts (thin green beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, divided
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup strawberry preserves
1/2 cup quartered fresh strawberries

Preheat grill to 400° to 500° (high) heat.

Sprinkle pork with pepper and 1 tsp. salt; wrap 5 bacon slices around each tenderloin, and secure with wooden picks.

Place green beans, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, and remaining 1 tsp. salt in center of a 24- x 18-inch piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil; toss to coat. Bring up sides of foil over beans; double fold top and side edges to seal, making a packet.  

Turn off one side of grill. Arrange pork and foil packet over unlit side, and grill, covered with grill lid, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mince remaining 2 garlic cloves; sauté in remaining 1 Tbsp. hot olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until golden. Add vinegar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in preserves. Reserve half of mixture for basting. Stir fresh strawberries into remaining mixture.

Remove foil packet from grill; transfer pork to lit side. Baste pork with reserved strawberry mixture. Grill 5 more minutes over lit side, turning once. Remove pork from grill.  Rest, before slicing.  Serve with strawberry mixture and green beans.  

Bacon Strawberry Pork Tenderloin

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