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Concord Grape Jam

Concord Grape Jam

I got an email a few weeks ago from Farmers & Artisans, an amazing local shop that features produce, dairy and meat from local farms. They were offering 4 and 8 quart baskets of Concord grapes from Blackman Homestead Farm in Lockport. I decided with how much I am in love with my juicer right now, I need to buy the 8 quart basket, so I could experiment with making juice and trying to make jam for the first time. I never buy jam at the store because I hate all the preservatives, but occasionally I will buy a jar from the farmers market. I was a little concerned about the jam making since I had never done it before and I really didn’t have a great way to remove the seeds as I don’t have a food mill. I made jam twice, trying out two different methods to see which would work best. The first way, I added the grapes whole to the food processor, with the sugar and pulsed them a few times to break them down and mash em up. Then I cooked the jam down, allowing it to thicken. Once it seemed like it had cooked down enough and was quite thick, I ran it through a strainer to remove the seeds. The only problem with this method is that not only did it remove the seeds, but it also removed the thick hunks of gooey goodness (the natural pectin) that makes jam what it is. I ended up with more of a Concord Grape sauce or thinner jelly. I tried adding it back to the saucepan to allow it to thicken more, but it just didn’t do it. The jam needed bits of the skins and more of the natural pectin. All was not lost, I have been spooning the first batch of jam over granola and oatmeal, it would also be great drizzled over ice cream or yogurt or in a smoothie.

So, the second time around I decided to separate the skins from the flesh or pulp (and therefore the seeds) of the grapes, one by one. It sounds kinda tedious, and I guess it kinda was, but I didn’t mind, I knew it would be worth it. Then I pulsed the skins with the sugar in the food processor and cooked that down on its own, cooking the pulp down in a second saucepan by itself, mashing every so often to break it down. Once the skins had cooked down quite a bit and really gotten thick and jam-like, I strained the pulp from the other saucepan through the strainer to get as much of the juice and added it to the beautiful skin mixture. It was surprising how easy the whole process was. From what I have read Concord grapes are a slip-skin variety grape so I suppose that is what made that part of the process so much easier than I had anticipated.

Concord Grape Jam

You could certainly make a larger batch and go through the hassle of canning and preserving if you wish. I am not versed at all in preserving and honestly am quite intimidated by the whole process. Maybe some day when I have a huge kitchen and tons of storage space I will experiment with it.

This jam is preservative free and is full of intense grape flavor. It is perfectly sweet and tart. I am sure you could experiment with using honey as a sweetener instead of sugar, I just wanted to go the traditional route for my first time. If I get around to experimenting with honey, I will report back.

Obviously if you have a food mill you can simply process the grapes whole with the sugar, then use your mill to remove the seeds and cook down the mixture in one pan, no need to strain.

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Rolls

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Rolls

I decided to fully enjoy this jam I needed to make some delicious gluten-free multi-grain rolls. I couldn’t just slop it on any ol’ store-bought bread or roll, it seemed sacrilegious. I used gluten-free girl’s recipe with a few subtle substitutions. I used tapioca starch instead of potato flour and I made my own oat flour since I couldn’t find any that was certified gluten-free. I highly recommend this recipe. These rolls are incredible and I love that the recipe is gum free (no xanthan or guar gum). They are super crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. These rolls are perfect as is with a little jam, toasted with a veggie burger, etc. The same recipe with make two boules instead of the rolls, if you wish. I thought I was in love with gluten-free girl’s previous bread recipe, but this one blows it out of the water. Try it!

Oh and by the way, I have a very small amount of grapes left – not enough to really do anything major with – so I plan to soak them in vodka to make some tasty Concord grape infused vodka!! Come on, how could it not be good?

Concord Grape Jam

Concord Grape Jam

Concord Grape Jam
makes about 1 cup
Inspired by Healthy Green Kitchen and a handful of other recipes I came across

2 lbs fresh local concord grapes, about 5 1/5 cups or so (if you can find them seedless YAY – I wasn’t that lucky)
2/3 cup organic raw sugar plus 1 tablespoon
juice from 1/2 lemon

Separate the skin from the pulp of each grape, by applying pressure to the grape with your thumb and index finger, shooting the pulp right out. It’s fun and very simple to do.

Process the grape skins with the sugar in your food processor or blender until mostly smooth but still a tad bit chunky. If you want your jam super smooth, process longer. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add the juice of half a lemon. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Watch it carefully and stir often so it doesn’t stick or scorch. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 25 minutes until it has reduced down and thickened.

Meanwhile in a smaller saucepan cook the grape pulp (insides) and 1 tablespoon of sugar over a medium-high heat, bring to a boil and mash the pulp as it cooks to break the down. Once bowling reduce the heat and allow to simmer as long as your grape skins do. Once the grape skin mixture has thickened, remove the pulp from the heat and strain through a strainer or cheesecloth to remove the seeds. Add the juice that drained out to the grape skin mixture.

Allow the jam to continue cooking another 10 minutes until thick. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if it isn’t sweet enough for you. This was plenty sweet for me. The jam will continue to thicken as it cools. Trust me. It also thickens a bit more once in the refrigerator, so down cook it down too much.

Allow the jam to cool before pouring it into a well cleaned and tightly sealing jar. This jam will keep in the refrigerator for approximately 1 month.

NOTE: I have to apologize for the lack of process photos with this post, I had intentions of showing step by step photos of the entire process. However, the morning I was making this jam it was very dark and stormy. The lighting in my kitchen was horrible and with the yucky wind and rain, I wasn’t able to tote things out to the back patio as I usually do. If you have any questions regarding the process, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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Our sweet baby, Seri.

Pooch Friendly Ice Cream

This is a little bit different of a post. It is still gluten-free, unprocessed and healthy, but this one isn’t for humans, it’s for our little furry baby, Seri, who turned one yesterday! I decided as a little treat, I had to make her something special to celebrate. In the past I used to bake different goodies for our last dog, Derby, like whole wheat peanut butter treats and one time I even made her a special dog-friendly birthday carrot cake. I decided to do something a little different this time because Seri is on a grain-free diet. Yes, even my dog is gluten-free. Also like me, she doesn’t eat any processed foods. In addition, she eats a fully raw meat diet all of the time. Seri has had some minor itchy-skin/allergy issues in the past, nothing major at all, but enough for us to want to make sure she was eating THE very best. After consulting with a holistic vet and our breeder and some trial and error with different foods and ingredients, we have found the things that work for Seri and those that don’t. We always make sure to avoid anything that could upset her little body, whether it be her daily food, an unnecessary medication or even a little treat. It’s incredible how much unnecessary processed junk is in most dry kibbles and biscuits, even the best brands are loaded with useless fillers and crap that they just don’t need. Just like us, it’s so bad for their health. Dogs are carnivores and they need meat.

Since Seri eats raw bison for breakfast and dinner every day and her treats are usually some other type of dehydrated raw meat, it was really hard to think of something super special for her birthday as a treat. Since I couldn’t really bake any treat from grain, I decided to experiment with ingredients that I knew were safe for her.

I didn’t want her to get a large portion of whatever special treat I was going to make, so I made small little muffin-cup sized portions, so I could control how much fat she would consume, since we all know what can happen if a dog gets a lot more fat than usual.

Since dog’s are unable to process the lactose in milk, I made the base of the ice cream from almond milk. (If you know your dog has a sensitivity to nuts, or you aren’t sure, you can just go with a simple chicken or beef broth.) I included the coconut oil because in moderation, it is so great for your dog’s health. There have been many studies and countless articles written about the healthy benefits of coconut oil, for both humans and dogs. Additionally, it is great for dogs with allergies and itchy skin. It can also be used topically on any hot spots they may develop. We alternate the coconut oil with salmon oil on Seri’s food each night. If your dog is sensitive to fats, consider skipping the oil or going with a very small amount. Seri goes absolutely nuts for coconut oil, she loves it! That and peanut butter. She rarely gets peanut butter so it was another nice treat for her birthday ice cream.

Seri absolutely loved her birthday ice cream. She couldn’t eat it fast enough! I love now that with having the individual servings, ready in the freezer, whenever I want to give her a little treat, they are ready.

I realize this post may make me seem like a crazy dog person, but in our family, our pets are our life, we would do anything for them and we are willing to make sure they get the very best. I know not everyone is like that, so you may think I am insane. I am pretty ok with that.

Pooch Friendly Ice Cream

Pooch Friendly Ice Cream
makes approximately 8 muffin-sized frozen dog treats

2 cups organic unsweetened unflavored almond milk (you can certainly use homemade here, just skip the sugar and vanilla when you make it)
1 tablespoon organic unrefined virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons organic natural creamy peanut butter
(you could have fun with other dog-safe ingredients like shredded carrots, beef or chicken broth, pieces of their favorite unflavored/unspiced meat, etc)

Line a regular sized muffin tin with foil or paper muffin cup liners. Depending on how full you fill them, you can make more or less than this recipe calls for.

Combine all of your ingredients in a large mixing bowl. If the peanut butter was in the refrigerator and is a bit solid, microwave it for about 10-15 seconds to soften it up a bit, to make mixing easier. Using a hand mixer or stand-up mixer, thoroughly combine the three ingredients. Ladle the ice cream mixture into each muffin cup, filling to about 3/4 of the way full. (Again, if you want more, smaller treats, fill them up less or use a mini-muffin tin. If you want less, larger treats, fill them up more.) Place the entire muffin tin in the freezer and allow the mixture to freeze until solid, about 8 hours or so.

When the ice cream treats are frozen solid, you can pop one of out of the tin, peel of the paper muffin cup and give it to your dog. You can remove the remaining treats from the muffin tin and put them in a freezer safe ziplock bag or plastic container.

** Obviously I am not a veterinarian, so please don’t take any of what I am feeding our own dog as a medical advice for your pooch. We just know what works and what doesn’t with Seri. Every dog’s sensitivities are different. If you know your dog cannot have one of these ingredients, go with something else **

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Fruit Infused Liquor

I came across this super easy how-to on the Bon Appétit blog this Spring and I couldn’t wait to start playing around with different flavor combinations. My very first batch was strawberry vodka that I made at the end of June when the strawberries were at their peak ripeness and I couldn’t get over how incredible the flavor was. Since then I have made blueberry, rhubarb, cherry and apricot. In the next week or two I plan to make some cucumber, pepper and basil infused vodkas (separately of course) with the lovely goodies growing my garden. I also want to play around with other liquors like rum and tequila. The sky is really the limit on what you can do.

I have yet to play with other liquors, since vodka tends to be my first pick. Since the vodka itself is fairly tasteless, it can really let the flavor of the ingredient that you are infusing with, shine. Also, FYI, no reason to buy Grey Goose or Ketel one, but don’t buy that cheap crap on the bottom shelf either. I have been buying a nice middle of the road vodka like Svedka or Smirnoff.

I tend to like the fruit infused vodkas with a bit of soda water, a wee bit of simple syrup and a sprig of fresh mint or basil. I keep a jar of homemade raw sugar simple syrup in my fridge at all times which can be made very easily with 1 part sugar to 1 part water, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan; simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

The strawberry vodka was great with some fresh squeezed lemon juice. Tonight I plan to experiment with an apricot martini of sorts. I cannot wait to make the pepper vodka with the super spicy heirloom Korean peppers growing in our garden, it will be perfect to make delicious homemade bloody marys with.  The beet infused vodka that BA suggests is also super intriguing, I think I will have to add that to the list, too.

Cocktail Made from Cherry Infused Vodka

This is a simple cocktail made with my cherry vodka, just a tad bit of my homemade simple syrup, soda water and a fresh sprig of mint. So refreshing!

Step 1: Choose your liquor
Vodka is an obvious choice, but why not use white rum or tequila, brandy or grappa? Don’t go for the really cheap stuff, but don’t splurge either. A middle-of-the-road, neutrally flavored liquor will produce the best infused spirits.

Step 2: Choose your produce
Use what’s in season. Go to your local farmers’ market or, better yet, pick berries from your own berry patch, and bring home the most beautiful produce you can find. The super-ripe peach that dribbles juice down your chin is a perfect candidate. Also try raspberries, strawberries, pears, figs, lemons, cherries, blueberries, even beets and chiles, as long as they are ripe, ripe, ripe.

Some of Bon Appétit’s favorite fruit-and-spirit combos are:
Apricots + Eau de Vie
Figs + Bourbon
Jalapenos + Tequila
Pineapple + Rum
Beets + Vodka

Step 3: Prep your fruit
Wash it well and cut it into pieces. Remove peels and skins plus any part of the fruit that you wouldn’t want to eat: Stems, pits, cores, and seeds should all be tossed into the compost pile. As the liquor infuses, bitter flavors from citrus pith and seeds can leech into the liquor, so you want to avoid that.

Step 4: Bottle & Wait
Fill a clean resealable glass jar or bottle with fresh, cleaned fruit. Top off with liquor and screw on the lid. Place in a cool, dark place (like a fridge) until the flavors infuse (anywhere from a week to a month, depending on your taste and the strength of the fruit). Shake the jar every few days. When you’re happy with the flavor of the hooch, strain out fruit* and pour infused spirits into a clean resealable glass jar or bottle; store in the fridge.

Step 5: Drink Up
Use your freshly infused spirits in place of plain spirits in your favorite cocktail or serve up on its own as a Martini.

One caveat: This process requires a little patience. I generally start one mason jar of infused spirits per week throughout the summer. Depending on the type and ripeness of the fruit, infusions can take 2 to 3 weeks, so plan accordingly if you’re making it for a party (or use a fresh batch as an excuse to party). A pretty jar of rosy strawberry vodka is the perfect hostess gift, and it’s a lot more appealing than neon-green Margarita mix.

* though eating the fruit may be tempting, don’t bother. After the infusing process, the fruit is merely a ghost of its former self. All of the flavor has been sucked out and infused into the liquor so the fruit is left bland, soggy and tasteless.

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Homemade Almond Milk

I have been meaning to make homemade almond milk for sometime now. I absolutely love almond milk and tend to buy it often. The thing I really dislike about it (as with most foods from the grocery store) is that a lot of times it has added ingredients that really just don’t seem to need to be in there, even the organic stuff. Though that tends to be the story of most of the food products people buy. It’s all so over-processed and filled with unnatural junk. These are all reasons why I’ve changed my lifestyle and rarely consume store-bought processed foods, I try to make everything I can myself and eat as many fresh foods as possible.

I came across a few really great recipes and finally took the time to experiment and make my own homemade almond milk and now that I have, I will never buy it again. This recipe is simple, fast (besides soaking time) and it requires only a few ingredients. It is creamy, sweet, nutty, rich and full of luscious nutrients, plus it is great for those on dairy-free or raw diets and vegans. It’s great as is, in smoothies, served over your favorite granola or cereal, heated up with chai spices or chocolate, etc.

In addition to all these other great things, it’s also much cheaper than the almond milk you buy at the store.

Homemade Raw Almond Milk

2 cups whole raw almonds
4 cups water (you can use more depending on how light you want it, I used about 5 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 vanilla bean
2-4 tablespoons honey*

Soak almonds and vanilla bean or vanilla extract for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
Discard soaking water and rinse almonds.

Place soaked almonds, vanilla bean (if you are using), agave and 4-6 cups of water in a blender. Cover and blend on high for 1-2 minutes. It will be milky and have a bit of foam on the top.
Strain milk through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. You will then be left with almond pulp that can be saved and used for spreads, butter, crackers, cookies, crusts, etc. Look for recipes using the almond pulp very soon 🙂

Serve or store in a covered jar or pitcher in the refrigerator, it’ll be good for about 5 days.

* You can also leave out the honey if you wish to have it be unsweetened

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

Almond Pulp from Homemade Raw Almond Milk

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Gluten-free Apple Crisp

NOTE: I posted an updated version of this recipe – here! The new version is still gluten-free but it is also vegan and refined sugar free!

This is my Mom’s recipe, she is an incredible baker. My Dad does most of the cooking and my mom does all of the baking. Every Fall she whips up a pan of this just for me, with the freshly picked apples from the tree in their yard and it is the best. She made a big pan of it for dessert for the big dinner I made last night. This is what Autumn tastes and smells like! This recipe is super simple, I have made it a couple of times myself, though somehow it is never as good as when my mom makes it.

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

4 cups of peeled and sliced apples (4 med)
2/3 – 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup gluten-free flour (your favorite all-purpose will work perfectly)
1/2 cup certified gluten-free oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats)
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup butter softened

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Grease a square 8″ x 8″ pan. Place apples in pan.
Mix remaining ingredients cutting butter in to make crumbly consistency.
Sprinkle over the apples and bake 30 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown. Serve warm topped with fresh whip cream or your favorite vanilla ice cream.

Gluten-free Apple Crisp

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IMG_9930

I have never been a huge fan of ice cream, until I tasted fresh homemade ice cream made from scratch with fresh ingredients. It is so insanely delicious and it has so much more flavor than the store-bought stuff. I had been talking about buying the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer for some time now and finally got around to it last week. I knew before I even bought the attachment what flavor my first batch was gonna be. Mint Chocolate Chunk! We have so much mint growing wild in our yard that I couldn’t wait to snip some off and bring it in to make fresh ice cream. If you can’t get your hands on fresh mint you can use mint extract, but there is no comparing to the fresh mint. So much so that I added chopped fresh mint back in at the end, since I love the little bits of flavor.

Making ice cream from scratch, cooking down and making the custard first definitely is a lot of work, but it is absolutely worth it and is so gratifying in the end. The only thing I wished is that I could have found some place locally to buy fresh milk and cream, instead I bought organic milk and cream from the grocery store. I have searched high and low to find somewhere locally to buy dairy (preferably pasture-fed), but with no results yet, so if you know of a place in the Western New York area, please share.

This ice cream really is to die for. So rich, a small scoop is all you need. I cannot wait to experiment with other flavors.

Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream
yields 1 quart
adapted from Simply Recipes

3 cups of fresh mint leaves (not stems), rinsed, drained, packed
extra fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 cup organic whole milk
2 cups organic heavy cream (divided, 1 cup and 1 cup)
2/3 cup organic pure cane sugar
A pinch of salt
6 egg yolks (we prefer brown eggs from local, organic, free-range chickens)
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
6 ounces semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate, chopped fine, keep in the freezer until used

1. Put the mint leaves in a heavy saucepan with the 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of the cream. Heat until just steaming (do not let boil), remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Reheat the mixture until steaming, remove from heat and let stand for 15 more minutes.

2.While the mint is infusing in step 1, prepare the remaining cream over an ice bath. Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a medium size metal bowl, set in ice water (with lots of ice) over a larger bowl. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowls. Set aside.

3. Strain the milk cream mixture into a separate bowl, pressing against the mint leaves with a rubber spatula in the sieve to get the most liquid out of them. Return the milk cream mixture to the saucepan. Add sugar and salt to the mixture. Heat until just steaming again, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.

4. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl. Slowly pour the heated milk cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the egg yolks are tempered by the warm mixture, but not cooked by it. Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

5. Return the saucepan to the stove, stirring the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon so that you can run your finger across the coating and have the coating not run. This can take about 10 minutes.

6. Pour the custard through the strainer (from step 2) and stir into the cold cream to stop the cooking, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

7. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (at least a couple of hours) or stir the mixture in the bowl placed over the ice bath until thoroughly chilled (20 minutes or so). Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

8. Once the ice cream has been made in the ice cream maker it should be pretty soft. Gently fold in the finely chopped chocolate and chopped fresh mint. Put in an airtight container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving.

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