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Granola - A staple of my kid's prison diet

granola with greek yogurt and honey- prison food at it's finest

In another few weeks, I am going to start work on TIFF - The Toronto Film Festival. Usually, I work pretty much every day doing makeup on actors who are here to promote their films and although it is a ton of fun, it turns my household into a tail spin every year. It's the only time of year that I work every single day for 10 days straight and as much as I try to plan for it, it is always really stressful for all of us. This year, Shack is working on a film and since he has not had a day off in about five weeks, I am going to assume that he will not have any time off during TIFF either.

That leaves the 12 year old on his own for mornings. The Kid is a bit spoiled when it comes to breakfast - it's always some type of egg, pancakes, french toast or porridge. Breakfast = hot, delicious and nourishing around here. Once, when our stove was not working, he had to have toast and yogurt and told his teacher that I had fed him a prison breakfast.  I would like to visit this prison that serves it's inmates lovely, homemade whole grain toasted bread,  homemade jam and delicious greek yogurt with honey. Maybe he was thinking of a Dutch Jail.

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

I bought a bag of key limes this week because one of my all time favourite desserts on earth is key lime pie. The problem is that with only two of us around,  if I make a key lime pie I will most likely eat most of that pie myself. That's not going to make a better person.

Then I thought I would make a key lime creme brulee but that leaves me in the same predicament with another dessert that doesn't really keep for long and so it must be consumed asap and, let's be honest,  I don't need to be eating 4 or 5 servings of either of those desserts.

After searching around I found a recipe for a frozen key lime pie and I realized that I was getting closer to something that I could make and enjoy in small amounts over a longer period of time but who am I kidding. A frozen pie is still a pie and I will eat the whole damned thing.

I keep seeing these recipes for ice cream using whipping cream, condensed milk and whatever add ins you like that doesn't require any sort of special ice cream making equipment. It sounded way too easy but blogger after blogger has been raving about the results. This ice cream from Journey Kitchen, in particular, caught my eye and I have just been kind of waiting for a chance to make it. I thought to myself "Self? why not make key lime ice cream?" Kevin and Amanda has some fabulous ideas about flavouring the basic mixture too that you should check out. I will be kept up nights thinking of all of the delicious flavour combinations that I can churn out with this easy, peasy technique. I saw someone do one using whipped evaporated milk to replace part of the cream but that sort of defeats the purpose. Ice cream isn't supposed to be low fat, it's iced CREAM right?

This way, I can make a nice, big batch and leave it in the freezer and, in theory, I can just have a wee bowl every evening until it's all gone like a civilized adult with a modicum of self control. Well, we will see about that.

Key Lime Ice Cream

2 cups of whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
50 ml freshly squeezed key lime juice
grated lime zest from about 6 key limes (they are tiny so if you are using regular limes, it's probably closer to 1 or 2 limes but do it to taste anyway)
6 squares of graham cracker, crunched up into chunky goodness (the size of the chunks depends on you)

whip the whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
Meanwhile, mix the lime juice and zest into the condensed milk. Make sure to taste it at that point to see if you want it have more lime flavour. Remember you are going to dilute the flavours when you mix it into the 2 cups of whipped cream so if it's too subtle before  you mix it into the cream, it's going to be way too subtle after.
When you are sure you like the balance of limeyness to sweetness, fold in the graham crackers and then fold that entire mixture into the bowl of whipped cream.
Pour this delicious goodness into a freezer container of some sort and freeze if for at least 5 or 6 hrs.

I can't tell you how much we love this ice cream. I took some over to The Neighbour to try out because she she had already told me that she doesn't care for key lime pie OR ice cream all that much. If she was going to love it, I knew we had a winner on our hands. I won't embarrass her by going into great detail about the speed at which she consumed this ice cream, the sounds that emanated from deep within her body or the fact that she licked the bowl because that wouldn't be neighbourly.
Because condensed milk is an important ingredient in key lime pie, it really does taste just like key lime pie. I wasn't sure about the chunks of graham cracker until I tasted it. It's a bowl of tart, creamy, delicious key lime pie if key lime pie wasn't pie but ice cream. Which this is.

The Reluctant Canner

Sarah at the stove, working her voodoo

Okay, I think I have admitted that I have always had a bit of a hang up about the whole canning/jam making thing. I have harboured an irrational fear of killing my loved ones with my botulism filled jars of sugary confections so, until this past year, I have refused to even try to can. I have made freezer jams but the whole canning process was too terrifying for me to consider.

When I was first getting to know Jen, at Piccante Dolce, she was planning her wedding and was in a jam making frenzy. She made tiny jars of jams to give as her gift to her wedding guests and I was lucky enough to get to try a bunch of the contenders while she experimented. She told me that canning was really easy and once I got the hang of it, I would be jamming like a champ. Because I felt kind of foolish for being so canphobic, I decided to bite the bullet and I researched and read all that I could, settled on a couple of delish sounding recipes, went to Canadian Tire and bought all of my supplies and got to canning. I made a fig/blueberry compote thing with rosemary and some other fancy jam and they turned out fine. Nobody died from eating it (that I know of anyway) and people seemed to enjoy it but I was still unsure of my self taught technique. I have made a few small batches of simple jams but I was still kind of iffy. I am the type of person who needs to watch someone do something and only then will I really feel like I know how to do it.

Imagine how thrilled I was to find out that Sarah Hood was going to give a jam making workshop through The Leslieville Farmer's Market! I signed up immediately, gathered my notebook and my apron and made my way down to Red Rocket Coffee on Queen St East to learn how to make jam without murdering people along the way.

everyone taking notes
It was a really small group, which was great because everyone could have a turn at each step of the process and we could ask questions and take notes. Sarah was so lovely and explained everything so clearly and simply that , at last, it all made sense. I am embarrassed to admit that I now know that I was using the bottle lifting tongs upside down this entire time, which explains why the plastic tube things over what should have been the handles, kept falling off in the water. Oh and I was leaving enough head space in my jars to park a truck - I had no idea 1/4" was that small for the love of pearl.

We made this delicious Plum and Cinnamon Jam (I am going to use some of it to make a plum sauce for dinner tomorrow) and I also bought her book, We Sure Can so that I can get down to work and start making some nice, bacteria free jam this week. If you ever get an opportunity to take such a workshop with Sarah, don't pass it up and you should find this book. It is full of recipes from Sarah and other talented preservers from Canada and beyond.

We are not even going to get into pressure canning though because even if I won't kill my family with botulism, I will surely blow up my kitchen and kill us all that way. For now, I stick with jam.

great pectin that allows you to use way less sugar

220 degrees F and you are golden

Thank you Sarah, for a wonderful afternoon and for putting my mind at ease and sharing some of your canning wisdom with us today.

Cinnamon Yellow Plum Jam
Sarah Hood
makes 3 1/2 cups

4 cups halved, stoned yellow plums
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 whole cinnamon sticks

Sterilize jars and warm lids.

In a non reactive bowl, combine the plums, sugar and lemon juice and let macerate for at least 2 hrs.

In a wide, deep non reactive pot with a thick bottom, add the plum mixture and the cinnamon sticks and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.

Bring the mixture to a full, rolling boil that can't be stirred down and continue to boil, stirring requently and until it reaches the setting pint ( please get a thermometer so you can know when it gets to 220F because there is no set time frame and how long it takes depends on so many factors) and then turn off the heat.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and skim off any excess foam. Ladle into sterilized jars leaving 1/4" of head space. Seal with warm lids and process for 10 minutes at a rolling boil (15 minutes for pint/500 ml jars)

Remove the canner lid, turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the hot water for another 5 minutes before removing them.

Remove them from the canner using the special tool (USING THE TOOL RIGHT SIDE UP THIS TIME) and set them on the counter on top of a folded tea towel. The lids on our jam popped right away to let us know that the seal was good. Let them sit, undisturbed overnight if possible.
Any jars that didn't get a good seal can go straight into the fridge.

Japanese Salad Dressing - First Attempt or JSD #1

I have one of those weird kids who adores salad. He especially loves the salad dressing that they serve at one of our favourite local sushi restaurants. It is really light and sweet, has grated apple, carrot and ginger, doesn't appear to have much oil and, unfortunately, I have never been able to replicate it.

Over the years he has come to love the various Japanese dressings we are served in the japanese restaurants we frequent - the weird beige dressing that I think is a sesame seed dressing, the weird orange one that I think is the sesame seed dressing with some ketchup added to it and pretty much any other variation of an asian tasting vinaigrette. This makes my quest a bit easier because I no longer  have to replicate the original beloved dressing to get him to eat a dressed salad. (He used to eat his salads dry in protest)
I have read a million versions of dressings that have ketchup in them and even if I think he will love it, I am not emotionally prepared to go that route yet.

This one combines lots of the elements that I know he likes so this is going to be called "JSD #1"
It makes it sound more like a science experiment and since we watched Planet of the Apes yesterday, I am in that kind of a mood.

He said this dressing was very good despite being much more vinegary than any of the dressings we usually eat but I was assured that it was still really good. He certainly hoovered his salad in record time so I am going to take him at his word. It is a bit on the vinegary side but I agree that it is good and I will use this one as my base and tinker with it so more until we are totally satisfied with it. If any of you make this and you make any changes that you like, please share them with me, okay?

JSD #1

1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tbls sesame oil
1 tsp finely grated ginger
1 tbls soy sauce
3 tbls mirin
3 tbls water

3/4 of an apple grated (I did half of the apple super fine- almost mulched and then the rest coarsely grated)
1 small carrot finely grated

1 tbls sesame seeds, ground (I used my fancy Japanese grating bowl but you could use a pestle and mortar or skip the grinding and just throw in the sesame seeds)

Mix the oils and vinegars together. Add the soy sauce, mirin, water and ginger and whisk it or shake it in a jar or whatever you do to make a vinaigrette. Taste at that point, add a pinch of kosher salt and taste again to make sure the taste is okay. Add the apple, carrot and sesame seeds and give it a good stir.

Melon Banana Pop

I haven't made popsicles for a while and we finally ate our way through all the non boozy popsicles in the freezer so it was time for a new batch. I wasn't in the mood to get all fancy pants, so no layers, no fancy ingredients, just tasty, wholesome breakfast treats.

I had some super ripe cantaloupe in the fridge and was going to make a breakfast smoothie with it but since we apparently live at the gates of hell this summer, why not freeze our morning meal for the week instead? Am I right?

These were quite good and not too sweet so if you are looking for a really sweet taste, you better add a squirt of honey or maple syrup or something but for a frozen brekky on a stick, you can't beat it. Your kids think they are getting away with something sneaky, you can sleep well at night with the knowledge that your kid ate some fruit with yogurt for breakfast and everybody is happy.

Melon Banana Pops
(makes 7 small 2oz popsicles)

1/4 of a ripe cantaloupe, cubed
1/2 banana
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 tbls chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup greek yogurt

Put all of the ingredients in a blender and whiz it up until it's completely pureed, pour it into your molds, put the sticks in and freeze.
That's it. To get them out of the molds, let them sit at room temp for a few minutes or run a bit of hot tap water over the molds and they will just slide out.

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