Oh Jeni, I miss you so.

Summer is here and in full effect. Sunny warm days, flowers in bloom, swimming, cookouts, fun with family and friends. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Well, it’s NOT! There is something that is sadly missing in our summertime routine: a nice after dinner stroll up to Jeni’s for some creamy, luscious, delicious ice cream.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is a sweet little ice cream shop that was just a block away from our house in Columbus. (She has since expanded to five locations in CMH!) This is no Baskin Robbins people! She makes artisan ice cream with fresh ingredients found in the Ohio countryside as well as responsibly-raised exotics from around the world. She also hand-crafts all of the wonderful sauces, pralines, marshmallows, and other glorious tidbits that she adds to her ice cream confections. My favorite is her signature flavor, Salty Caramel, is something that haunts my dreams. She also does seasonal flavors that you wait all year for: Strawberry Buttermilk, Roxbury Road, and Backyard Mint are some of my faves.

I know that Jeni’s would be such a hit here in Madison. There is nothing like it here (sigh) and it would fit so well into the locavore/sustainable food movement that is so important to the city. If she ever decides to franchise, I am ALL OVER IT!!! Unfortunately, until then I’ll have to get my fix whenever I’m in good ol’ Columbustown.

UPDATE: Oh lord help me, she now ships across the US!!

***Image from Jeni’s blog Salty Caramel***

Jam on it

Yesterday my sister, nephew, and I visited the Berry Hill Farm in nearby Verona to do some strawberry picking. We picked for about an hour and a half, leaving with just over 21lbs of berries. That is about 14 quarts! Now I know you are thinking, “What in the world are you going to DO with all of them?” Well, we started out with making a big ol’ batch of strawberry jam. This is something that our mother used to make every summer when we were little. It puts Smuckers to shame. So, we decided to conquer our fears and jam on it!

It was definitely a two man operation, but we overcame our fear of the strawberry napalm and came through unscathed. Something that really helped us was that we sterilized the canning jars and then kept them in the oven at 200⁰F. This allowed us to take them out as needed while keeping them warm, while not having to have another enormous pot of water boiling on the stove. We also made an investment in a couple of key pieces of equipment that made our job WAY easier: canning tongs and a canning funnel. I have canned tomatoes in the past and it was not fun juggling superheated glass jars of tomatoes over a boiling pot. The tongs made it easy peasy to transfer the jars in and out of the water bath, making us breathe a sigh of relief. The canning funnel fits in the mouths of the jars perfectly, eliminating the messy strawberry lava getting all over the rims and threads of the jars. (Something you have to wipe down to make sure you get a clean seal.) We filled all the jars and every one of them sealed properly!

And did it ever turn out great! It is sweet, but not too sugary, and the strawberries really stand out. We crushed them pretty good, so there are no major chunks in there. We wanted it to be easily spreadable while still having bits of berries in the mix. I think we hit the nail on the head. And the color! It is a glorious scarlet red. Beautiful!

Now we have a ton of delicious, ruby red strawberry jam to enjoy and share with our family and friends. I’m excited to see what mom’s verdict will be. She was the inspiration for this, so I hope that she likes it.

We’ll be doing some more strawberry experiments in the kitchen, so stay tuned.

Geek Baking

Okay, my inner geek is going bonkers for these Star Wars cookie cutters. I just saw these in the Williams-Sonoma catalog.

Come on, how insane would it be to be able to bite a chunk out of Boba Fett’s head? To dunk Darth Vader in a glass of milk?

Now all they need to come out with is a chocolate mold for when Han Solo was frozen in carbonite!

**Update: they also have pancake molds!**


This weekend we went down to Club Ponderosa to spend some QT with the family. We had a great time! One of the best parts of the weekend was watching my mom teach my sister, Ashley, how to make her pie crust and bake two different kind of pies. (Apple and, my favorite, strawberry rhubarb) I was designated scribe and photo journalist, taking pictures of the process as well as writing down the recipes for Ash as she went through the procedures with Mom. I remember mom doing the same thing for me a few years ago. I love how patient mom is with her directions and how she makes you work things out for yourself while gently nudging you in the right direction. Ashley did a fantastic job and both pies turned out to be delicious.

I feel that it is really important to learn these things from our family members in order to keep our traditions alive for future generations. Food, recipes, crafts, gardening, etc. all are a part of the fabric that makes our family what it is. I remember learning from my Grammy how to bake our family favorite poppyseed cake when I was about twelve, every time I make it, it brings back wonderful memories of our time together. It is a connect that lives on even though she passed away many years ago. Something that I can share with my children in the future.

Yum Zum!

Went to the Dane County Farmers Market this morning with the hubby and it was the first week for strawberries! I bought two quarts and i’m a bit worried that they won’t through the weekend. Delicious! I also picked up some fresh peas and some gorgeous peonies. Huzzah!

Loving Spinach

I went to the Dane County Farmer’s Market last Saturday and everyone was selling spinach. I’ve had a recipe that I’ve been wanting to try for a while now, so I bought a large bunch to try it out. It was so good, I wanted to share it with you.

Ricotta Pasta with Fresh Spinach
(Serves four.)

12 oz. pasta, any kind you like 12 oz. fressh spinach, wash, large stems removed
2 tb. butter 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese 1 tsp. minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (Optional additions: ramps, herbs, hot pepper flakes)

1. Cook pasta according to directions and drain, reserve 1/2 cup of hot pasta water. Transfer pasta to serving container, toss with 1 tb. of butter and cover.
2. I mixing bowl, combine ricotta with reserved pasta water and stir until well blended. Stir into pasta with the Parmesan, season with salt and pepper.
3. Using same pot that the pasta was cooked in, add remaining butter and garlic and sautee until garlic is a light golden brown. Add spinach, mixing occasionally until it has wilted down. (Add any additional ingredients at this time.)
4. Transfer spinach to pasta and combine.

Beans alright

White Beans, Tuscan Style was okay, but not a true success. I found them to be a bit bland and think that they would work more as a “side” that for a full on meal. Perhaps next time I will try to cook them in vegetable stock to make them more flavorful . . . I have some leftovers, so I am going to put some on my salad this afternoon for lunch. I might also try to make Baked White Bean Cakes, which sound yummy. Something akin to bean burgers.

Side Note: Shawn did like them as they were, but I think that he liked the soup from the other night better. Still, he did eat them!

The Great Veggie Experiment

I just got Mark Bittman’s cook book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian with a Christmas gift certificate. I always try to include a great amount of fruits and veggies in my diet, however I would like to step it up a notch. My problem is Shawn. This is the man who thinks that salad is an invention of the devil. How am I going to convince Mr. Potatohead to do veggies? Well, I asked him to give me one week without meat, to see if he could handle it. I promised no salads and that if he didn’t like what I made, he could order pizza. I thought that if I am armed with some great recipes, I could get him though it. Tonight I am making Glazed Carrot Soup. It sounds delicious and very easy to make. I’ll let you know how it turned out and whether Shawn survived.