Back Across the Pond

As I’ve mentioned in several of my posts, M and I are going to the UK for two weeks over Christmas and New Year’s for his sister’s wedding.  I am very excited and we’ve planned a lot of traveling (Harry Potter Studio Tour?  Doctor Who Experience? …Is my nerdiness showing?), but I have to survive the next 36 hours before we leave first.  I am mostly done packing…but that last remaining bit is the most stressful part. I keep telling myself that if I forget anything, I can always buy it there.  We’re staying in a house and very near to stores.  But its the kind of unavoidable, too-little-sleep, still-recovering-from-illness, emotional fray that I just have to push through.  Once we step into the airport, I’ll be fine!

It really will be a wonderful trip.  We have several friends who will be studying abroad at the same time, so in addition to seeing his family and old friends, we’ll catch up with some American ones as well.  So this is just a fair warning that posts will be very unlikely in the next two-and-a-half weeks. There will be a huge post all about the trip, of course, but I don’t think I’ll have too much time to sit down and write while I’m there.  Too much to do! 🙂

I hope that you all have magical, relaxing holidays.  I’ll see you in the New Year!

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Homemade Holidays #5: Raspberry-Peach Sangria Jam

So, here is the other wine jam recipe I promised:  Raspberry-Peach Sangria Jam.  The white wine counterpart to the Merlot.   The summer counterpart to the wintry mulled jelly.  This Sangria jam is more similar to your typical fruit jam recipes, so if wine jelly makes you nervous, maybe this is a good recipe to try your hand.  When I researched on the internet, there were many recipes for jam using the fruit remaining from sangria, which is a wonderful use of leftovers.  However, most did not use wine for the liquid (presumably because it had all been drunk).  But here, I wanted to showcase the wine.  I subbed out most of the fruit juice for white wine, reducing the wine in order to concentrate the flavor.  The citrus does wonders to carry that wine taste all the way through, while the fruit keeps this jam sweet enough for breakfast.

Raspberry-Peach Sangria Jam

  • 1 1/2 c. white wine (I used Chardonnay I had on hand)
  • 2 1/2 c. raspberries ( I used frozen that I thawed)
  • 2 c. peaches, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 c. of mixed (lemon, orange, lime) citrus–pulp only, reserve zest
  • 1 Tbsp mixed zest of lemon, orange, lime
  • Juice of one whole orange, 1/4 lemon and 1/4 lime
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 c. white granulated sugar
  • 1 box/packet low-sugar pectin (I used low-suger because its what I had on hand.  I cannot vouch for regular pectin, though I imagine it would work just fine)
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • Canning equipment: 2 large stock pots, 1 small saucepan, 6 8-oz (or 12 4-oz) canning jars + rings and lids, funnel, cooling rack, tongs

Pour wine into large pitcher.  Add all fruit, juice, and zest to wine.  Allow to sit at least 1 hour, up to overnight.

Prepare your canning equipment.  I did not use a canning rack, but I did have canning tongs which are pretty essential.  Mine look like this. Fill a large stock pot with water.  Clean all of your canning supplies (jars, rings, lids, funnel, tongs) in hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly.  Place jars and rings in water, making sure the water covers all supplies by an inch.  Bring water to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, then keep in hot water until ready to fill.

Meanwhile, strain wine into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup.

Once reduced, add all of the wine and all of the fruit/zest to the second large stock pot.  Measure out your sugar.  Remove 1/4 cup of sugar and mix it in a smaller bowl with the pectin.  Heat wine and fruit mixture and use a potato masher or a wooden spoon to break down fruit pieces.  Add pectin-sugar mixture to wine and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the pat of butter (said to reduce foaming) and whisk in remaining sugar.  Cook at a rolling boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  I found that all of the foam disappeared after removing from the heat, but if you are worried about how pretty it will be in the jars, feel free to skim the foam.

Remove jars from water, drain.  Turn up heat under water to bring to a boil. Fill jars with jam, leaving 1/4-1/2 in of space (called headspace).  Make sure the rim of the jar is completely clean.  Place the lids on the jars and screw on lids lightly, until they no longer move without any pressure.  Place filled jars in boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from water and set to cool.  Shortly after removing from water, you should hear a “pop” as the jar seals, and the center of the lid will be depressed.  If the jar does not seal, reboil again for 10 minutes.  (3 out of the 26 jars I made did not seal the first round, but did seal after the second boiling).  Allow jars to cool completely before moving.  After cooled, you can screw the rings on tightly.

Makes 6 8-ounce jars or 12 4-ounce jars of jelly.


Homemade Holidays #4: Spiced Merlot Wine Jelly

I got the idea in my head to make wine jelly over a year ago, when I saw jar of it at the overpriced (but delicious) Asian restaurant near where I had my first professional theater gig.  I cannot, for the life of me, remember the name of it, but it had delicious bento lunches and a half-dozen jars of “Chardonnay Jelly” and “Pinot Grigio Jelly” and “Merlot Jelly”.  I didn’t buy any, but it did set some mental gears whirring.  Plain wine jelly seems a little bit boring, though, and I as a began to think of holiday recipes, I thought back to my first visit to London in the winter of 2009.  It was a magical, life-changing 17-day-long trip.  In addition to my marvelous discovery of Strongbow cider, I also imbibed quite a bit of the spiced, mulled wine available at every pub.  Warm rich red wine laced with cinnamon and cloves, orange peel and ginger, and a myriad of other flavors.  These, I wanted to capture in my wine jelly.  And, if I was going to make a red wine jelly, I might as well make a white wine batch as well.  Something opposite, to keep things interesting.  So my idea for Sangria wine jam was born as well.

When I settled down to start on these jellies, I did a little research.  Several recipes for wine jelly were out there on the internet, but none for mulled and spiced wine jelly.  So I played and I fiddled and I came up with my recipe.  The most important thing to remember is that my recipe uses more than one bottle of wine.  Buy two and save yourself the questionable trip to the grocery store at 10:00 in the morning, purchasing only a bottle of merlot and paying out in paper bills and coins.  People might begin to talk…  But the risk of appearing suspiciously like an alcoholic is probably worth it for this jelly.

I also reduced a portion of the wine, to concentrate the flavor.  The next time I make this jelly, I will reduce most of the quantity of wine it calls for, and probably play at lessening the sugar added.  I wanted the wine flavor to come through more than it did.  But this recipe is still delicious, and sweet jelly as perfect on toast as it is on a cheese plate.  I was lucky enough to have individual packets (like tea bags) of mulling spices, which reduced the straining and clean-up required.

Spiced Merlot Wine Jelly

  • 4 1/4 c. red wine (this is the total wine used)
  • 8 individual bags of mulling spices or 1 Tbsp whole allspice, 1 Tbsp whole cloves, 2 sticks of cinnamon, 1 inch portion fresh ginger in slices, 1 orange peel (white pith removed)
  • 3 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 c. white granulated sugar
  • 1 box/packet low-sugar pectin (I used low-suger because its what I had on hand.  I cannot vouch for regular pectin, though I imagine it would work just fine)
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • Canning equipment: 2 large stock pots, 1 small saucepan, 1 medium saucepan, 6 8-oz (or 12 4-oz) canning jars + rings and lids, funnel, cooling rack, tongs

Prepare your canning equipment.  I did not use a canning rack, but I did have canning tongs which are pretty essential.  Mine look like this. Fill a large stock pot with water.  Clean all of your canning supplies (jars, rings, lids, funnel, tongs) in hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly.  Place jars and rings in water, making sure the water covers all supplies by an inch.  Bring water to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, then keep in hot water until ready to fill.

Meanwhile, measure 1 1/2 cups wine into the small sauce pan.  Add 3 bags of mulling spices or about 1/3 of loose spices.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn down low to a simmer.  Simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup of liquid (about 20-30 minutes).  Pour remaining wine into medium saucepan.  Add remaining mulling spices/bags, plus citrus juice and heat over low heat while other pan of wine reduces.  Once the wine has reduced, you should find yourself with 3 1/2 cups of liquid, total.  If its a little below, add a bit more wine.  If its more, keep reducing.

When you have 3 1/2 cups of wine, add all of the wine to the second large stock pot.  Measure out your sugar.  Remove 1/4 cup of sugar and mix it in a smaller bowl with the pectin.  Add pectin-sugar mixture to wine and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the pat of butter (said to reduce foaming) and whisk in remaining sugar.  Cook at a rolling boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  I found that all of the foam disappeared after removing from the heat, but if you are worried about how pretty it will be in the jars, feel free to skim the foam.

Remove jars from water, drain.  Turn up heat under water to bring to a boil. Fill jars with jam, leaving 1/4-1/2 in of space (called headspace).  Make sure the rim of the jar is completely clean.  Place the lids on the jars and screw on lids lightly, until they no longer move without any pressure.  Place filled jars in boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from water and set to cool.  Shortly after removing from water, you should hear a “pop” as the jar seals, and the center of the lid will be depressed.  If the jar does not seal, reboil again for 10 minutes.  (3 out of the 26 jars I made did not seal the first round, but did seal after the second boiling).  Allow jars to cool completely before moving.  After cooled, you can screw the rings on tightly.

Makes 6 8-ounce jars or 12 4-ounce jars of jelly.


Homemade Holidays #3: Triple-Ginger-Bread Cookies

Here is the second cookies recipe from last year to make it into the baking spree this year.  These soft, gingerbread cookies were an absolute fluke.  But a glorious fluke, for sure.  They are the ones that M requested specifically, a slightly cake-y cookie that is (again) not-too-sweet, even with the frosting.  The frosting adds just enough sugar and moisture to these cookies, but feel free to try them without it if you feel so inclined.  I also tried to save time and not roll these cookies in loose sugar before baking, but they look much more unfinished without the hint of sparkle from the coating.

The dough for these cookies doesn’t look “right”.  It seems too sticky, to loose.  But trust me, it’ll be okay.  Cover the top with saran wrap and leave the dough overnight in fridge.  After a night of chilling, it will be much easier to work with and will come together just fine.  Believe in the dough!

Gingerbread Cookies

  • 2  1/4 c.  White Rice Flour
  • 1  1/2 c.Tapioca Starch
  • 2  tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground (dry) ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, finely minced.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Whisk together all dry ingredients in medium bowl.  Cream butter and sugar in large bowl.  Add molasses, then fresh ginger, then eggs, one at a time; taking the time to fully incorporate each addition. Slowly add in dry ingredient mix, again, taking time to fully incorporate each portion of dry ingredients.  Fold in crystallized ginger.  Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll dough into 1″- 2″ balls and roll in loose granulated sugar until completely coated.  Press onto cookie sheet with palm to flatten slightly.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, until cookies are turning golden and tops are cracking.  Remove from oven and use the bottom of a solid spatula to re-flatten to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Allow to cool for five minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar with 2-4 Tbsp milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract to make frosting.  The frosting should be soft enough to puddle after it is spread on top of the cooled cookies, but thick enough not to drip down the edges.  It should dry stiff, but not too hard, on top of the cookies.

Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on size of cookies.


Homemade Holidays #2: Spicy Almond Slices

Somewhere in the midst of the madness that is my life at the holidays (Children’s holiday shows are a serious business), I had an evening of utter abandon and made six dozen cookies.  Should I really  be so surprised, after last year?  Anyways, I did, thankfully, make all of these sweets before my 8-performances-in-48-hours-weekend that brought on a nasty virus.  I’m still trying to shake this sickness and trying to churn out all of my holiday posts and recipes within the next couple of days, because M and I are leaving for the UK on Sunday!  AH!

Confession: I haven’t packed at all.  I do have a list of what needs to be packed…that is a step in the right direction, isn’t it?  Packing for a wedding/meeting the entire family/traveling all up and down the country is hard enough, but when it has to be done with bulky, warm winter clothes, it is even worse.  I’m hoping I can stay under 51 lbs for my one free checked bag!  Hahaha.  (But seriously, I’m taking 5 pairs of shoes!  While I have a lot at home, I have never been a crazy packer… until now, I suppose).  Sometime (probably Friday) I will force myself to sit down, sort things out and pack away, but, in the meantime, I can procrastinate by sharing my Christmas recipes with you, right!

These Spicy Almond Slices were posted with last year’s batch of Christmas cookies, but as one of the two repeat recipes who made the cut in this year’s mad-dash baking spree, I thought they deserved they’re own post with pictures.  These cookies are a wonderful break from the normal deluge of Christmas cookies: crisp, crunchy, and not-too-sweet.  They are also the perfect icebox cookie.  Simply double-wrap after forming the unbaked dough into a log and store in your freezer for up to six months.  I bake them straight from frozen (you may have to add a minute or two to the baking time, keep an eye on them).  Though it does seem like a lot of spices (well, the normal amount to me, which can seem a little extreme), the cinnamon and nutmeg and clove come through as a warm undertones, supporting the nuttiness of the double almond flavor.  And, as a special bonus, this recipe is pretty easy to halve or to double!

Spicy Almond Slice Cookies

I used almond flour in these cookies to up the nut flavor.  You can replace the almond flour with an additional 3/4 c. + 1 Tbsp of the GF Flour blend.

  • 1 c. (112 g.) almond flour
  • 1 1/2 c + 1 Tsbp White Rice Flour
  • 1 c. Tapioca Flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 c. butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 2 c. sliced almonds.

In  medium bowl, whisk almond flour with GF flour blend.  In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, vanilla, nutmeg, salt, eggs, and 2 cups of flour mix until well-mixed.  With wooden spoon, stir in remaining 1 1/2 (+ 1 Tsbp) flour and sliced almonds.  Dough will be very stiff, use hands to mix if necessary.

Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into 10″x3″x1″ log, wrap each in wax paper or plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut brick into 1/4″ slices.  Place slices 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes until browned around edges.  Cool on wire rack.  Store tightly covered.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.


Homemade Holidays #1: Cranberry Chutney

I could tell you the long detailed story of just how my life has devolved into chaos in the past few weeks.  But that would certainly take more than twenty minutes, and twenty minutes is all that I have.  And I really want is to share this chutney with you.   I promised the recipe for my cranberry chutney in my Thanksgiving recap post, and discussed how I was wrongly tempted to make it as an appetizer to the big dinner.  But here’s the thing about Thanksgiving: it doesn’t need appetizers.  And here’s the thing about this chutney: it will get eaten.  Perhaps not the best idea to include on a menu when the main event is still to come, but this chutney is perfect for the later winter holidays (where eating isn’t the main event)!

My mother has been making this dish for Christmas  since I can remember, but for a long time in my childhood, I refused to try it.  I regret my younger self’s obstinence (though my mother probably misses it–now we practically battle each other for each bite!)  I made this for my roommates and friends in college and all exclaimed “It tastes like Christmas!”  And it certainly does.  The tangy vinegar play off of the tart cranberries beautifully, with a touch of spices and a little bit of sugar to hold things together.  Warmed over smooth melting brie, it is absolutely divine!  If you do not like brie (I’ll pretend I did not hear such blasphemy), this chutney is equally delicious over room-temperature goat’s cheese or even cream cheese.  I’ve wanted to try how it pairs with pork for years, but I also manage to eat it all before I take the time to put a porkchop in the pan.  Maybe a few of you could try it and let me know?  And I’ll try harder to mark a batch for dinner, instead of just for the brie!

Cranberry Chutney

  • 1 c. cranberries
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. cider vinegar
  • 2T water
  • 2t. minced gingerroot
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. cloves

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan.  Stir to combine.  Heat over medium heat until boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened and berries have burst (you can help them along, if need be, by squishing against the side of the pan).  Serve over a warmed round of brie, with crackers.

Can be kept, covered, in the fridge for several days.  This recipe also cans quite well.