Honey Granola Clusters

  
As the summer sun ripens a delicious array of fruits and vegetables, I make sure that nature’s bounty takes center stage at the kitchen table. Living in the Midwest, we have so few months during the course of the year where we can have locally grown foods literally sitting at our doorstep. Backyards, gardens and farms throughout the county have the opportunity to produce foods situated in patio pots, raised beds, trellising on garden fences and planted in rows along county roads.

As I was mowing the lawn last week, I spied the beginning of a few delicious looking pears that I can’t wait to harvest when they are ready. My grapes are coming along nicely. I have gathered and prepared several generous heads of romaine lettuce, lots of sweet peppers, and fresh herbs. Nothing compares to the flavors of fresh picked fruits and vegetables that accompany family meals carefully prepared from scratch.

   
   
We’ve also started raising bees as a hobby and as a source for our own golden delicious honey. Planting patio pots with wild flower seeds and leaving our land as natural as possible will provide them a source of food as well.  

   
   
This morning I made a batch of granola clusters to accompany many of the fruits that I grew or purchased from a local farm. A dollop or two of plain yogurt finishes off the dish. (The peaches aren’t quite in season yet so I suppose, there are a few things in the dish that I am hopelessly awaiting as the season continues to bring us an abundance of delicious and nutritious delicacies.)

Here’s to bright warm days and unpredictable summer rains… This is definitely one of my most favorite times of the year.
Honey Granola Clusters


1/2 cup canola oil 

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

5 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, whatever you prefer)

1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples, whatever you prefer)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or line a 11 x 17″ baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon until sugar is dissolved and oil is well incorporated. Add in the oats, nuts and dried fruit; mixing well.

Pour the oat mixture onto the baking sheet and spread it out into an even layer, firmly packing the oat mixture into the baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan half way through cooking. Remove from oven and let the granola cool at room temperature for at least one hour.

Use a small spoon to scoop up the granola off of the baking sheet using the spoon to break the granola into clusters. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

   

Make these ahead of time; cover them to store in the fridge for a few hours.

 

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Strawberry Fruit Leather

  
When strawberries are in season, I usually try to make several batches of fruit leather for my family. Rolling strawberry fruit leather on wax paper strips makes for a delicious, nutritious, summer treat.  

On my daily drive home from work, I pass a local strawberry farm so I usually stop by to pick up a few buckets of fresh berries. There are lots of recipes for fruit leather, many encourage the addition of sugar and lemon juice. For me, I’d rather find the sweetest, freshest berries possible, pulse them in a blender, and pour them into trays to dehydrate. Simple and sweet, a pure delight. Here’s what I do…

Start with sweet fresh berries… Mine are freshly picked

  
Puree 6 cups of fruit and evenly pour onto fruit leather dehydrator sheets.

   
 Dry at 135 degrees for 4-8 hours. Using your finger, press to make a small indentation in the fruit leather. It should not be wet or sticky. It should be tacky. Check in a few areas around the fruit leather disk. Peel the disk off of the silicone sheet while still warm.  Lay on a sheet of waxed paper.

   
 
Using a scissors, cut into strips and roll up tightly. Store in a lidded container in a cool, dry place.

   
   
Make plenty because they disappear fast! 

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While I used 6 cups of strawberries, here are a few adapted recipes recommended by Nesco Dehydrators:
3 cups applesauce
3 cups strawberries

Or, try mixing:

2 cups applesauce
2 cups bananas
In a blender, puree all ingredients. Pour onto Solid Fruit Roll Sheets.

Place on dehydrator trays. Dry at 135º F for 4 to 8 hours, or until leathery. 

Remove from sheets while still warm. Let cool, slice and wrap.

Roll and store in dark, dry, cool place or in freezer.

  
Of course, It’s always fun to make a very berry smoothly with the leftover purée.

Lemony Strawberry Jam

I was recently asked to do a food demonstration at a local county fair.  I thought it might be fun to showcase some of the new home food preservation products and make some lemon and strawberry jam.  I bought a bag of lemons, some sugar, pectin and fresh strawberries for the occasion.  A few portable appliances were easy to load into the back of my car and plug into the electrical outlet at the Home and Family Arts Building.  I had a blast making jam for all of the folks visiting the fairgrounds.  I was happy to answer questions and drum up some new found interest in canning.  If you have never preserved food or if you’re looking for a fresh new way to can fruit with ease, check out some of the new items on the market and get busy canning nature’s bounty!



Sprinkle in the pectin…

Add the crushed strawberries…

A fresh additon… lemon zest

Time to give this a stir…

Add sugar and bring to a rolling boil…    This is an amazing little appliance.  Portable, electric, and easy to clean…  Small batch canning is highlighted with this jam and jelly maker.

Getting ready to process…

Set to “canning mode”…

Simply delicious!

Lemony Strawberry Jam

Strawberries

Lemons

Sugar

Pectin

Check out the recipe at the link below.  Follow the recipe exactly as written.  This is a must when preserving foods.  No substitutions, unless directed.  Always use reputable, tested recipes for home food preservation.

https://www.freshpreserving.com/lemony-strawberry-jam—ball-auto-canner-recipes-br1393.html

Blueberry Pie with Oat Crumble Topping

This past holiday weekend was mild and breezy…the perfect opportunity to head up the road to a local farm to purchase some plump, ripe blueberries.  The trip was inspired by my niece who had been “baking up a storm” to celebrate her mother’s (my sister’s) birthday.  My sister celebrates her birthday on Independence Day so her daughter prepared a few festive goodies for the occasion. After seeing a few pictures of the table setting for the party, I was inspired to uncover our vintage Mustang convertible and take a drive down the country road to pick up a five-pound box of freshly picked berries.  This is one of my favorite pie recipes as it is super simple, made with fresh, bright flavors and ingredients. There is nothing like sharing a piece of blueberry pie after dinner on a Sunday evening with the family before starting another busy work week.

Blueberry Pie with Oat Crumble Topping

1 pre-made pie crust

1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

5 cups fresh blueberries

Topping:

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

6 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Press the pie crust into the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ pie plate. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and flour, lemon zest and lemon juice. Gently stir in the blueberries. Carefully, pour blueberry mixture into the pie crust.In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar, oats, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix in butter using a pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Spread the crumb topping evenly over the pie filling.

Bake for 40-45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until browned on top. Cover with foil if crust starts to get too dark before baking is complete.  Cool before slicing.

Iced Sour Cherry Muffins/Quick Bread



One of my co-workers sent me a text the other night.  She wanted to know if she might be able to successfully dry some of her sour cherries in the oven.  Her cherry tree had produced a bumper crop of fruit and she was creatively thinking of ways to preserve the bounty.  I quickly suggested she borrow my dehydrator as it is super easy to dry fruits and vegetables in this portable unit.  In return, she offered me some of those beautiful sour cherries.  I felt like one lucky girl!  

I quickly pitted, chopped and bagged the fruit to put in the freezer as I wasn’t quite sure what I would make with them.   Cherry pie filling… sour cherry jam… muffins … scones?  I settled on Iced Sour Cherry Muffins. What a great choice as these muffins are tart and sweet, packed with a good dose of sour cherries. The recipe only needed two cups worth of fruit so I froze the rest of the cherries for another day, another recipe.  I used some of the batter for muffins and the rest for a small loaf of quick bread.  Again, I am one lucky girl! 

 
Iced Sour Cherry Muffins/Quick Bread 

 ¾ cup buttermilk 

 ¼ cup orange juice 

 ⅔ cup canola oil 

 1 large egg 

 1 teaspoon orange extract 

 1 heaping tablespoon orange zest 

 2 cups flour 

 1 cup sugar 

 1 tsp baking powder 

 2 cups sour cherries (pitted and chopped) 

 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cinnamon instant oatmeal (optional) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If making muffins, line pans with paper liners or use silicone muffin cups.  If making quick bread, spray small loaf pans with cooking spray.   

In a medium bowl mix together buttermilk, orange juice, extract, canola oil and egg; mix well.  Next, add the orange zest, flour, sugar, and baking powder; mix well.  Carefully fold in the cherries, just until combined.  Scoop batter into muffins cups about ¾ full. Sprinkle with instant oatmeal mix (optional).   

 Bake for 25 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean.  (If making 7×3″ loaves, fill and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.)

Let rest for a few minutes, and then transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before icing. 

 For glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon milk or orange juice

In a medium mixing bowl, combine ingredients and mix well. If glaze is too thick, carefully add extra juice or water (a 1/2 teaspoon at a time) until mixture is smooth and creamy. Lightly drizzle glaze over cooled muffins.

Bumbleberry Jam



As the spring season ushers in warmer temperatures, I am focused on the blossomed plants that will soon produce ripe, succulent berries. My last year’s supply of Bumbleberry Jam is running low so I am hopelessly awaiting the opportunity to pick fresh berries and the prospect of an abundant canning season. 

There is nothing sweeter than a freshly baked scone or a slice of whole grain bread slathered with creamy butter and a heaping scoop of Bumbleberry Jam.  We also enjoy pairing the jam with a hearty helping of extra crunchy homemade peanut butter to assemble the classic PB&J.  Oh, it’s all so berry delicious!

Below you will find the link for this incredible jam.  Always remember that using a reputable source for canning recipes is imperative.  Some of these sources include the National Center for Home Food Preservation, University Extension Websites, and Ball or Bernardin Recipes. These organizations have thoroughly tested recipes making sure to focus on food safety guidelines.  

It’s relatively simple to make jam.  Follow the directions exactly as written and you’ll end up with a safe, delicious product.  Most jam recipes require an abundance of crushed berries…

Then you’ll often need some pectin and sugar…



You’ll need a large pot to mix all of your ingredients together according to the directions…



After processing the jars in a water bath canner for the recommended time, you’ll let the jars sit to cool for 12-24 hours…



The Bumbleberry Jam recipe can be found here:

http://www.bernardin.ca/recipes/bumbleberry-jam.htm?Lang=EN-US

Ball has a recipe for Mixed Berry Jam that tastes delicious as well.  Here is the link:

https://www.freshpreserving.com/mixed-berry-jam-%7C-mixed-berry-recipes—ball-fresh-preserving-br1276.html



Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers




The first day of fall has hit the Midwestern region and it seems that gardens are producing a bounty of veggies that need to be picked and processed before the cooler temperatures set in.  Once again, a few local growers were kind enough to share an abundance of beautiful produce that was beyond what they could consume.  I was thrilled to see a small bag of assorted hot peppers in the mix.  The orange, red, and green, color combination would make for a beautiful display in canning jars. Because I would only have enough to fill one large jar, I decided to make refrigerator pickled peppers rather than canning them with a water bath method.  This is a quick and simple way to make the great tasting flavor of the peppers last as they sit on the refrigerator shelf and marinate in the sweet and spicy vinegar solution.  Use these peppers to top an Italian salad or to add some flavor to a grilled sandwich. Simply delicious!






Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers

2-4 cups sliced peppers

2 cups white vinegar

1⅓ cup water

1 tablespoon canning salt

2 tsp sugar

Canning jar(s) with tight fitting lid(s)

Wash jar(s) with warm soapy water; air dry.  Pack the sliced peppers in jar(s).  Set jar(s) aside.

In a saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar completely.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Pour mixture over the peppers making sure they are completely covered. Twist on a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. As the peppers sit, the flavors will develop. Store refrigerated for 4-6 weeks.