Thanksgiving Work Blesses the Giver and Receiver

Author: Meera, November 25, 2016

 

A trifle makes an elegant staple among Thanksgiving desserts when someone is looking for an alternative to pie

Even in the wrong bowl, a trifle makes an elegant offering among Thanksgiving pies

 

 

On Thanksgiving, our family is usually grouped in the kitchen working our magic on individual dishes for our communal feast. But this year, things were different. My daughter is recovering from emergency surgery and her hubby has been trying to get over a bout of pneumonia. Their twin daughters had just come home from college, so when my daughter asked me if I would mind planning and shopping for the whole meal and then cooking it, I jumped at the chance.

 

My enthusiasm was not dampened by the fact that I was working on a new book and writing it against a “slam” deadline. Though this deadline is tighter than usual, I enjoy the topic, so it’s not really work. Ah, but there are other things to do as well.  With the cold weather and the rain, I’m keeping a close eye on my plants, chickens, and bees. Still, Thanksgiving offered me a break from the norm. My daughter asked me to help make this holiday special and I wasn’t about to let her down. As it turns out, serving as the family chef lightened my heart and gave me the opportunity to be mindful of each special moment in our Thanksgiving day.

 

 

There is always a passion for pecan pie in our family

There is always a passion for pecan pie in our family

 

 

Although I intended to do the cooking myself and had already baked the pumpkin and pecan pies and had whipped up a layered trifle for dessert, I asked my beautiful, brilliant granddaughters for help. There were sweet potatoes to peel, green beans to prepare, cornbread to be made, herbs to chop, and the turkey to be stuffed and cooked.

 

By two o’clock, the table was set, the food laid out, and the feast begun. We offered thanks for our blessings and asked for God’s grace on others and especially family members who hadn’t made the trip this time. Then, we made a special request for good health. The twins and I had used natural ingredients imbued with love for our food offerings and so believed that our gifts would put their mom and dad on the road to health in no time.

 

Today–Black Friday–I’m back to writing my book and feeling confident about the direction I’m going as well as the hours and minutes I have left to get there. And honestly, I’d rather be writing than shopping.

 

 

Our pumpkin pies feature leaves made from pie dough, brushed with egg, and sprinkled with sugar before baking

Our pumpkin pies feature leaves made from pate brisee dough, brushed with egg, and sprinkled with sugar before baking; they’re attached after the pie is baked.

 

 

Tonight, we’re going to eat leftovers with the addition of a simple winter salad–seeds from a ripe pomegranate, sections of a tangerine or two, slices of blood orange and a ripe pear tossed into some fresh greens along with small chunks of goat cheese and walnuts–drizzled with a toasted sesame dressing. And best of all, I can pluck most of the fruit walking around the farmette after I check on the plants, the bees, and the chickens. There’s work to do–plenty of it. But the way I see it, I’m honored to do work that blesses both the giver and the receiver.

 

*          *          *

 

Enjoy reading about farming topics? Check out my cozy mysteries–A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE  (both in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing).

 

These novels are chocked full of recipes, farming tips, chicken and beekeeping tips, sayings and, of course, a charming cozy mystery. For more info, click on the links under the pictures.

 

The books are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

 

This debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run. It’s now available in mass market paperback and other formats.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

 

NEWLY RELEASED! This, the second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, is garnering great reviews from readers and industry publications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pomegranate Seeds–A Sweet Explosion on the Tongue

Author: Meera, September 12, 2016

Strolling through our small orchard today, I cut into a pomegranate to check on the seeds–the edible part of the fruit. To my surprise, they had turned ripe. Inside, the seeds were gorgeous red jewels, plump and juicy. The sweet juice in the seeds carries a powerful antioxidant punch, too; it’s loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin K, fiber, potassium, protein, and folate.

 

 

pomegranate seeds  lg web

 

 

You might wonder about ways of cooking with pomegranate seeds. How about tossing them into citrus or a green salad, pairing them with goat cheese on a crostini, or sprinkling a few on poached pears dipped in chocolate, or incorporate them into a Mediterranean couscous with cashews or pistachios?

 

I think I’ll make some pomegranate jelly–it tastes great on toast, makes an excellent foil for goat cheese, and also creates a moist and delicious glaze for chicken.

 

The hardest part of making the jelly is separating the seeds from the white pith that holds the seeds in place inside the leathery peel.

 

The jelly recipe consists of few ingredients: pomegranate juice, sugar, water, and classic pectin. Here’s how I make the jelly.

 

 

 

POMEGRANATE JELLY RECIPE

 

Ingredients:

 

3 1/2 cups pomegranate juice (well strained to remove all the particles)

 

5 cups granulated sugar

 

6 tablespoons classic pectin

 

 

Directions:

 

Prepare boiling water canner and wash eight to ten half-pint jars in the dishwasher.

 

Place rings and lids in a pan of simmering hot water.

 

Cut one end of the pomegranate off to expose the membranes and seeds.

 

Section the pomegranate and scrape the seeds out into a medium to large bowl.

 

Repeat the process until you had several cups of seeds.

 

Rinse well and then run the seeds through a juice extractor.

 

Strain out the juice through a jelly bag or multiple layers of cheesecloth. Note: The juice stains, so take care to protect kitchen counters and clothing.

 

 

Ripe pomegranate

Ripe pomegranates have a leathery outer skin

 

 

 

Put the juice and pectin into a large pot and bring to a boil, carefully stirring to blend in the pectin.

 

Add sugar and stir until completely dissolved and boil for one minute at a roiling boil that cannot be stirred down. Ladle off foam, if necessary.

 

Ladle jam into clean, hot jars leaving one-quarter inch head space. Attach hot lids and then the rings. Tighten to finger tight.

 

Lower the filled and sealed jars into the canner. Process for 10 minutes at a roiling boil. Remove and let cool.

 

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

 

If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

 

These novels are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

Now available in mass market paperback, this debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 27, 2016, is now available on Net Galley (netgalley.com) for professionals and readers who write reviews. The book may be pre-ordered as well. Click on the link under the image.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Figs Are Ripe, Fire Up the Grill

Author: Meera, August 22, 2014

 

Last night the raccoons raided my fig trees, leaving a little deposit between honeybee apiary and the hen house.  I know because this morning, I almost stepped in it . . . and I was barefoot and in still in my pajamas.

 

 

The White Genoa fig tree is about two years old but already produces a bountiful crop

The White Genoa fig tree is three years old but already produces a bountiful crop

 

 

It was expecting the raccoons to drop by. It’s that time of the year when they like to show up for a little late night dining. Who can blame them. Figs ripened to perfection are among my favorite fresh foods, too.

 

 

Right now, the limbs of my Genoa White Fig hold an abundance of fruit covered in a thin green skin with rose-colored flesh. Whether you prefer to dry figs, make them into jam, use them in a tart, or serve them fresh with a little goat cheese, almost any variety of ripe fig will be delicious. They are an ancient food, dating back thousands of years to Asia Minor. The trees are hardy and can reach 12 to 20 feet tall.

 

 

 

The Brown Turkey figs are larger than the White Genoa and taste great grilled with fresh goat cheese

The Brown Turkey figs are larger than the White Genoa; these figs have a slightly tougher skin

 

 

The Brown Turkey, like the White Genoa, is self fertile and produces a multitude of delectable figs by its third year. The skin of Brown Turkey figs turns violet-brown with watermelon-colored flesh when fully ripe. Also, ripe figs turn downward from the limb–it’s how we  they’re ready for picking.

 

 

I like to serve figs wrapped in Prosciutto, stuffed with a lovely, locally made goat cheese,  and grilled. They make a great appetizer when friends drop by this time of year. The figs and goat cheese will pair nicely with a bottle of your favorite wine.

 

 

Since we live only about 25 to 30 minutes from the Napa wine country, we tend to buy local.

 

 

RECIPE: GRILLED FIGS, GOAT CHEESE, and PROSCIUTTO

 

Ingredients:

 

6 to 8 Brown Turkey or other ripe figs

1/3 cup goat cheese (or a bit more as needed; try herb goat cheese as a variation)

6-8 slices of Prosciutto

1/3 cup organic raw honey

 

Directions:

 

Fit a pastry bag with a tip to pipe the goat cheese.

Fill the bag with goat cheese.

Cut tiny openings into the bottom of each fig to permit insertion of the piping tip.

Pipe the filling into 8 to 10 figs (they’ll swell; don’t over fill or they’ll split).

Wrap slices of Prosciutto around each stuffed fig.

Brush the grill grate with olive oil.

Grill the figs 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat, plate the figs, and drizzle honey across them.

Serves: 4 (2 figs per person)

 

 

 

 

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Easy Orange Marmalade

Author: Meera, December 8, 2013

 

Jars of orange marmalade make lovely holiday gifts

Jars of orange marmalade make lovely holiday gifts

 

 

Who can resist the flavors of homemade jams? Whether it embellishes an appetizer of grilled fig and melted goat cheese or is spread upon a fat slice of fresh-baked bread, jam has power to elevate any meal to another level.

 

Using the seedless oranges growing on our farmette trees, I’m making marmalade. Marmalade made with the oranges ripening this time of year make great additions to holiday gift baskets. I like to add jars of honey, fresh tangerines, nuts, summer jams, and homemade treats.

 

RECIPE FOR ORANGE MARMALADE

 

Ingredients:

 

4 large oranges (preferably a seedless variety)

 

2 medium lemons

 

1/2 teaspoon butter (to reduce foaming)

 

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

 

6 Tablespoons dry classic pectin

 

5 1/2 cups sugar

 

Directions for Preparing the Jars and Canner:

 

Wash pint jars in the dishwasher or wash the jars and screw rings in hot soapy water, rinse, and drain upside down on paper towels.

 

Remove the wire rack from the canner and set aside; then, fill the canner half full of water and bring to a simmer.

 

Directions for Making the Fruit Mixture:

 

Wash the oranges and lemons.

 

Peel the fruit, using a vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife. Discard any seeds and the pithiest parts of the inner peeling as the pith tastes bitter.

 

Cut the peeled skins into narrow strips.

 

Pour water into a saucepan.

 

Add baking soda and strips of peel.

 

Bring to boil and then reduce the heat, simmering for 20 minutes and stirring as needed.

 

Cut the fruit into thin quarters.

 

Add the fruit and juice to the saucepan of simmering peelings, cover, and allow everything to simmer for 10 minutes.

 

Remove 4 cups of the fruit/peeling/juice mixture  and pour into a large saucepan (6 or 8 quart) or stock pot.

 

Stir in the pectin and add the butter and sugar, mixing well.

 

Bring to a roiling boil, stirring constantly, for a full minute and then remove from heat, skimming off any foam.

 

 

These jars are filled with hot fruit mixture, ready for lids and canning

These jars are filled with hot fruit mixture, ready for lids and canning

 

 

How to Can the Marmalade:

 

Ladle the fruit mixture into the warm, clean jars, leaving between 1/4 and 1/8 inch space from the top.

 

Wipe the jar rims before placing the jars on the wire rack of the canner.

 

Lower the wire rack of jars into the simmering water in the canner.

 

Make sure the jars are covered by 2 inches of water (add boiling water if necessary).

 

Cover with lid and boil for 15 to 20 minutes.

 

Turn off flame, remove the jars of marmalade, and set them onto a towel to cool.

 

Listen for the popping sound that signals the lids have sealed. Check lids for seal once the jars have cooled by pushing against the center of the lid. If it springs, the jar has not sealed and must be refrigerated. The marmalade will still be good to eat.

 

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Jam, Jelly, Conserve, & Fruit Butter

Author: Meera, May 28, 2013

 

 

Apricots tossed with lemon juice preserves the lovely color

Apricots tossed with lemon juice preserves the lovely color

 

I admit to having a weakness for palate-pleasing soft spreads made from fresh fruit. My taste for fruit spreads started in my childhood with my grandmother, who introduced me to the process of picking and preserving the fresh seasonal fruits we found on the farm–mulberries, damson plum, blackberries, gooseberries, and peaches.

 

My grandmother would load the breakfast table with hearty farm-to-table foods and hot, freshly made biscuits that we slathered with butter. I could always count on at least a couple of bowls of jams or jellies. For us farmers, breakfast and lunch were the most important meals of the day, providing us with energy for the hours of toil that followed those meals.

 

Later, as an avid traveler, I fondly remember breakfasts in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe, especially France, where my petit déjeuner included strong coffee, juice,  and bread (usually some type of roll such as brioche or croissant), butter, and an exquisite soft spread of jam, jelly, fruit butter, or conserve. You might wonder, what’s the difference?

 

 

Jam:  made from fruit, sugar, and pectin (to thicken) that are boiled to achieve a spreadable consistency

 

Jelly: made from juice (from various ingredients or  fruit that has been crushed and strained), sugar, pectin, and acid, gently boiled to render clear color and firm shape

 

Conserve: fruit and nut spreads that are chunky; they make a nice condiment for certain meat dishes and cheeses, like a goat cheese with fig-walnut conserve

 

Preserves: fruit in jelly

 

Fruit Butter: made from fruit that has been slow cooked until creamy and color is opaque or translucent

 

 

Ripe cherries will be made into preserves or mixed with oranges for a marmalade

Ripe cherries will be made into preserves or mixed with oranges for a marmalade

 

 

As I write this, I have four cases of organic ripe apricots and cherries on my kitchen counter from the farmer’s market. So, like my grandmother, I’m going to eat my breakfast and then work for the next several hours preserving these delicious seasonal fruits into spreads for future breakfasts.

 

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