Sunday, February 22, 2009

Strawberry Jam

Scroll to bottom of post for strawberry syrup/jam recipe

It is strawberry season! The children and I met some of our friends (Mia and Heather) out at the strawberry patch this past Wednesday. We all had lots of fun picking the berries and playing with "Haus" the resident dog. Heather made such a fuss over that dog that I was certain she was going to slip him into her car on the way home. He really was a great dog. Which, it goes to figure. The entire place is surreal. It is like when you are there you are in another world. Rows and rows of strawberries greet you when you first pull up. Then there is the quaint little strawberry store that is actually an old barn where they have you pay for your pickings, and offer a selection of strawberry delights. Fun for the kids is the tire swing that hangs from this huge old oak tree. Heather and I sat at the picnic table watching them play. It was a beautiful day, and she and I decided that if the place ever goes up for sell, we are buying and moving our families out there!!! LOL (Up the hill is a large two story house where we would all live)
Amanda Lily and I are making strawberry jam today with our flat. We are celebrating Papou's (grandpas) birthday tomorrow, and one of his favorite things it our strawberry jam. He loves it on his toast. So, we are hoping to fill a mason jar with the good stuff, and give it to him as a gift.
Here is our super simple recipe:

2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled
4 cups white sugar
1/4 lemon juice

Crush berries (in batches if you need to)
In large saucepan, mix together all ingredients
Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and blended
Increase heat to high, and bring to full rolling boil
Boil, stirring often for about 20 mins
Poor hot mixture into sterile jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace, and seal
After jam has cooled, eat up or refrigerate.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Quick Dinner Idea

scroll to bottom of post for baked apples and baked potato soup recipes

Today has been a pretty chilly day. Tonight is supposed to be even cooler, so for dinner I made potato soup. While in NC last week, Trish made it for lunch one day. It was incredibly comforting and warming to the tummy, so I was inspired to make it today. While cooking, I thought "this couldn't be easier, I should blog the recipe for my friends."

Baked Potato Soup
Peel and chop up 5 baking sized potatoes

Boil in one box chicken stock (I use wolfgang pucks organic free range broth from publix) until potatoes are tender
Mash potatoes with potato masher, or use your spoon and smash them on the walls of the pot

Add milk, a little at a time, until desired consistency.

Season with butter, salt, and pepper.

Stir in a little cheese

While soup is cooking, bake up a few strips of bacon. (optional)

Add the bacon and a couple snips of chives. (optional)

For those of you who have not read my "nutrition" post, all the ingredients I use are organic. You can even find bacon at publix that is hormone free and grain only fed.

Dessert is super easy as well.

Baked Apples w Pecans
Core some apples (however many people are eating) and set aside in a baker

Stir a few chopped pecans, brown sugar, and a couple pats of cut up butter in a small bowl

Put mixture inside cored out apples, cover with tin foil and bake at 350 for 25mins

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla yogurt and sprinkle with cinnamon


North Carolina

One day while visiting my friend Trish, something caught my eye. She has one of those nifty photo frames that allows you to upload digital photos and it scrolls through. I noticed one of the photos was breathtakingly beautiful. She told me it was a picture taken at her Mom and Dads place in North Carolina where they have a second home on the "tippy top" of a mountain. Within minutes of conversation, she invited us to go up with her family for a weekend. I jumped at the offer and the trip was planned and airfare purchased in only a couple of days. We were all so excited for the trip because Steven, Amanda Lily, Ben, Josh, and even little Gracie have become close friends, and I knew they would all have a great time together. We adults have done our fair share of bonding as well, and find allot of pleasure in just chatting and hanging out. So, we knew we were all in for a great time.
The cabin was awesome, and Ms. Patsy (Trish's Mom) was a wonderful hostess. She made me feel right at home, even giving up her kitchen to me one night to make dinner. She made us feel like just another part of the family. The nature was just as breathtaking as the photos in Trish's frame.
By the time our flight landed and we got our rental car, it was dark on Thursday night. We drove up and up. I told Trish once we arrived that when she said "Tippy Top", she wasn't kidding. We would have never made it up the mountain without 4 wheel drive.
It did not snow while we were there, but we all jumped into the SUV's and went down the mountain to Maggie Valley where we found "Tube World" The boys slid down the artificial snow while Amanda Lily and I built snow people. The weather really teased us because it was VERY COLD, just no snow......our rental car's doors were even frozen shut!
We went on a nature walk and the kids had a blast throwing themselves down the incline and rustling around in tons of leaves. They even climbed up a huge rock.
Another good time was watching Larry and George sling the kids down the front lawn on cardboard and snow saucers. The photos don't do the front yard justice, but it is a pretty steep hill that the kids loved running and throwing themselves down on.....or just rolling. Watching them made me dizzy. I also got a kick out of wondering which were the bigger kids, the children or dads.
The boys went off on the four wheeler in search of firewood, and we roasted marshmallows on sticks to make smore's.
It was such a relaxing, laid back weekend. None of us wanted to leave. We are so blessed to have good friends in our lives who are willing to share their lives with us.

PS....Amy, you are the reason I am still blogging. I almost abondoned my blog completely until I got your comment. (:

PSS There are photos in the slideshow on the right