Month: March 2013

Strawberry Jam

For a long time I have wanted to learn how to can and preserve food.  I can’t really explain but it just looks like fun to me.  Oddly enough the only thing I have ever canned is strawberry jam.  This was years ago before my mission when I made jam using the sweet berries that are sold in California by the Vietnamese and Loation refuges.  They are one of the best food items I’ve ever tasted.  A couple summer’s we would buy more than we could eat so we made strawberry jam.

With this memory in my mind when Kate told me they were offering a strawberry add-on where you could get 8 lbs of strawberries, splitting that between the two of us that would make 4 lbs each.  Obviously that would be a lot for me to eat on my own so I decided to make jam.  I particularly like homemade strawberry jam over store bought because I don’t really like the big chunks of strawberry that is  usually in strawberry jam.  I blend it up pretty fine so the resultant jam has more of the consistency of jelly without straining the fruit pulp out.

So yesterday I got to work.

Strawberry Jam

First you have to cut the stems off the strawberries.

strawberry2

Then you blend the strawberry mixture (or part of the strawberry mixture depending on how chunky you like it).

Next add it to a pot and turn on heat.

beginning of jam

Once it starts to simmer add in sugar. 4 cups for each lb of strawberries used. (It’s a lot but the recipe goes a long way and if you think about it you only use a little in each sitting so don’t worry!  You can use sugar free but I am not experienced enough to try that).

Add in the gelatin (1 box for each lb of strawberries) and bring to a boil, the juice from 2 lemons and 1/4 cup of  butter.  Cook at a rolling boil for 3 minutes Skimming off foam as you go.

jam phase 2

While it is boiling sterilize jars, lids and seals using hot water.  Then fill the jars with hot jam . I like to use my collapsable funnel to fill the jars.  This helps minimize mess and getting burned by hot sticky jam.  It looks like this:

collapsable funnel

Once the jars are full (leave a centimeter or two for the jam to expand and create a good seal) wipe off the edges and put hot lids on as quickly as you can.   Then turn them upside down.  This helps create a seal.  You do not need to water bath the jars for this recipe.  Some won’t seal and the button on the top is popped up.  Use those right away or for the freezer.

all the jam

After a few minutes upside down turn them the right way (or you will have space at the bottom of  your jar which looks funny.  Then let them sit for several hours, it took overnight for it to really set.  (luckily it did set.  Always a risk with jam!)

YUM! Toast with butter and homemade jam
YUM! Toast with butter and homemade jam
Pretty!
Pretty jam!

 

Proud Mama of her jam
Proud Mama of her jam

It was fun to do something so domestic and do it well.  Today someone told me I looked like a Grecian Goddess! I think I was inspired by my jam success.

What do you guys like to can, bottle or preserve?

So who wants some!  Btw, 3 more comments until I get to 2,000 comments.

Reposting this. Happy Easter. He is risen.

Smilingldsgirl's Weblog

I don’t have long to write this Easter morning, but I have been contemplating my relationship with Jesus Christ lately.  It amazes me how His sacrifice could be both intimate and infinite.  While every single person who ever lived is saved from sin and despair, I have also been saved.  His grace and power coupled by divine love and empathy gives me the strength to live my life with purpose and obedience.   What a comfort it is to know that because He conquered death and was resurrected on the third day- we all can live again with our loved ones.  In my limited experience with such things the knowledge of eternal life and resurrection was truly a balm of Gilead.  It is my greatest desire to follow Him and be a worthy disciple.  I love Him and know that His church has been restored. He truly did die for…

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Kids Have it Good

So I hated being a kid.  I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be more grown up, more mature.  While I could never go back to being told what to do and how to do it all the time (wasn’t good at that when I was a kid), there are some perks that I wouldn’t mind having.  (It’d be like the movie Big but in reverse, go back to being a kid.  Script in there!)

I was thinking about this today when I was trying to decide what to eat and nothing looked good.  I seem to shop all the time but never have much to eat or that I feel like eating.  (I know, a first world problem but there you go).   As I was staring into the fridge I couldn’t help but think ‘I wish my Mother was here to make me dinner…’.  My Mom is an excellent cook and I definitely didn’t appreciate the gift of having a delicious meal placed before me every night growing up.  What a treat that was!

This memory of my Mom’s cooking started me on the thought track listed below:

Reasons Kids Have it Made:

1. Food of Some Kind Provided to them (in most situations) 3 meals a day

2. They don’t have to do meal planning, shopping list making, or have spices for whatever is made (I am always short something when I cook)

3. They could read all day and it be considered a good thing

4. They have activities like piano lessons and art classes paid for and encouraged.

5. They have time to take piano lessons and art classes

6. They can act like fools and it is seen as charming, not idiotic

7.  They don’t have to worry about dating, relationships or your biological clock running out!

8. They have someone who plans birthday parties for them and Santa still brings them presents.

9. They get driven everywhere and are completely oblivious of road rage, distracted driving and trying to navigate through town

10. When they do chores around the house they get an allowance. Those end when you become an adult! 😉

11. Their only job is to learn and get along with people.  (That I am most envious of!)

12. They should be able to eat without freaking out over carbs, fat grams, sodium, sugar and dieting

13. They have more to look forward to than to look back on

14. They have someone to make them soup and go to the pharmacy when they are sick

15. They have someone to help them on projects or doing most anything.

16.  They can have imaginary friends and talk to themselves and everyone thinks it’s charming not psychotic

17.  They have leaders, teachers, parents and others who are all thinking of how they can challenge/entertain them

18.  They don’t have to work and worry about money

19. They don’t have to worry about politics, current events or anything they can’t control

20.  They still have energy at the end of the day!

So there you go.  Enjoy it kids while you can!  Goodness knows I should have!  (I guess when it comes down to it kids are lucky because they still, or should, have a Mother at home)

What would you add to the list?

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5 Favorite Films

So Rottentomatoes.com has a recurring feature called 5 Favorite Films where various celebrities, mostly actors, give their 5 Favorite films.   (They even had Miss Piggy do a list (Wizard of Oz is I believe a favorite of hers).  It’s harder than it sounds to whittle everything down to 5 films.  I figure it has to be 5 movies I could watch again and again (and have).   There were so many that I wanted to pick like Clueless, Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Fiddler on the Roof, To Kill a Mockingbird, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Hoosiers, Les Miserables, Juno, Talk of the Town, His Girl Friday, Sense and Sensibility but I was good and stuck to 5 so here goes.

1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

“You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-You-Are?  You’re chicken, you’ve got no guts.  You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say, ‘Ok, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.’ You call yourself a free spirt, a wild thing, and you’re terrified someone’s going to stick you in a cage.  Well, baby you’re already in that cage.  You built it yourself.  And it’s not bound by Tulip, Texas in the west or Somaliland in the east.  It’s wherever you go.  Because no matter where you go, you just keep running into yourself”

– And no, I did not google that quote. It’s one of the few lines of dialogue from a movie that I have memorized (which I think that alone has to put it on the top of my list).  I love this movie if only for that thought.  Wherever you go you eventually have to be happy with yourself.  I love this movie because of the style.  I love the just below the surface sensuality and yet innocent romance.  I love that it’s vintage postcard to New York. I love Moon River and the rest of the music.  I love Audrey Hepburn and I love the idea that nobody is a lost cause when it comes to love.

The only thing I don’t like about this movie (and I almost had to take it off the list for this reason) is Mickey Rooney’s embarrassing performance as a Japanese photographer.

2. Sound of Music

It was tough to decide which musical to pick but I figured I had to pick one of them.  The Sound of Music is definitely the best translation of musical to movie, with the movie actually being superior to the stage production.  Julie Andrews is divine. I could listen to her voice all day.  All the child actors are great and Christopher Plummer is wonderful.  If I made a movie I would want to write a part for him.  He is so good at showing nuance in a character and making someone unlikable have a tender side.

The romance between the Captain and Maria is wonderful and I love the smoldering chemistry in the ‘Something Good’ musical number.  Also, Peggy Wood’s ‘Climb Every Mountain’ is perfect and that’s a hard song to pull off.  I love seeing Salzberg and the thrilling ending at the festival.  My Favorite Things, 16 Going on 17, Do Re Mi, Sound of Music, Problem Like Maria, are all great.

3. Howards End

Maybe my more controversial choice.  A lot of people hate this movie but I loved the book and movie.  It is about a set of educated elite sisters (played by Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter) who come in contact with the traditional elitist Wilcox family who own a house called Howards End.

The movie is partly about human character and how we often try to change people and how that usually leads to disaster but also about how good intentions on the part of all can lead to disaster.  There is also a larger social commentary about class struggles and how finding happiness in assigned class is typically the best kind of happiness.  Especially aspiring higher for others is noble in idea but usually awful in execution.

I love how rich this movie.  You have minor side characters that get a full story arc.  You get to feel the heart of a character like Mr. Wilcox who would normally be nothing more than a stiff aristocrat without feeling.   When Anthony Hopkins breaks down at the ruin of his son you feel wounded along with him.  He is not a bad man but money sometimes makes him appear so to others.

There is also a wonderful undercurrent of forgiveness within the movie.  As all the characters wrong each other in one way or another and all must forgive both the person and the class they come from.  I love the acting, writing, cinematography and story.  Like I said, I love the book and love the movie.

4. Up

Anyone who attended my housewarming party knows I love the movie Up.  It has my favorite opening sequence of any movie bar none.   The love story between Carl and Ellie is beautiful and told completely in an opening montage without any words spoken, just images.  I love that a character who dies in the first 5 minutes can remain an active presence throughout the film.  I love the relationships between other characters like Carl and Russell or even Russell and the animals.

I love the story, as far fetched as it might be I totally bought it as a modern day fairy tale.  I love the spirit of travel, family, friendship and adventure.  I love the end message that life is an adventure no matter where you go.   It is my current favorite movie.

The opening montage: I just watched it for like the 300th time and it made me cry all over again. (and not like a tear drop, no like all out crying.  It just does it to me every time.  I love this movie!)

5. The Little Mermaid

I figured I had to pick one movie that influenced me a child and there is no debate about this.  It is Little Mermaid for sure.  The only other candidate might have been Beauty and the Beast but Little Mermaid came out first so it influenced me earlier.  I LOVED the music.  The idea of the young girl who doesn’t quite fit in totally spoke to me.  My sister and I used to sing ‘Part of Your World’ at night with both of us contending that ‘I sound the most like Ariel’.  (I totally did…).  Jodi Benson is amazing as Ariel’s voice.  She set the standard for Disney animation to come.

It is also funny with Sebastian the crab and Scuttle the bird providing great comic relief.  ‘Les Poissons’ fish stew/crab hunting song being a particular favorite that still makes me laugh.  (I’m sorry if you start that song with any American girl of my age they will join right in).  Ursula is also one of the best villains Disney has ever created.  Sounding like a cigarette smoking grandma her song ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ is definitely one of those most delicious evil songs ever written.  (I love the villain in Tangled also).  She works because she’s plenty scary without being too real for little kids (The Rescuers for instance was a little too real with wicked people kidnapping children…Not exactly something great for most kids to see).

I think it is great that they could make hand drawn animation without 3D and it is as good if not better than most of the animated work put out today with all those helps.  It will always be a favorite movie of mine. It also celebrates the ocean (Maybe that’s where I got my love of the ocean and water!)

Oh and Eric is definitely one of the most dreamy, well developed Prince’s in the Disney cannon.

So there are my 5.  What would you pick?  Please share.

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Hoosier Meal

Yesterday I had a fun trip down memory lane thanks to the young men and women.  The youth in my ward were doing a missionary activity where they went to people’s homes and ate a meal from that person’s mission.  They could then ask questions and learn more about what a mission is like.  I signed up and luckily my voice lessons were cancelled so it all worked out.

It’s interesting because I have never really tried to make the food from my mission.  This is partly because it’s not all that good for you (chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes, double starch oh my!) and because I never learned how to do it since I was so busy being a missionary. I haven’t cooked for a large group in a long while and it was exhausting!  I cooked for 8 people and realized while I was doing it that it is the size of my family! Gave me a new respect for my Mother!

I’ll just post the photos because I am behind on work and don’t have time to write much.  The meal was pork tenderloin sandwiches (an Indiana favorite inspired by Mug N’ Bun in Speedway, Indiana

Here are the youth and the youth leader.  It was fun to talk to them about my mission and answer questions
Here are the youth and the youth leader. It was fun to talk to them about my mission and answer questions
Pork tenderloin sandwich an indiana favorite.  They are sometimes called Hoosier Sandwiches
Pork tenderloin sandwich an indiana favorite. They are sometimes called a Hoosier Sandwich
My inspiration.  Mug n Bun pork tenderloin.  Mine looks pretty close
My inspiration. Mug n Bun pork tenderloin. Mine looks pretty close
Hoosier pies or also called sugar cream pies.  Kind of like coconut cream pies without the coconut.
Hoosier pies or also called sugar cream pies. Kind of like coconut cream pies without the coconut.
Hoosier pie with berries on top (not traditional with the berries but the pie is so rich it needed it)
Hoosier pie with berries on top (not traditional with the berries but the pie is so rich it needed it)
The spread
The spread
dinner hoosier sandwiches, corn chips, guac, and cesear salad
dinner hoosier sandwiches, corn chips, guac, and Cesar salad

It was a lot of work!  I was exhausted afterwards but it was a lot of fun too.    Sometimes I think doing regular things like cleaning and cooking make more achy than working out.

By the way, this is in no ways a low calorie meal.  It’s that midwest stick to your ribs kind of cooking but it sure tasted good!  I was proud of the sandwiches because I don’t have a ton of experience deep frying (probably better that way) and they turned out very yummy.  My roommate agreed they were a success.  The teens loved them!

Here are the 2 recipes I used

Hoosier Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

( I had the butcher pound out the pork so I skipped the first part of the recipe)

2 pounds center-cut boneless pork loin
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 sleeves saltines (about 80 crackers)
2 cups instant flour (such as Wondra)
Peanut oil, for frying
4 soft hamburger buns, split
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 half-sour dill pickles, thinly slicedDirectionsCut the pork crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Put each piece flat on a cutting board and slice horizontally almost in half (stop about 1 inch from the other side). Open like a book. Sprinkle each piece with water, place between 2 pieces of heavy-duty plastic wrap and pound to 1/4 inch thick with a mallet or heavy skillet.Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, garlic, 1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, and the cayenne in a shallow bowl. Add the pork, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.Pulse the crackers into coarse crumbs in a food processor, then transfer to a shallow dish. Put the flour in another dish. Remove each piece of pork from the marinade, letting the excess drip off. Dredge both sides in the flour, dip in the buttermilk marinade again, then coat with the cracker crumbs.

Heat 1/4 to 1/2 inch peanut oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 360. Fry the pork in batches until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

Spread both halves of each bun with mayonnaise and mustard. Layer the lettuce, tomatoes and onion on the bottom halves. Add a piece of pork and a few pickle slices. Cover with the bun tops.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/hoosier-pork-tenderloin-sandwich-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

(I used store bought crust- Marie Calendars is my favorite)

For the Crust:
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes; 4 tablespoons chilled, 3 tablespoons frozen for 15 minutes
For the Filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for dustingDirections

Prepare the crust: Combine the vinegar with 1/2 cup ice water in a small bowl.

Pulse the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add the 4 tablespoons chilled butter and pulse until the butter is in pea-sized clumps and the mixture is sandy. Add the 3 tablespoons frozen butter; pulse until the frozen butter is also in pea-sized clumps. Add 5 tablespoons of the vinegar mixture; pulse 2 or 3 more times. Squeeze a small amount of dough between your fingers. If it does not stay together easily, add 1 more tablespoon of the vinegar mixture and pulse 3 or 4 more times. (Do not let the dough come together.) Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and gather into a lumpy ball; flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, about -inch thick. Fit into an 8-inch pie plate and trim the extra dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang; reserve trimmings. Fold the edges under the rim and crimp. Refrigerate the crust until firm, 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line the chilled crust with foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake until the edges are golden, 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights; continue baking until the center of the crust is dry and golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Cover any cracks in the crust with the dough trimmings before filling.

Prepare the filling: Whisk the sugars and the flour in a medium bowl, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar. Combine the heavy cream and vanilla in a separate bowl and slowly whisk into the sugar mixture until smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared crust; bake until the pie begins to set around the edge but is still slightly wobbly in the middle, 40 minutes. (Tent loosely with foil for the last 10 minutes if the crust gets too dark.) Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before slicing.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/hoosier-sugar-cream-pie-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

More Photos from the Shoot

So my photographer Brooke was kind of enough to allow me to share with all of you some lower resolution images from the photo shoot.  Some are from my house and I think they are really neat.  There are a few more of me that while may not have made my top 10 I still like a lot.

sara
My signed Sara Bareilles poster I have framed in my living room
soft smile
An nice softer smile from me.
strawberry
working in the kitchen cutting some strawberries
strawberry2
cutting strawberries
subtle smile
Another softer look
veggies
thank the produce to bountiful baskets
window
My window and a little bit of my curtains in my master
apron
My flirty apron
bandtiff
favorite movie of mine. I have 2 audrey hepburn posters in my living room
books
Cookbooks galore. Love my Julia Child!
books2
Of course Edenbooke is front and center!
boxing tough punch
punch shot and know I do not wear this shirt when boxing
boxing tough
I don’t know if I can ever pull off the tough chick look but here is an attempt?
light fixture
My pretty light fixture. I just love it!
pie
Taking a pie out of the oven.

What do you all think? I think they are a lot of fun.

My Photo Shoot

Well, the photo’s are in.  Yes, I was a model for a day.  My sisters decided to give me a photo shoot for my birthday/housewarming present and it was a lot of fun.  The photographer is named Brooke Schultz and she did a great job.  She treated me like a movie star and made you laugh.  Her personality is very bubbly and fun and I’d recommend her for any of your photo shoots.  Although it was a gift the price I believe is quite reasonable and she took a lot of photos during the session.

http://brookeschultzphotography.com/

I will probably make a few prints so let me know which one’s you like the most.  I have to say that it really did make you feel beautiful to have someone asking you to pose and spending time taking your picture.  It’s funny because I grew up in a family of photographers but they do more landscape photos than portraits and I have certainly never had a session like this.  It was a lot of fun and something I’d like to do again.  It’s good for the self esteem.

(On another note, my talk yesterday went great! I got tons of positive feedback.  People even asked for copies to be emailed to them.  Hurray!)

boxing rachel (5) rachel (6) rachel (8) rachel (9) rachel (10) rachel (13) rachel (24) rachel (29) rachel (32)