Olive You

Despite the fact that the 4th of July is perhaps the most predictably scheduled holiday on the calendar, I still feel blindsided by its seemingly sudden approach. It’s hard to believe that it’s even July already- What happened to the other 6 months that are supposed to come before it? I can’t recall a single one.

No need to panic though, Independence Day is such a laid back and happy-go-lucky event that there’s rarely much preparation to be done in advance. Slice up a big watermelon, pack a giant cooler full of ice, sodas, and beer, and I’d say that you’re all set for a party. Once your guests come, toss some veggie burgers and dogs on the grill, and then drag the kids down to the beach at night to watch the fireworks. Sounds like a pretty good day, right?

Well, if that’s not enough for you, here’s one super simple hors d’oeuvre that you can whip up and impress your friends with. Tapenade, a basic paste made of pureed olives, is not a new concept in the least, but only recently have I gained an appreciation for olives and discovered how delicious they can be. Now, I’ve found myself smearing this chunky dip over crackers, in sandwiches, and even stirred into hot pasta. My version is somewhat heavy on the garlic, but not so much so that you have to worry about garlic breath after enjoying a dollop.

Although some tapenades are completely smooth, I prefer mine with a bit of texture, so I only pulse the mixture in the food processor. You’re welcome to puree the heck out it if you prefer.

Yield: Makes 1 Cup; 16 Servings

Roasted Garlic Tapenade

Roasted Garlic Tapenade

This chunky kalamata tapenade is is somewhat heavy on the garlic, but not so much so that you have to worry about dragon breath after enjoying a dollop.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Place all of the ingredients in your food processor or blender, and pulse until everything is well-incorporated but still slightly chunky. Dish it up alongside chips or crackers for a “self-serve” kind of snack, or spoon a dollop on small pieces of toast and top with fresh chives for easy little crudites.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 27Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 54mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

One Thrifty Treat, Take Two

What an amazing place the blogosphere is… Although I often am astounded by the kindness and generosity of my fellow bloggers, I feel that this sentiment isn’t shared nearly enough. Endlessly inspired by colorful prose and pictures in so many posts, there’s never any lack of creativity out there, and the enticing ideas that I’m itching to try myself just pile up as the numbers on my blog reader grow in synchronicity.

This time however, it was a timely comment that got me racing back into the kitchen, providing fuel for a round of recipe writing. Ricki, of Diet, Dogs, and Desserts and the brand new book Sweet Freedom, made the brilliant suggestion to turn some of my excess dried fruit into fruit butter. You could probably have heard me smack my forehead from miles away when I read that! Seemingly so obvious, and yet something that I would have never thought of, it was an absolutely perfect solution for dealing with that bulky bag of shriveled pears. Racing to turn on the stove and get this fruity spread going, the hardest part of the whole process is probably just waiting for the contents of the pot to cook!

Warming spices just didn’t seem appropriate for the season, so I kept the flavors bright and simple with just a touch of lemon juice, plus one dry, wrinkled vanilla bean that was nearing the end of its usefulness as well.  Instead of struggling to scrape out any remaining seeds from this seriously leathery pod, I simply popped the whole thing into the pot, let it rehydrate, and blended it all up thoroughly in the VitaMix.  This recipe would be so easy to dress up with any number of different spices or flavorful juices though, the variations and possibilities are nearly endless.  Have fun, play around with it, make it yours- I can see plenty of gifting opportunities with this sweet spread in the coming months, too!

Yield: Makes About 4 - 5 Cups

Vanilla Pear Butter

Vanilla Pear Butter

A quick, sweet spread with a luscious vanilla bean aroma, this jam comes together in mere minutes and will keep your tastebuds happy for weeks.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 Ounces Dried Pear Halves (About 3 Cups)
  • 2 Cups Unsweetened Apple Juice
  • 1 Vanilla Bean
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/3 Cup Maple Syrup

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the above ingredients in a large pot, and bring it to a simmer. Cook gently for about 15 minutes, until all of the dried pears are soft and re-hydrated, stirring the mixture occasionally.
  2. Let cool for a few minutes, and then transfer everything into your food processor or blender, and thoroughly puree. The mixture will be extremely thick, so make sure that you scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to get things entirely smooth.
  3. Spoon the pear butter into clean jars, and seal tightly. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, where it will continue to thicken slightly as it cools.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

48

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 32Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 0g

Spread It On Thick

Augh, I’ve lost out again!

The crushing truth is now finally hitting me, hard. How sad am I that I’ve now missed out on the prime season for turning fresh fruits into sweet, syrupy jams, having nothing to preserve from summer and save for those colder days. It just figures, every time I get these big plans for seasonal things to make, I never fulfill my ambitions. Forget those ice creams, frozen fruits, cold soups; I’m sick of loosing whole seasons like this! I swear, this is the last time I’ll be resigned to comforting myself with the standard saying of, “There’s always next year…”

Despite my complaints, I am happy to at least have winter ahead of me and fall currently within my grasp. And while I can’t get those plump, juicy stone fruits to preserve any more, I do have one of my favorite autumn specialties – Pumpkin.

Even if it isn’t from my own garden but a can instead, pumpkins always manage to lift my spirits when lamenting the end of summer. Such a lovely glowing orange, everything about them is cheerful. I would have bought a whole one and roasted it, but they aren’t yet widely available, (Or particularly cheap…) So canned it was!

I literally have a whole list of pumpkin-based goodies I’m just dying to create in the kitchen, but at the very top is always pumpkin butter. Who needs those other sticky, sickeningly unctuous jams when you’ve got the deep, brassy tones of pumpkin and spice, highlighted by the refined and delicate sweetness of maple syrup. Brainlessly easy, I bet that even our president could make it. Yeah, it’s really that simple.

There are thousands upon thousands of recipes out there, some calling for honey, some with molasses, mixing up the spices and adding in various flavors, but this is how I make mine. It’s very straightforward, and every time I spread a dollop on top of a slice of toast, muffin, you name it, it is guaranteed to always make me glad this year’s summer is over and done with.

Yield: Makes 1 - 1 1/4 Cups

Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Butter

A rich spread with the deep, brassy tones of pumpkin and spice, highlighted by the refined and delicate sweetness of maple syrup.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 15 oz Can (About 1 3/4 Cups) Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the pumpkin mush and maple syrup until they’re both fully combined. If you prefer your spread to be sweeter, don’t be shy and feel free to add in as much syrup as it takes to satisfy that sweet tooth. Have fun with it – It’s pretty hard to screw this recipe up.
  2. Continue to stir the pumpkin slowly for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until the mixture had thickened to a desirable consistency. The stirring is important though, so DON’T walk away! If you do, your pumpkin may scorch and get burnt onto the bottom of the pan, and that wouldn’t be so tasty. The black bits really don’t look to attractive, either.
  3. Anyway, once you’ve determined that it’s nice and thick, take your pan off the heat and you can go ahead and mix in all your spices. I also add in just a pinch of salt, because I believe that it helps to round out all the flavors and make them a bit brighter, but you don’t need to by all means.
  4. Now, I don’t know anything about the proper way to can foods, so you’ll have to ask someone else. What I do is take a clean, empty jar and spoon in the hot pumpkin butter. I allow it to cool before topping it off with the lid, and then make sure it’s reached room temperature before moving it to the fridge. Refrigerated, it should last a solid month or two. That is, if it isn’t all eaten before then.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 23Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 0g