This lovely lady came for a visit the other day. I threw together a couple of berry-cherry-yogurt-homemade granola parfaits for our brunching pleasure. And afterwards, we had hot tea and homemade bread and jam for dessert!
Since some of the cherries I bought at the farmers’ market last week turned out to be a bit tart, I decided today to muster the courage to try something I’ve never done before: I made a batch of homemade cherry jam.
Normally, I wouldn’t waste perfectly good, healthy fruit on something as nutrition-less as jam, but since I make it a point not to waste food and these cherries were borderline inedible, I had to figure out a way to repurpose about a pound of too-tart cherries.
As it turns out, tart cherries make the best jam.
I can’t remember the last time I made something as wonderful and decadently delicious as the homemade cherry jam I made this afternoon. I’d even venture to say that ending up with about a pound of tart cherries might just have been the best thing to happen to me all week.
I used this un-recipe and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Store-bought jam isn’t even in the same league as the jam I made today; and dare I say it will be extremely difficult to return to regular old grocery store jam after this.
I discovered that making homemade jam is much easier than I thought it’d be. And requiring only 3 ingredients - cherries, lemon juice, and sugar - it’s a very frugal little venture indeed.
One pound of cherries yielded 3 jars of jam; I gave one jar to our neighbors upstairs (we traded for some homemade fava bean soup they made) and I kept the other 2 jars for myself my family.
Let’s just say I’m really (really, REALLY!) looking forward to breakfast tomorrow morning. Tea and toast, anyone?
I did it, guys. I finally got around to making a big batch of granola. I even made enough to surprise the neighbors with. [Insert proud face here.]
Here’s my recipe, if you’re interested:
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped and whole nuts (any combination of walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc. - whatever you like; I usually use walnuts and almonds)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (pumpkin seeds can be substituted)
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon (or more if you like cinnamon!)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1/2 cup walnut oil (canola or sunflower will work just fine too)
1/2 to 1 cup maple syrup (depends on how sweet you like your granola)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped dried fruit (any combination of raisins, apricots, dates, cranberries, etc.)
Mix the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl until well incorporated.
Stir in oil, maple syrup and vanilla.
Spread granola mixture evenly on 2 large baking sheets.
Bake, taking care to stir well every 3-4 minutes. This is really important because the maple syrup will make the granola burn fast.
The granola is done when it is dried out and begins to turn golden. You can tell when it is getting close because the granola will slide around easily on the pan when stirred. (My usual cooking time is around 30 minutes total, including stirring time.)
Pour hot granola into a very large bowl and fold in dried fruit. Stir thoroughly.
Allow granola to cool completely, stirring up every so often as it cools down.
Once granola is completely cooled, store in a well-sealed jar or container.
Enjoy with milk, yogurt, fresh fruit, ice cream, smoothies, or on its own as a snack. Makes about 8 cups. Yum!
I rarely use a recipe for anything in general, and soup is no exception. I just feel like soups and stews turn out so much better on the fly (I think there’s a joke somewhere in there about a fly in my soup but it’s late and my brain’s not quite getting there).
So, while I’m not exactly posting the recipe per se, I’ll kinda give you guys a quick ‘n’ dirty rundown on how my toothsome soup came to be.
In a big pot on medium heat, I sautéed half an onion in a generous splash of olive oil until the onion was soft and translucent.
I threw in 2 carrots, 4 stalks of celery and a sweet potato - all coarsely chopped. (Honestly though, you could probably use whatever veggies tickle your fancy! I just used what I happened to have on hand at that moment.)
Then, I stirred in the star of the show - about 3 finely minced tablespoons of the beautiful fresh oregano I was given yesterday. I also added a couple of pinches of dried thyme and black pepper and let the works mingle together for about 5 minutes, nudging it around with my wooden spoon occasionally.
When the soup came to a rolling boil, I added a small spoonful of bouillon and just over half a cup of a dry bean medley - I think it was comprised of lentils, split peas, barley, black eyed peas, mung beans and a couple of others I couldn’t name - and then I turned the heat down to a simmer. I put the lid on the pot and let it all cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
About 5 minutes before the soup was ready to serve, I threw in some tiny star pasta (Maya’s request).
When the pasta was just shy of al dente, I turned off the heat and tossed in some frozen peas. I like to add frozen peas at literally the last minute of cooking; that way they stay bright and green and they only take about 60 seconds to cook through.
I generously ladled the vegetable bean soup into big bowls and served it with a basket of homemade crusty french bread.
You guys, the soup was nothing short of absolutely fantastic. I could hear everyone quietly “mmm-ing” under their breath with every bite. Even Maya cleaned her bowl, and if you’ve met my child IRL, you know that finishing her dinner is not part of her usual repertoire. I gotta tell ya: There is something so magical about homemade soup stock. The flavor is so rich, full and earthy. So much better than the metallic tasting store-bought stuff.
What a delicious dinner. I am “souper” excited for leftovers tomorrow!
And the best part? The whole pot of soup (probably about 6-8 large servings) cost less than $3. That works out to about $1.50 to feed my whole family a delicious, nutritious meal that we all truly enjoyed.
I’m pretty sure dinner doesn’t get any better than that!
Well, I hope you’re sitting down right now. Brace yourself, because I’m about to blow your mind.
I’m gonna show you how you can eat infinite amounts of practically free soup. I see you sitting there, looking at your computer screen with distrust. You’re skeptical. You can’t believe what you’re reading. Your dubiousness is palpable. I can feel it.
But let me ask you this: WOULD I LIE TO YOU?
Okay, wait. Hold up. This post is off to an awkward start. Let me go back and try this again.
A few weeks ago, my friend Cristin shared a hot tip with me that completely rocked my soup-lovin’ world. She told me how to make delicious vegetable stock practically for free. Here’s how:
Step 1: Put a large ziplock bag (or other large freezer-safe container) in your freezer.
Step 2: Every time you have any - and I mean any - vegetable scraps, you put that junk in the bag. The best vegetable scraps are carrot tops and peelings, potato/sweet potato peelings, onion/garlic tops and skins, mushroom stems, pepper cores, bean ends, broccoli stems, cabbage hearts, etc. [DO NOT USE: leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collards, chard, lettuce, etc., or celery because there is something about the freezing process that turns these veggies bitter and yucky when they’re made into soup. Don’t ask, just trust. I’m trying to help you here.]
Step 3: Once that bag is full, throw those frozen veggie scraps into a big ol’ soup pot.
Step 4: Cover the works with water. I like to use filtered water for this.
Step 5: Simmer down now. On low. For a couple of hours or until the stock gets nice and dark.
Step 6: Strain the stock through a colander to remove the big pieces of veggies. Then, if you like your stock nice and clear and perfect, strain it again through a tea strainer (or any mesh strainer) to catch the smaller pieces. This second strain is optional but I think it makes the stock better.
Step 7: Salt and season to taste.
Step 8: Rejoice! You have just made vegetable stock. And it was practically free!*
*You would have likely tossed or composted those veggie scraps anyway, so it’s like making soup stock out of free garbage.**
**Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have used the word “garbage” when describing yummy soup stock, but just go with it.
You need to do this. You need to make this stock. And hey - worst case scenario - it turns out horribly and you hate it? No biggie! The only thing you will have wasted is some scraps you would have thrown out anyway, plus a little water. But I don’t think you’ll hate it. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’ll like it. And I bet you’ll like it so much, you’ll use it to flavor some rice or beans or potatoes, or even make a huge pot of fabulous homemade vegetable noodle soup, like I did this afternoon. Plus I’ve got two additional large containers of stock to freeze for another day.
Now here’s where I’m really gonna blow your mind: When I made vegetable soup out of the vegetable stock today, I chopped up some carrots, onions, potatoes, mushrooms, garlic and can you guess where I’m going with this? Yup, all those peelings, tops and stems went into my newly emptied stock bag and thus the process has begun again. It’s the never ending soup stock. The stock that just wouldn’t quit. It’s soupendous.*** And quite frankly, this whole business counts as a miracle in my book.