Honey Cake, revisited

The Honey Cake we made the other week screamed Easter to me.  It was also the perfect excuse to try to revamp it a bit.  This time around I nixed the pineapple and macerated just strawberries, and used the juice they made to pour over the finished cake instead of using orange juice.   I also took out the nuts and replaced that with 1/4 cup sour cream mixed in with about 1 Tbs of white grits.  The end result was a more even flavor, and JGL even said he liked this one better.  It’s certainly a keeper!

Honey Cake with Berries and Cream, Take Two
Adapted from BHG, April 2012 pg 180
2 Tbsp honey, divided
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 pints strawberries sliced
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 
1 TBS white hominy grits
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp honey, divided
Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour a 9 by 1 1/2 round cake pan.
Combine strawberries in a bowl and stir in the 2 Tbsp of honey and balsamic vinegar. Set aside and let macerate while you make the cake.
In a medium bowl combine flour, cornmeal, sour cream/grits mixture, baking powder and salt; put to one side. In a large bowl beat butter for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of the honey and beat into butter until nice and fluffy. Slowly beat in eggs, one at a time. Add 3/4 of the flour mixture and mix until it just barely comes together. Add milk and remaining flour mixture and fold in with a spatula until combined (being careful not to over mix). Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes (in my oven it took more like 45-50 minutes to get it to set).
When cake is finished and has cooled in the pan for about 5 minutes, remove from pan and place on your cake plate. Poke cake with a toothpick to create multiple holes on the top, then brush on the juice from your strawberries so it absorbs into the cake. Set cake aside to cool completely.
Just before serving, create topping. Combine cream cheese and 2 Tbps of honey, beat on high for 30 seconds. Add whipping cream and beat until soft mounds form. Spoon cream onto cake, and then top with fruit.

Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade

In college one of the things I loved the most about coming home for the summer was that I got to see the lilacs bloom twice–about a month before school would let out the lilacs would just cascade around campus, and then when we returned home to New England at the beginning of May the lilacs were just waking up for spring.

Even though the strawberries have long since passed in Virginia, they are just now nearing the end of their season here in New Hampshire.  So while JGL is back in good ole VA with the dog-kids, I’m having a blast up here in NH picking berries with my family, and trying new jams and marmalades out of the Canning Magazine that my mother so kindly splurged on.

So here was the first can-venture of the week–Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade made with sweet end of the season NH berries.  We’ll do a cross-country family taste test in two weeks when it’s finished curing!

Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade
BHG Special Interest Publication, Canning, pg 19


2 Medium Lemons
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp baking soda
3 cups crushed strawberries
5 cups sugar
1/2 of a 6 oz package liquid fruit pectin


Remove peel from each lemon, removing any pith from the back of it.  Shred into small strips.


In a large saucepan combine peel, water and baking soda.  Bring to boiling then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Do not drain. 


Meanwhile, remove the rest of the pith from the lemons, section and squeeze the juice from what is left.  Add lemon sections and juice to peel strips.  Stir in crushed berries.  Return to a boil, and then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
 Add sugar and bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Quickly stir in pectin, and return to a full rolling boil for 1 minute.  Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process in a water canner for 5 minutes, and allow to set a room temperature for two weeks before serving.  

Strawberry and Cream Muffins (and a strawberry pie for later)

Today is JGL’s birthday, and because it’s JGL’s birthday, we’ll finally be using up those strawberries we picked from last week.  It’s been hard hoarding them, but I think the end result will have been worth it.

As long as I’ve known JGL, he has never wanted actual cake on his birthday.  The one thing he wanted was strawberry pie.  So I rigged up a recipe 5 years ago when we first started dating, and it’s become a birthday tradition.

The added bonus this morning was there were enough berries for the Strawberry and Cream Oatmeal Muffins I’ve been dreaming up for the past few days.  They have a similar base to my blueberry muffins, but with a few key swaps–oatmeal added for some of the flour, baking soda, yogurt to replace the milk, and butter to replace the shortening.  The end result?

An amazingly healthy and sweet start to JGL’s awesome day!

So here’s to you, JGL–know that I am so incredibly proud of how far you’ve come (and the fact that you’ve stuck to your Weight Watcher’s Guns and have lost 28 pounds even with all of my crazy baking!), and I can’t wait to see where this journey continues to take us.  Thanks so much for letting me be a part of this wild, crazy, beautiful ride.

With Love,

Your GAL

JGL’s Strawberry and Cream Oatmeal Birthday Muffins
Makes 1 dozen
1 1/2 cup white wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1 cup low-fat yogurt
1/4  cup melted butter
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add oatmeal and salt to sifted mixture.  
In a separate bowl mix together sugar, egg, yogurt, strawberries and butter.  Mix the wet and the dry ingredients until the mixture has just barely come together.  Top muffins with a little extra oatmeal and sugar.  Spoon into baking cups, bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Stick a birthday candle in and enjoy!
JGL’s Birthday Strawberry Pie
8 oz of 7 Up (you can substitute diet if you’re watching what you eat)
4 TBS Cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
red food coloring
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 baked pie shell (graham cracker crust is also a suitable substitute) 
Mix first three ingredients and cook and stir over medium high heat until thick (and when I mean thick, I mean thick–it should start to thicken up but still be cloudy, you want it to go from cloudy to clear–then you’re done).  Cool and then add red food coloring to make it look…well, more like strawberries.  A little coloring goes a long way–you want pinky, not blood-red.
Once this mixture is room temperature, stir in berries (don’t get greedy on this step–put it in when it’s still warm and you will have soupy pie.  Trust me, been there done that).  Pour into pie shell and cool in fridge for at least one hour before serving.  Goes well with a bit of whipped topping, birthday candles and love (awwwwww!)

UPDATE:  Check out Sweet as Sugar Cookies blog for her Sweets for a Saturday link up–there are some super amazing yummy treats going on out there!


Strawberry Salsa (FINALLY)

I’ve been off schedule from the moment I woke this morning…but that’s not a bad thing, but my most awesome mojo I was working with yesterday doesn’t seem to be with me today.  But we’re plowing through towards salsa, nonetheless!

So back to the point…Strawberry Salsa.   When I tell people about it, I’m often faced with looks of confusing and bewilderment–how on earth could tomatoes, strawberries, jalapeno, and green onions be good together?  You just have to trust me on this one–it works, and after folks get over the first tentative bites it won’t be on your picnic table for long.  Two words:  Crowd. Pleaser.

It’s one of our favorite treats this time of year, and a recipe that we were given from our Sister in Law.  Over the years I’ve tweaked it some to fit our tastes, and for today’s purposes I tweaked it some for preserving purposes.  You see, what binds the whole thing together is Balsamic Vinegar and olive oil.  And while balsamic is a super yummy vinegar, but not a vinegar you can use for preserving.

I could insert a really long, boring, and nerdy paragraph here about acidity concentrations, how vinegar is processed, etc etc, but I’ll spare you.  Bottom line, especially if you’re a first time canner, the first vinegar of choice for preserving is White Vinegar, and can only be substituted with Apple Cider Vinegar because they share the same amount of acidity.  Mess with the acidity, and you are messing around with botulism and his nasty cousin Food Poisoning.

So today’s canning took a recipe that was meant to be served fresh, and made it so that we can enjoy it come February when summer time seems light years away.  I did that by reducing the balsamic from 12 TBS a batch to about 8 TBS, and replaced the remainder with about 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 1/4 cup lemon juice (to help brighten the flavors).  I also added about 1 tsp of peppercorns per can because I just think it looks so darn pretty, and I really wanted to make sure when we crack these guys open the flavor is full, bright, and still has bite to it.

It certainly is sitting pretty on our counter right now, and I got to utilize one of my favorite kitchen tricks–using a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the pith and seeds of the jalapeno.

So happy Friday, everyone, and here’s to happy canning!

Strawberry Jam

Last year we couldn’t pick enough berries to eat and preserve–by the time we hit the field the berries had just simply gone by.  This year, however, was a much better year strawberry wise, and with our second flat in the fridge, I’m just elated that we’ll be able to put some up this year!

PEO Dinner

Tonight was my first solo PEO meeting and there was a “trade a bagged dinner” dinner component.  I was so in love with the shaved asparagus salad I made it again tonight for the dinner.  I also debuted the first batch of strawberry salsa (more on that tomorrow when I get the canner rolling), and the lavender sweet tea.  As I shared with someone tonight, it’s probably a good thing I do work full time because if I didn’t, I would totally spend my days doing stuff like this:

(and did I mention that I did all this cooking and crafting this afternoon in my best 1940’s housewife outfit, my second favorite half apron, heels, and fretting over my parents and friends who were in the path of the nasty Massachusetts tornado?   Good news is the Madre and the Padre are safe and sound, and I didn’t spill any salsa on my shirt.  Victories all the way around!)

Much to my delight the recipient of my bagged dinner loved it, and wanted to swap recipes.  I love it when good, fresh food brings good people together, and gnarly, nasty tornados dodge the ones I love the most!

Strawberry Salsa: A Primer

There are moments where I wonder how I made it to adulthood in one piece.  Like when I make a whole bowl of strawberry salsa and then eat almost the whole thing for dinner.  And legit consider it to be dinner.

Most folks see me as the girl who likes to be all thing domestic, but my dirty little secret is sometimes I’m just not great about doing it for myself.  Shhh…don’t tell everyone!

So we didn’t get around to taking a picture of the salsa because, well, we ate it, but after a play date with one of my closest friends on Saturday, the plan is to go pick enough strawberries to make jam and to can salsa.  It’s the first “to do” on my ever growing “what to do on my massive stay-cation that starts on Friday” list.

But if this primer is any indication, the stay-cation is going to be DELICIOUS!

Strawberry Fields Forever

Last year I went strawberry picking with my parents, and it was beyond disappointing.  The weather, our timing, everything about the experience was just not great.  Which was a huge bummer, because strawberry picking is one of the highlights of my year.  Today, however, my favorite strawberry field redeemed itself and yielded these GORGEOUS strawberries.  These will just be for eating, and I think JGL and I are going to go back Sunday to grab a whole lot more for canning:  jams, jellies and salsa!

But in the meantime, I’m happy spending my day off making one of my all time favorite treats:  Strawberry Shortcakes!

Kitchen Garden In Progress

Today was beautiful–sunshine, birds chirping, the whole bit.  I’ve been wanting to “break ground” on the side kitchen garden, and today seemed like the perfect afternoon to do it.

It doesn’t look like much, but I got the first raised bed in and filled it with strawberry plants.  It’s is two boxes deep (I failed to get a photo of the crater I created before we refilled it, but such is life), and looks a little bare…but I know the strawberries will spread.  This weekend I’m hoping JGL and I can get the rest of the garden dug up and boxes in so I can start filling it.  We also have a few clematis plants that finally came in that I’m going to train up the carport columns Grampa Farnsworth Style.

So happy St. Patrick’s Day from the L. Homestead–I hope yours was a sunny and beautiful as ours was!