Audrey’s Cherry Preserves

Audrey's Cherry Preserves

Audrey, one of the three fabulous fictional ladies featured in Carly Ellen Kramer’s novel How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé, was delighted to participate in a character interview with N.M. Sotzek at On Writing.  Laugh along as Audrey dishes on her girlfriends and discusses her famous cherry preserves here.  The recipe itself is simple… here we go!

Audrey’s Cherry Preserves
2 pounds dark, sweet pitted cherries (fresh or frozen)
1 heaping tablespoon lemon marmalade (or juice and zest from 1/2 lemon)
4 ounces liquid pectin
3 cups sugar

Add half of the pitted cherries to a large pot. Coarsely chop the other half of the cherries in a blender or food processor, and add to the pot with the whole cherries.

Simmer over low heat with stirring until cherries are soft and release a lot of liquid. Bring to a boil, stirring so that the cherries on the bottom of the pot don’t burn!  Add marmalade, pectin, and sugar. Stirring constantly, return mixture to a hard boil.

Boil for five minutes.  Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly before transferring to glass jars.  If you are canning Audrey’s Cherry Preserves as gifts, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Makes approximately 6 half-pint jars.

30 Second Snacks: Jicama Sticks

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Put the French fries down.  Seriously… nobody needs that in their body.  Instead, try a snack of fresh sliced jicama sticks.  Delicious!

WIN_20150228_114833What is jicama, you ask? It’s one of those veggies you walk right past at the market… it looks like a potato on the outside, looks like a radish on the inside, and tastes a bit like an Asian pear.  My pint size diners call jicama a “fruit vegetable” because it’s sweet.  Even better than the taste is the nutritional punch – jicama is starchy, with enough calories and carbs to make a filling WIN_20150228_115040snack, and offers a LOT of fiber and vitamin C.  Take that, French fries!

Simply cut a jicama in half, trim off the peel, and slice into French fry size sticks. Sprinkle with cinnamon (not sugar, just cinnamon) and enjoy. Sometimes, healthy eating really is this simple!

Yes, you really do need chili vinegar in your life!

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Why? Because it is the most stone simple pantry staple you will ever make, it is eternally replenishable, and amazingly versatile!  Simply add 1/2 cup chopped Thai chili peppers, seeds and all, to a pint jar – then fill the jar with plain ol’ white vinegar.  That’s it.  Store it in the refrigerator and use abundantly (more on that in a moment).  Within a day, your chili vinegar will offer up a delightful Hot & Sour flavor! As you use up your chili vinegar, simply add more white vinegar to the jar… there’s no need to purchase new peppers, as those babies stay HOT!

“How can I use chili vinegar?” You might ask.  Here are a few ideas…

1) Make fast ‘n fiery pickles! Combine 3/4 cup hot water, 1/4 cup chili vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar.  Pour over sliced cucumbers, bell peppers, or green beans, and refrigerate for a few hours.  Delicious!

2) Make a spicy vinaigrette dressing!  Whisk together 2 tablespoons chili vinegar, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon powdered thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Enjoy over a fresh green salad.

3) Make a Thai-inspired Easy Peanut Cabbage Slaw!

The sky’s the limit! Have fun with chili vinegar, and be sure to comment with any fun uses you discover in your kitchen!

Chinese New Year Noodles

 

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Today marks the celebration of Chinese New Year, the most grand holiday on the Chinese calendar.  2015 is the Year of the Sheep (or goat or ram, depending upon the source).  If you were born in 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, or 2003, tradition suggests this will be a lucky year for you!

Chinese celebrations are famous for their traditional foods, and Chinese New Year feasts are laden with an amazing variety of dishes.  Feasts may vary from village to village, but will always, always include noodles.  Long noodles are said to represent long life, and must never be cut! Great care should be taken to cook and eat the noodles whole.

While I cannot claim any Chinese heritage, I see Chinese New Year as an opportunity to sample wonderful new (to me) foods and learn a bit more about the almost indescribably rich cultural history of China.  In that spirit, we are making Chinese New Year Noodles today.  I hope you enjoy them!

WIN_20150114_180605Ingredients (Makes 6 servings)

1 package rice vermicelli noodles (8 ounces dry)

1 cup snow pea pods, sliced into matchsticks

1 red pepper, diced

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon (more or less to taste) chili paste, such as Nam Prik Pao

Directions

WIN_20150114_182203Step 1) Boil vermicelli noodles according to package instructions (they only take a few minutes, like spaghetti noodles).  DON’T BREAK THE NOODLES!

Step 2) While noodles are cooking, use a fork to “whisk” together the peanut butter and vinegar. This will look like a gloppy mess for the first minute or two, but just keep mixing… soon the mixture will be smooth and uniform.

Step 3) Stir the sugar, soy sauce, and chili paste into the peanut butter mixture.  The end result should have a consistency like salad dressing.  If the mixture is too thick, add a tablespoon of water.

Step 4) Gently mix together the cooked noodles, vegetables, and sauce.  That’s it!  For a heartier dish, top with a few cooked shrimp or pieces of cooked, cubed chicken.

Happy Chinese New Year!