Blackberry Vinegar

One of my favorite salad dressings of all time is a good old raspberry vinaigrette.  It makes a warm day seem sunnier, and a cold winters day seem more like springtime.  It’s just plain good.

There’s been so much going on here between clean up from the storm, renovations to our kitchen and bath, and heading back to work that I just want some simplicity and routine in my life.  Something happy, sunny and simple.  So after blackberry picking today, I decided it was high time to make my own berry vinegar so we would have it.

Like the vanilla extract, this is something that you make today and let steep for a while before you can actually use it.  In this case, it’ll be about two weeks before I know if I nailed this guy on the head or not.   But it looks and smells amazing, so I have high hopes for this one!

Blackberry Vinegar
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup blackberries
Put vinegar and blackberries into a pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 3 minutes.  Let sit for 30 minutes until cool.  Pour into a quart jar, place plastic wrap on top and seal with metal rim.  Let sit for two weeks, then strain berries out and put liquid into a pint jar.  Will store for up to six months.

Food Joy

I don’t hide the fact, and neither does JGL, that we’re full-fledged bona fide Weight Watchers.  I’ve been at goal for a little over four years, and JGL is slowly but surely smashing through his small goals and can see marked progress with how he feels and looks–if he’s not at goal by the end of the year, I’ll be shocked.  I love the meetings, JGL…he indulges me.  The past few weeks, though, our fellow WW’s seem almost bitter about being on WW, and not really embracing the fact that they’re enrolled in a program that is a full lifestyle change, and is still pretty damn delicious.  A few weeks ago there was a rant about butter.  Yup, butter.  And granted, I get it–this time of year there are super sized ice cream delights partnered with deliciously fatty barbecue fare, and I even saw a 24 pack of variety beer labeled as a Summer Survival pack–and it looked AMAZING.  If you’re watching your weight, this time of year can be almost more tricky than the holidays.

And again, I get it–been there, done that, and have been very angry that I have to be really careful of what I put in my mouth while others keep their slim waistlines just by existing.  But JGL and I both agreed after today’s meeting that this time of year for us is not filled with that awful dread that comes with food you know is not good for you, or the frustration for lack of choices that taste good–for us, summer is pure food joy.  Currently sitting in our kitchen is a 1/2 peck of peaches, blackberries, fresh hickory peach salsa I whipped up, and cherry and heirloom tomatoes.  And cherries, glorious cherries that were on super sale!  And with the exception of the salsa, all of these gorgeous goodies are, wait for it, 0 points plus (the salsa by itself is about 1 points plus per serving since the only thing that has points in it is olive oil).

I’m obviously obsessed about food, how it gets to my table, and how I can make it better.  I’m not sure if the reason the collective “we” is so frustrated because we as the average every day Americans have very much lost touch with the basic fact that food is fuel, and the fact that it tastes good at all is very much an added bonus.   I am so grateful not only for Weight Watchers and how it gave me my health back, but for all of the fresh, local and delicious food sources that we have here in our own back yard, and just down the road at the Farmer’s Market.   I guess I get frustrated because I want others to have a positive experience with programs like WW, and I hate hearing that folks are frustrated with their food choices when such amazing options are truly in their back yard.

That’s the brain food I’ve been chewing on today–I’d love to hear any thoughts if you’re mentally chewing on something similar!

Slump, Buckle…I don’t care what you call it, it’s delicious!

I think cooking and cleaning will be the closest I’ll ever get to really being able to meditate.  I love how my mind kind of sorta goes blank, and for one of the few times during the day, I really focus.

This weekend has been “deliciously cool” by the standards set by Mother Nature this year.  Whereas last weekend was in the mid-high 90s with wretched humidity, yesterday and today were in the low 70s with little to no humidity.  Glorious, Glorious I say!  Yesterday we were lucky enough to catch the golf tournament at the Green Brier (and eat a delicious fried green tomato sandwich…but that’s another post for another day!), but today we were home and I was bound and determined to take full advantage of the weather.

I made a ton of stuff (let’s say, I was UBER focused today) but the one that JGL and I ended up being the most excited about was the peach and blackberry brown butter buckle.

I adapted my recipe from one I found on Smitten Kitchen a few days ago, and JGL and I are both still in a food coma. This was totally worth having to run back out to the store for butter, and waiting the 40 minutes for it to bake off in the oven, AND wait until it was cool enough to eat.

So what did I change?  I used half whole wheat flour and half graham cracker flour instead of all purpose;  almond milk instead of buttermilk; ground ginger and nutmeg instead of allspice; and peaches and blackberries instead of nectarines.  If I had it to do again, I probably would have just used the blackberries.  While the peaches were good, they really lost a bit of their punch during the cooking process.

Too bad, we’ll just have to keep taste testing 😉

If I wasn’t already on the fatty train…

…then this totally solidifies it.

Dinner tonight went in the direction of IHOP.  Day old bread dredged in a sweet egg/almond milk mixture, pan fried and then warmed in the oven until the custardy insides were smooth and set, and then the whole thing was topped by blackberries reduced down with the syrup of some canned peaches we’re trying to eat up.

No wonder my pants are a little too tight.

Berries Everywhere!

We went back to one of my new favorite places yesterday:  Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery.  I’m telling y’all, if you are here in my neck of the woods and have time to go, these folks are truly top notch.  It takes us about and hour to get there, but worth every single moment.  We picked the best blackberries I’ve ever had, and I’m scheming how to use them and when I can go back to get some more!

We also were able to sample their wines again, and ended up taking home the Rock Fish Cyser and the sweet Blackberry wine.  Delicious!

Above all, though, the family that runs this place is plain and simple good people.  Helpful, friendly and kind.  It doesn’t get much better than that!