Tomato Jam Goes with EVERYTHING!

Tomato Jam Goes with EVERYTHING!

If you have homegrown (or farmer’s market) tomatoes coming out of your ears, today is your lucky day! This recipe for tomato jam is so delicious, you’ll be spreading it on everything. Heck, I help myself to a spoonful every time I pass the fridge! Scrambled eggs, hot dogs, burgers, cheese & crackers, bruschetta … use your own imagination (or Pinterest) to figure it out. But beware, tomato jam goes down easy and when eaten in large quantities, results in a slight, albeit “so worth it,” sugar headache. I speak from experience.

I modified Mark Bittman’s recipe as listed in the NYTimes just a tad. He’s a brilliant cook so I have not changed his recipe to improve upon it. To be perfectly honest, the first time I made it, I did not have enough limes, so I improvised by adding balsamic vinegar for more acid. And I like a little more spice, as you’ll see.  Finally, I more than doubled the recipe because those tomatoes cook down so much, you’ll be sorry if you start with too few tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds ripe tomatoes, any variety, or a mixture. 
  • cups sugar, or less if you don’t want it as sweet.
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoons fresh grated ginger or 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Thai chili paste

Directions

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Core and chop all the tomatoes. You could even do a course chop in your food processor to save time. I used my Miracle Kitchen Plus which worked great!

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Toss the chopped tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients in a heavy pan and bring mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for several hours.

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You should be able to pull your spoon across the bottom of the pot and see the bottom. It will be thick like jam.

Cool and store in the refrigerator or freezer. I spoon it into small mason jars while it is still warm and screw the lid on tightly. As it cools, it sucks the lid in a bit for a tighter seal. This is not the same as canning (which you could totally do) so each jar lasts only a week or so in the fridge.

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It makes a great gift for friends and neighbors if you are the sharing type!

One amazing way to use tomato jam is on a grilled cheese sandwich with fresh mozzarella and a slice or two of fresh tomato. Talk about delicious!

If you have a recipe for tomato jam or a great way to use it, please share below!

 

These Cinnamon Chip Scones Will Change Your Life

These Cinnamon Chip Scones Will Change Your Life

IMO the perfect scone is tender and not sickeningly sweet. They are one of my favorite baked goods. I am slightly partial to cream scones, but also enjoy ones that use buttermilk or yogurt. They key of course is not over-stirring them once liquid is combined with the dry ingredients. Like biscuits or pie crust, the less handling, the better!

I offered to bake scones for a friend’s birthday this week and had a craving for cinnamon and maple. I combined those two flavors for what I believe is one of the best scones I’ve made yet. If you are one of those folks that believe scones should be sickeningly sweet like a giant cookie, move along. These are not your kind of scone. If these are a bit too sweet for your liking, leave off the glaze. They’ll still be delicious!

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cinnamon chips

Directions

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Mix all dry ingredients together. Use a pastry cutter to incorporate butter until mixture looks like small peas. It is fine to have a few larger pieces of butter. You can work with it as much as you want at this stage.

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Add cinnamon chips and stir in with a fork.

Measure heavy cream into liquid measuring cup. Stir egg and vanilla into the cream using a fork to incorporate the egg. Pour liquid into dry ingredients and carefully mix together until it comes together. A spatula works great.

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Turn dough onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or a baking mat. Press into a 8-inch disc. Add a bit more cream to measuring cup and brush the top of the dough with a thin layer of heave cream. Lightly sprinkle the top with a pinch or two of sugar. Use a pizza cutter to cut into 8 wedges.

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Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Glaze (optional)

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In a separate bowl combine 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup. Stir until smooth. Add more syrup or sugar to alter consistency. Drizzle over scones.

Scones are always best served warm. You can keep these in an air tight container for a day or two. Just warm them for 30 seconds in the microwave or place them in a warm over for 5-10 minutes. You can also wrap them individually and freeze some for later.

Include a Hedgehog at Tea!

Include a Hedgehog at Tea!

mygrandmasrecipebookThank you Morgan for this delightful recipe! If you’ve never visited mygrandmasrecipebook.com, you are in for a treat – or two! Morgan chronicles some great old-fashioned recipes including this one she sent exclusively for my blog!

Chocolate Hedgehog Slices

This is a very nice, traditional Australian recipe from the 70’s and 80’s that is often served for afternoon tea or parties.  I remember my grandmother and mother both making this for children’s birthday parties or just a special treat.

Ingredients
400 grams (14oz) plain sweet biscuits/cookies (shortbread or plain graham crackers would work)
250 grams (9oz) unsalted butter
1 cup caster or granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons shredded coconut
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecan nuts


Putting the biscuits/cookies in a zip-loc plastic bag, crush the biscuits with a rolling pin or other heavy tool until they are small pieces.


Melt the butter in a large bowl.  Add the cocoa powder and stir until mixed.


Add the other ingredients and the biscuits, and then stir to combine.

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Line a lamington tin (13” x 9” slice tin) with baking or greaseproof paper and spread the mixture into a thick layer.

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Refrigerate for 1 hour; before the slice is set too firmly, cut into squares.

Keep refrigerated until served.

Notes:
It is possible to substitute walnuts or almonds for the pecans.

This is an unbaked recipe using eggs, so it is not advised for young children or pregnant women. Please practice good egg safety.

Note from Brad: This no-bake dessert really hits the spot when you need a chocolate fix.  And since it uses cocoa powder and nuts, it’s a bit healthier than other sweets! Give it a try and let me know what you think! Better yet, make it at home and tag me (@GourmandBrad) and Morgan (@grandmasbook) on a photo of your concoction in Twitter.

Banana Split Dessert Hits the Spot

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These hot summer days are the perfect time to whip up a no-bake dessert. Who wants to heat up the oven when its 90+ degrees and humid outside? Morgan’s blog, My Grandma’s Recipe Book, was kind enough to include my Banana Split Dessert for her readers to enjoy. Here’s a peek at the end result, but if you want to know how to assemble this step-by-step, pop over to Morgan’s site for instructions and photos. She includes other delicious dishes her Grandma used to make which I am certain you will enjoy as well.

What dish do you still make that your Gram used to prepare? I’d love to know.

10 Apps No Cook Can Live Without

I know this is a dramatic title. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Huff Post lately! But seriously, these are the apps I rely heavily on while in my kitchen. And as always, feel free to chime in and share what apps you find indispensable to cooking.

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iPhone camera
What would I do without my smartphone camera? I use it to take pictures while I’m cooking which is handy. But more importantly, I take photos of recipes in magazines whenever I am in a waiting room! Remember the days when you were in the doctor’s office and found a recipe you wanted to try, so you had to either write it down on a scrap of paper or secretly tear it out of the magazine? (OK, I never did that!) Now I snap a photo and refer back to it when shopping or ready to cook.

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Epicurious
This was the first cooking app I ever used and it continues to be a mainstay. I’ve compiled many of my favorites in the recipe box feature. I like the categories such as “picnic ideas,” “main course salads,” or “Mexican tonight.” Photos, reviews, ratings, and step by step instructions make this a user-friendly resource that is loaded with recipes. Epicurious features a suite of mobile applications, including one for your smart Samsung fridge!

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Grocery Store
I’m not going to recommend any specific grocery store since I have no idea what’s available in your area. I will tell you however, that if your favorite store has a useful app, download it! I really like the Wegmen’s app. I can add all my ingredients to the list and it will organize them by aisle for faster shopping. It gives me a total of what I’m about to spend. Other cool features include tons of recipes and even a prescription refill option.

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Coupons
You might already have a favorite coupon app since there are a few out there. This one from coupons.com allows you to register your loyalty card, add applicable coupons to your account, and redeem them right at checkout. It takes some time to scroll through the available coupons whenever you go shopping, but saves you the trouble of clipping and storing paper coupons. Since I love to cook, it helps keep costs down on my grocery bills.

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Grill
If you like grilling, then the Weber’s Grill app is one to consider. Besides a slew of grilling recipes, it serves up grilling techniques and a handy timer. It has a grocery list feature, but since I use my grocery store app, I haven’t really taken advantage of that section.

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Thermometer
This is more of a product than an app, but it’s the app that makes it so cool. Weber’s iGrill products mean you are no longer tethered to the grill or oven when cooking. The app on your phone keeps you updated on internal temps. If like me you start talking to your guests in the kitchen while your meat is cooking out on the grill, then this is a lifesaver.

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Converter/Calculator
If you’re a baker, this app is for you. Scale recipes up or down like a pro. Convert between metric and non metric measurement.

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Substitutions
Have you ever been up to your elbows in a recipe only to find you are missing a critical ingredient? I sure have! Substitutions is a handy app to have when you need to find a way to make a recipe work when running to the grocery store that minute is not an option. Even better, the app helps you find substitutions for ingredients that cause allergic reactions. Brilliant!

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Pairing
If you are an average Joe (or in my case, Brad) like me, your knowledge of beer, wine, and cheese is limited to what you like. But that’s not always helpful when it comes to entertaining. That’s why it’s important to have a couple of useful apps for wine, beer, and cheese pairing suggestions. Unfortunately, I have not come across one app that does it all, but I have a couple that I rely upon. Here they are:

Pocket Wine Pairing
PairWise

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Plus one bonus!
Cheese & Wine

What’s on your smartphone that makes home cooking easier? I’d love to know!

Brad’s Stromboli, That’s Amori

Brad’s Stromboli, That’s Amori

If you are a Stromboli aficionado, please don’t be offended. I know I broke a few rules, but honestly, this recipe I whipped up is delicious. Like it’s relative, the pizza, you can use whatever ingredients you’ve got on hand. I highly recommend you get a bit adventurous and try a few new combinations.

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This is where the purists will pitch a fit…

I used my French bread recipe as the base. Most recipes call for a pizza dough, but I like the sweet, chewy texture of the French bread I make, so I took culinary license!

Follow the recipe linked to below, but STOP when you get to the directions for punching down the risen dough and separating it into two halves.

French Bread Recipe explained in excruciating detail with photos!

Ingredients for Filling
2 packages or 1 pound sliced Black Forest ham
1 package sliced pepperoni
1 package or 1/2 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
1 package or 1/2 pound sliced provolone cheese
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 egg, beaten

Directions
While your dough is rising, prepare your filling ingredients. I sliced and sautéed a green pepper in some olive oil. If you wanted to use spicy sausage, you would cook, drain, and cool it. You could slice and fry up an onion.

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Roll out dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle. Layer cheese, meat, and vegetables. For my two Strombolis, I used mozzarella, ham, and peppers on one and I used ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, and provolone on the other. Season with salt and pepper. Roll tightly. Please on cookie sheet and brush on egg wash.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Baking time will vary depending upon your oven. Let it sit for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with a small dish of pizza or red pasta sauce for dipping. Please note I did not spread sauce inside of the Stromboli before baking. I was worried it might get a little soggy after sitting. Since the recipe makes two, any leftovers are easily wrapped in tin foil and reheated later.

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How do you like your Stromboli? Please share your preferences!

“New” Cuisine is Not Always Better

I love retro foods, so when I stumbled across Mary’s delightful website Old Fashioned Recipes, chock full of oldies, but goodies, I hit the jackpot! She provides recipes for award-winning chocolate cake, creamy scalloped potatoes, chicken pot pie, and much more!

Mary was kind enough to include one of my favorite family recipes for my grandmother’s banana cake. It’s nice to know gram’s cake recipe found an audience among people who love simple, yet delicious home cooking.

If you’d like the recipe to Banana Cake with Penuche Frosting or to browse similar fare like your Gramma used to make, then be sure to visit her site!

5 Economical Ways to Feed Teen Boys

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Photo credit.

Locusts. It’s a word commonly associated with hungry teenagers as they work their way through the kitchen. Wonder where all the leftovers have gone? They were probably consumed during a late-night refrigerator raid. There is a physiological reason for the increased appetite of the average teen boy. Most young men hit a major growth spurt between the ages of 14 and 17, as their bodies add significant height and muscle mass.

Does the inside of your fridge look like this? If perpetual grazing is taking its toll on your pantry and food budget, here are 5 ways to feed those burgeoning appetites without breaking the bank.

1. Buy snacks, fruits, and vegetables at Aldi
Aldi got its start in Germany in 1961 and prides itself on great quality at a low price. It’s hard to find better prices on fresh fruits and vegetables unless you’re shopping at a local roadside stand. The store carries many of its own brands which cost far less than well known names. Download the app on your smartphone and follow the weekly specials to stock up on healthy snacks like Mountain trail mix, granola bars, nuts, and produce at the lowest prices in town.IMG_3308

2. Watch for “soon to expire” meat
Most food stores discount fresh meat one or two days before the recommended “use by” date. Buy these discounted meats and freeze them until ready to use. Great times to look for deals are after a holiday when stores typically overbuy turkeys, hams, corned beef, or other seasonal specialties. You can find hams dirt cheap a couple of weeks after Christmas and Easter then use it for dinner, sandwiches, and soup. Anytime you see a great sale or price cut on chicken legs, buy them, season well with BBQ rub, bake, and store in the fridge next to a bottle of hot sauce. A couple of chicken legs make a perfect “snack!”

Recipe using “soon-to-expire” lamb.

3. Bake with over-ripened bananas

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If fresh bananas never make it to the over-ripe stage in your household, many grocery stores sell brown bananas by the bag at a bargain price. For the low cost of brown bananas, eggs, and a few pantry items, bake banana bread, snack cake, muffins, or cupcakes. While not as wholesome as a piece of fruit, it’s still a better choice than a bag of potato chips!

4. Keep pasta salad on hand
The great thing about pasta salad, besides its low cost, is you can load it up with fresh veggies for a healthy anytime snack or side dish. Bags of tri-color spiral noodles, a bottle of low fat Italian salad dressing, and a combination of chopped raw vegetables (whatever you have on hand) combine for an easy pasta salad. Throw in leftover chicken, roasted vegetables, a can of chickpeas, cheese, or any other ingredients on hand to stretch the recipe out even more.

5. Teach your teen to make smoothies
If you own a high quality blender, smoothies are a low-cost and filling snack or breakfast. Keep the cost down by freezing fruits that are bruised or getting too soft to eat fresh. Bulk vanilla yogurt, protein powder, and skim milk make a tasty base for bananas, strawberries, avocado, peanut butter, or any combination your teen prefers. And it’s fun to experiment! One important tip is to remember the color wheel before mixing ingredients. Red and green combine to make brown. If a brown smoothie looks unappetizing, then strawberries and green grapes may not make the best visual combination! Here is a list of 50 smoothie recipes you can use for inspiration from the Food Network.

School breaks are the most challenging times to keep food in the house because the kids are hanging around. Summer vacation is prime grazing season for growing boys (and girls). If your cupboards are bare, use these ideas to satisfy growing appetites without breaking the bank.

Top 10 Summer Beverages

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Even though June 21 did not officially kick off summer, at my house, it’s summer once the fresh mint is ready to cut and stuff in a glass! My mint is ready for harvesting and my automatic ice maker is churning out cubes on a regular basis come 5 o’clock. If you are entertaining guests this summer on the back deck, I hope one or two of these drinks will add a pleasant kick to your menu!

Rather than working my way from least favorite to most favorite, I thought I would start out with the ones I like the most at the top of my list! Enjoy.

1. Pimms
First produced back in 1823, Pimms was first introduced to me several years ago by a colleague from London. Thank you Kathryn, wherever you are now! It has a sweet, slightly spicy aroma. I serve it exactly as directed on the back of the bottle.

1/4 cup Pimms
3/4 cups fizzy lemonade
1 sprig fresh mint
2-3 slices fresh cucumber
1 sliced strawberry
1 slice fresh orange
1 tall glass and fresh ice

2. Bobby Flay’s Red Sangria
I’ve tried a number of sangria recipes over the years and I always come back to this one from Chef Bobby Flay. I keep the key ingredients in my pantry at all times. It is a beverage my dinner guests ask for now. I switch up the fruits a bit depending upon what I have handy, but the base remains the same. Give it a try the next time you cook out!

3. Chef Roblé’s Cucumber Lemonade
This one is alcohol-free and may sound a little wonky. But trust me. You will want to add this drink to your summertime rotation. For some reason the cucumber adds this subtle refreshing flavor to homemade lemonade that is unbelievable. Buy yourself a citrus squeezer and give this recipe a try!

4. Citrus Slush
This was a popular drink back in the ’70s. Hard to believe it is still around, but it is one of my summer party favorites. It packs a hidden punch since it tastes like a fizzy fruit drink, so watch out if you are sipping these poolside! You will be the hit of the day if you take this as your dish to pass at the next neighborhood cookout, I promise!

5. Margaritas
A summer list of adult beverages would not be complete without the Margarita! The nice thing about the Bon Appétit article I linked to above is that they break down the ingredients with a bit more detail.

6. Frozen Strawberry Daiquiris

My neighbor always made this version growing up. Of course I was of legal age the first time I ever tried them!

1 box frozen strawberries (or 1/2 bag)
1 small can frozen limeade
1/2 cup rum
1/4 cup strawberry liquor
2 cups ice

Blend well. If you do not like seeds in your drinks, use a high quality blender like a Vitamix.

7. Mojito
If you find yourself grilling up some fajitas or roasting a cuban-spiced pork roast, pull out a few more sprigs of mint and mix up a pitcher of Cuban Mojitos. This refreshing summer beverage was originally “consumed for medical purposes!” Who am I to argue with the healing properties of a refreshing summer concoction?!?

8. Mimosa
You cannot go wrong with a good, old-fashioned and simple-to-make mimosa! Mix orange juice and champagne for a refreshing summer drink any time of the day. I like one part OJ to 3 parts bubbly, but feel free to use your own favorite ratio. Some people shy away from using good champagne for this cocktail, but I disagree. While I would not recommend diluting a Dom Perignon with anything, I never go for the bargain bin sparkling wine either.

9. Gin and Tonic
Like the mimosa above, the key to a decent gin & tonic is use of a decent gin. I recommend you give Fords Gin or Anchor Old Tom a try. Using a rocks glass, stir about 2 ounces gin with a splash of tonic, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice over ice. Substitute the tonic with Sprite or 7-Up and you’ve got yourself a Lime Rickey.

10. Trappistes Rochefort Beer
Brewed by the Trappist Monks inside the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy, Belgium, these guys know how to make awesome beer. After all, they’ve been brewing it since 1595 so they’ve had a lot of practice! If you like a full bodied and delicious beer, give this one a try. Choose between the 6, 8, or 10, depending upon the percentage of alcohol you prefer. I’d say give the 8 a try if you can find it. It’s my favorite!

It turns out, it’s not easy narrowing this list of my favorite summer drinks down to just 10. I hope you’ll help me out here folks by adding links to your faves in the comments section!

Four Pantry Items Home Cooks Can’t Live Without

Four Pantry Items Home Cooks Can’t Live Without

I participate in a couple of Facebook groups for self-proclaimed home chefs. I really enjoy seeing what other home cooks are putting on the dinner table. To be honest, most of them put me to shame! One of my favorite groups is The Home Chef’s hangout. The members are very positive and encouraging. I asked them to be my research sample for this blog post and they responded with gusto.

My question to them was: What are your three go-to pantry items you cannot live without as a home cook?

As you can imagine, it was not easy for many to keep their list down to three. 50 home cooks participated. These four items were leaders by a wide margin: olive oil, garlic, pasta, and tomato products. I am beginning to confirm my suspicions that by and large, the group prefers Italian cuisine!

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It makes sense when you consider how many dishes you incorporate at least one of these components into. I start nearly every savory dish with a splash of olive oil!

Of course, any home cook knows you need more than four items at the ready when cooking. Take a look through your pantry and fridge and make sure you have at least the ones listed below. (Please excuse the mess. These were not staged, but probably should have been!)

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Dry Goods
various rices, pastas, flour, sugar, grains, oats, crackers, beans, bread crumbs

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Canned Goods
olive oil, stock, beans, tomato products, tuna, peanut butter, olives, hot sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, artichoke hearts, anchovies, roasted red peppers, various vinegars, coconut milk, evaporated milk, Sriracha, chili paste

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Seasonings
salts, black peppercorns, various dried seasonings/spices dry rubs, creole seasoning, crushed red pepper, pure vanilla

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Fresh Goods
carrots, onions, celery, peppers, jalapeños, potatoes, eggs, lemons, limes, fresh herbs, butter, plantains, avocados, cheeses, frozen peas

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Baking
baking powder, baking soda, yeast, pure vanilla, cocoa powder, brown sugar, powdered sugar, baking chips, honey, raisins

Another day I will highlight a few pantry items I think you should have to really enhance your home cooked meals! Stay tuned. And, feel free to add your three favorite must-have pantry items in the comments below!