Hot Jam!

A few years ago, I made strawberry (and orange, and banana) jam the wrong way. We were in Seoul, and while the berries were awesome, the world of home canning wasn’t known to me there. I didn’t have any of the cool tools. We did have a huge pot to use as a canner. We reused our spaghetti sauce jars.

Today, I did it the right way!

Thanks to Katy’s bridal shower gift of a canning kit (yes, it was on my registry), and my trip to Sprouts and Target the other day, I was able to get the job done easily.

I opted for the pectin-free recipe with just two ingredients: Strawberries and sugar.

8-10 cups cut strawberries, 6 cups white sugar.

jam1

In a large, heavy bottom pot bring strawberries and sugar to a rapid boil. Stir occasionally.

jam2

You’ll want to have your jars in a hot water bath to sanitize (boil the jars, lids, and rings in water).

To test if the jam is ready, dip a cold spoon (let it sit in the freezer for a while) into the jam. If it drips pretty fast, it’s not ready. If it sorta oozes off the spoon, it’s ready.

Once the jam is ready, ladle it into your prepped jars (which should now be out of the water). The canning kit is awesome for this… it comes with a funnel, a pair of jar tongs, a magnet to get the metal lids and rings, and a jar tightener. The funnel is great to keep the jars clean. Fill the jars up to about an inch from the top. Wipe off any jam that spilled onto the lip of the jars. Place the lid (the flat metal thing) on, then loosely screw on the ring.

Set the filled jars back into the hot water bath to set the seal and extract all the air from within the jar. I had them in there for about 5-10 minutes.

jam4

When I removed the jars, they seals popped (a fun sound indicating a good, strong seal) and I tightened the rings with the tightener. And I’m letting the jars cool before refrigerating.

jam3These should last a good while unopened. Since there are no preservatives, once the jar is opened, it should be used within a week or two.

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Preggo Girl’s WIAW #9

Today’s WIAW focuses on Fall… Fall Flavors.

As many of you may know, I have been looking forward to the flavors of fall for about a month. Starbucks brought back their Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Salted Caramel Mochas last week. After last week’s OB appointment, we made a special trip just so I could get a Pumpkin Spice Latte. When we were in Korea, they didn’t even have them, so when we moved back last year, I jumped at almost every opportunity to get one. And I discovered Salted Caramel Mochas last year as well. HOLY COW. So. Good.

Anyhow, this month’s WIAW focus is fall and “falling into good habits.”

So here is my contribution to the fall theme. A warm batch of pumpkin pancakes for brunch today. I found the recipe here, and changed just a few things: I used 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice instead of the allspice + cinnamon + ginger; I used 1% milk instead of buttermilk (although buttermilk is easy to fake with equal parts milk and plain yogurt if you want, I just didn’t have any yogurt), and I ran out of vanilla several baking adventures ago.

The batter is SUPER thick and as such, we have half a batch now sitting in the freezer. And I still have half a can (about 2/3 cup) of the pumpkin puree, so I’m thinking pumpkin scones or pumpkin cookies in the near future.

Preggo Girl’s WIAW #8

After yesterday’s allergy assault, I was surprised that I had been able to sleep as well as I did. Aside from my now regular bouts of tossing and turning, I had a kicky, hiccupy baby to tend with, as well as a nose that would just not turn off. But, sleep I did. I credit the odd dreams I had which were brought on by both the condition of my nasal passages as well as the fact I spent a good portion of my evening leveling my blood elf. (The things we do for love…)

Oddly, at some point in the early AM I found a good position on my right side, something unheard of on account of my worsening carpal tunnel. So my sleep was comfortable despite everything.

Work was the verb of the day, as I had three proofs to get through, but I was able to pull together some nosh to tide me over while I plodded through.

This week’s WIAW focuses on what I ate while working. 

Since I haven’t done any belly pics in a while, I thought I would include one here. Appropriately, I’m wearing my Dr. WhoAre you my mummy” t-shirt. The braces are for the afore-mentioned carpal tunnel.

I have to comment on my choice of sandwich. It’s NOT a pregnancy thing. I actually love cheddar and mustard sandwiches, regardless of being pregnant. They’re so darn good!

Preggo Girl’s WIAW #3

Peas and Crayons

It’s gonna be a nice long work day today, so my WIAW this week has been relegated to just the snakage. Well, breakfast and snackage.

Breakfast

Yogurt, Granola, Chia Seeds, and Bananas

Last week, after a very long hiatus we finally made it back out to Costco. In Korea, we had to go about once a month. This was mostly to do with the fact that we had a tiny refrigerator. But, probably more the reason, we had to carry that stuff home. Literally. On the bus. For about an hour. We would be pretty loaded down–each of us sporting a backpack and 1-2 Baggus. We do not miss that. Especially the summer trips in the middle of humidity hell. Imagine walking home with roughly 45 pounds strapped to you, through air that felt more like a warm swimming pool. Good times.

I digress. While we were at Costco this past week, we managed to snag a WHOLE CASE of this:

Snack #1

Dried, Salted Seaweed
What you may be thinking: Gross! Seaweed!

But you are wrong. This stuff is fan-freakin-tastic! Now, I don’t like sushi or “California” rolls. If you give me some kimpap, I will give it back to you. I don’t like my seaweed cooked or warmed. I like it dry, like the amazing and healthy snacks from the sea they’ve been packaged as. I discovered that I did in fact like seaweed while living in Korea. They give you the squares as a sort of appetizer in various restaurants. LOVE.

Lunch was BBQed turkey hot dogs with yellow mustard: boring, but delicious.

After proofing two readers for work, I made myself this mondo plate of yum:

Snack #2

Strawberries, Red Grapes, and Raw Almonds

On the dinner menu: More BBQ. Hamburgers this time. The joys of owning a grill are endless really.

**Question: What are you thoughts on frozen grapes? I’m thinking of freezing the rest of ours for use in future smoothies.**

Korea: A Retrospective

Today, three years ago, I was Korea-bound for the first time. After six months of emails and phone calls with Jason, who’d been there already for four years, the reality of the next leap was not only hitting me, it was engulfing me.

There were so many things that worried me about living abroad. What would I eat? What would I wear? How would I communicate? What was I going to do there? How were Jason and I really going to get along; together; in person; after not physically seeing one another for four years?

What would I eat?

For those who know me, this was a big fear. A big hesitation. I pretty much don’t like anything. I don’t like most veggies, I don’t like most seafood. In fact, a big part of my diet up to this point had been beef or chicken, potatoes, and one of three kinds of canned vegetables: Peas, corn, green beans. My mother and I thought for sure I would lose weight from the mere fact that Korean cuisine was based solidly around the foods I didn’t eat. I was so sure, that I packed all my skinny clothes in anticipation of fitting into them in no time.

But I wasn’t going to the 3rd world. I was going to Seoul. And Seoul is like going to the opera. The variations of sounds, smells, foods all co-mingled in the atmosphere. They didn’t just eat squid or noodles or mushrooms; they had everything. They had restaurants  serving American food I’d never heard of. (Restaurants I’d never heard of, that is) To my chagrin I wasn’t going to get skinny here. I actually gained a lot over my two years there. Very disappointing.

I did find A TON (by my standards) of food that I have since fallen in love with. Well, three dishes in particular. But I also discovered a heartfelt love for fresh broccoli (gasp) and cooked mushrooms (double gasp). There were also snack options that blew my mind.  See? I wasn’t going to starve. And when were weren’t eating those things, we could easily pop over to BK, KFC, Micky-D’s, and other fine dining establishments. And the grocery stores had pretty much everything we could possibly need to make ‘home-cooked’ meals. And if the grocery stores didn’t have it, Costco did.

What would I wear? 
Plus-sized clothing in Korea is pretty near impossible to find. At least for me it was. I went to the Gap and found a few things, only tops, and generally had to beg my family to send me clothes or buy online from LL Bean. And I survived for two years on four pairs of slacks from NY & Company, two pairs of jeans from Torrid, and about 15 shirts from random places like Target, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, and Torrid (again). The situation was far from ideal, and would have been better had we been able to get back to the US at least once in those two years. Oh well.

How would I communicate?

This was easy. Pantomime. Actually a good percentage of the people in Seoul speak English or broken English and we were able to ask for basic items. And most of the menus in chain restaurants were partially in English, so we made out OK. Subways and taxis had a good amount of English as well. My coworkers were always helpful, as were Jason’s, when we needed to make bank transactions, call the electrician, order a special pizza from the place around the corner, or order chicken deliciousness for delivery.

What was I going to do there?

Aside from starting my job as an editor for a Korean-based publishing company, we did all sorts of touristy things. We went to temples, visited museums, went shopping. When the newness of being there wore off, we bought bikes and went on rides, we went to an indoor amusement park, we checked out the zoo, bussed down to Andong for our friends’ wedding, flew down to Jeju for a long weekend.

How were Jason and I really going to get along; together; in person; after not physically seeing one another for four years?

If you’re not into mushy, romantic gestures, skip this part. The very first thing Jason did when we saw each other outside of the security check and customs area was kiss me.

OK, you can resume your enjoyment of the blog now.

We had our ups and downs. Jason and I had each other for support during our time in Seoul, and I think that from that we’ve been able to build something that few people have. The shared experience of living in a foreign country, while struggling with the day-to-day stuff of creating a foundation for a lasting relationship was something I think we’ll both cherish forever. After a year and a half of living together, Jason took me up to Seoul Tower, got on one knee, and asked me to be his partner in life, to be his wife.

I said yes. You can read more about that story here.

Since then, our lives have pretty much been a whirlwind of moving back to the US, buying a house, getting married, and starting a family. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Super Spaghetti

For those of you who know me, know that veggies aren’t really my thing. I’m not a big fan. But, as I am preggers and want to be sure the little chicken is getting all s/he needs nutritionally, I have to eat those veggies I tend to avoid.

Over the last few days, Jason and I have been scouring cookbooks, looking for veggie-rich or full-on vegetarian recipes. The prompt for this was Jason viewing a graphically horrifying video on YouTube about the poor treatment of pigs in slaughter houses. This, added to the affore mentioned baby-essential nutritional value of veggies, led to our experimenting with dinner tonight.

Years ago, even before I moved to Korea, I bought Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook “Deceptively Delicious.” I had never used it before this evening.

Now, I didn’t actually use a recipe from the book, but I did use her puree techniques for two of the veggies I added to our pasta dish.

The purees I made were spinach and zucchini. To prep them for puree, I first steamed about 3.5 cups of baby spinach in a pan with about a tablespoon of water for just under two minutes (until wilted). Then, I put the wilted spinach into the blender. I cut up the zucchini into 1-inch chunks and set them to steam in a make-shift veggie steamer we made with part of our busted rice cooker and a big pot we received as part of a house-warming gift. The zucchini steamed for about 7 minutes. I put the zucchini into the blender with the spinach and set it to puree for roughly 2 minutes. The mixture should be creamy and smooth.

In a pan over medium-low heat, combine 4-5 tablespoons of tomato paste and about a half cup of water. Mix until the water has been fully absorbed into the paste and the constancy is creamy. Pour in a can of stewed sliced (or diced) tomatoes with liquid. Combine.

Season with 1 tbsp basil, 1 tbsp oregano, 2 tsp crushed pepper, and 1 tsp cayenne pepper. Originally, I added a dash of both onion and garlic salt, but adding a 1/4 to 1/2 an onion (include in the blender with the spinach and zucchini to puree) and 1-2 cloves of garlic (minced) will bring out a better flavor.

Pour the spinach-zucchini (and onion) puree into the tomato mixture and stir until well-combined. Don’t freak out when the mixture turns to a reddish-brown color.

I used the multicolored rotini–spinach, carrot, and plain flavored. I cooked it in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. After adding the noodles, I turned the heat down from high to medium and allowed the noodles to cook for about ten minutes or until the taste test confirmed readiness.

Finally, I added the noodles to the sauce and mixed the two together. Jason had requested that I include some chunks of zucchini, so I left out three from the puree and cut them smaller and added them at the end.

We made enough for four, and had two servings left over at the end. So tasty, and I even ingested more veggies than I’ve had in the last three days combined. This method of cooking, however “unoriginal,” is such a great way for ME to get my veggies.

In addition to our super pasta, Jason roasted us each two ears of corn. Hooray for nutrient-rich dinner!

**Question: How do you get YOUR veggies?**

Monday Munchies (II)

I apologize. I apologize right now because one of the items I’m going to share with you was so amazing, and you weren’t here to enjoy it. Don’t feel too bad. I’ll include a recipe.

Breakfast was my go-to oatmeal with crunchy PB, chia seeds, and splenda to sweeten. No breakfast is complete without coffee (with FF half-&-half and more splenda). Cuties were on sale this week, and thanks to my friend Debra, I actually knew about it! Can we say “hooray” for baby oranges sans the seeds? HOORAY!

Today’s lunch was sort of put together in a half-assed attempt at watching my points and filling my belly. No pictures present because it was pretty lame and boring. I had two Smart Dog links and a WW string cheese wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. On the side I had left over mashed potatoes. Dessert was WW’s take on a Snicker’s Ice Cream Bar.

Now, for the main event: Dinner

Ever since my aunt sent my first care package to me in Seoul, which included within it a large bag of red chili powder, Jason and I have been making this recipe for Carne Adovada. Living in New Mexico has its perks, and amazing (and HOT) chili is one of them.

Ingredients >> 1-3 lbs beef (we used a flank steak), cubed,  2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced, 3 tbsp cooking oil (we used olive, but canola or vegetable will work as well), 3 tbsp all-purpose flour, 4 tbsp red chili powder, 1 tsp salt, 2-3 cups water <<

Process >> heat meat in a frying pan, just long enough to brown. Put the meat into the crock pot. Mix together the flour, chili powder, and salt in a bowl and set it aside. In a frying pan, heat oil. Add in minced garlic. Mix the garlic until it’s golden (not too dark or it will be very bitter). Add 1-2 tbsp of the dry mixture to the garlic oil and mix. You will need to work fast. As you mix the chili into a paste, add in 1/2 cup water. Alternate between the chili mixture and the water until all the chili is incorporated. **For thicker chili sauce, use 2-2 1/2 cups of water, for thinner chili sauce, use 3 (or more) cups.** Pour the well-mixed chili sauce into the crock pot over the meat. Mix to coat the meat. Set on low for 4+ hours.

When our Carne Adovada was ready, I served myself a bowl. You know you want some. With some low-fat cheese and a whole wheat tortilla… Yum-O.

I paired dinner with a nice California red; a delicious blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, which was refreshing and NOT dry at all, but sweet.

**Question: Are you a wine person or a beer person?**