Canning Season has arrived in PA

I spent Saturday in the kitchen, canning.  Working in the kitchen has always soothed my soul and my soul was definitely in need.   I already had a batch of fermented hot sauce sitting on the counter waiting to be pureed and bottled.

hot sauce

The color was much more orange this time, I had more orange and yellow peppers in this batch.  Not as pretty as my first batch, but goodness, does it taste good.  I texted a picture to a friend who is travelling and let them know that hot sauce awaits him upon his return!

On Friday I picked up a flat of local strawberries from the farm stand.  Saturday morning, I made three batches of strawberry jam.  It went rather quickly, so after the third batch, I went back, grabbed another flat and four pounds of apricots.

There used to be a local farm that grew apricots and I absolutely LOVE apricot jam, but they have since closed.  It is surprising how difficult it is to find local apricots.  The ones I got on Saturday are from Lancaster County (about 2 hours away) so they were localish. Anyway, I made another batch of plain strawberry jam, one of strawberry lemon jam and then the apricot.

jam

As far as I am concerned, this isn’t a bad way to spend a Saturday!  I pureed the rest of the strawberries and froze them so I can make a batch or two of mixed berry jam once raspberries and blueberries are in season.  In about two weeks, we should be seeing sour cherries, raspberries, and blueberries in our area.  I can’t wait!

 

Memorial Weekend

How did you spend your Memorial day weekend?  I spent most of my mine in my kitchen. I was lucky enough to have five whole days off….IN A ROW, people!  It was awesome.  We traditionally host our Commencement ceremony the Wednesday  before Memorial Day.  I took Thursday off, well, because I totally exhausted from working an insane amount of hours Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and Friday was our first Summer Friday!  So, one day off = a five day weekend, YEAH ME!

I spent Thursday running errands – grocery shopping, haircut, picking up my dry cleaning….you know all the stuff that gets put on the back burner during Commencement month…AKA….May.  I picked up two flats of vegetables and herbs for my garden.  Friday morning I planted, Friday afternoon I picked up flats of flowers.

While I was getting my flowers, I checked the local farm stands for strawberries.  Because of the rain and cooler temperatures, local strawberries are not quite ready for picking.  I was hoping to make some jam this weekend, but alas, it was not in the cards.  Never fear!  I can always find a canning or kitchen project.

hot sauce

Late last year I made a match of fermented hot sauce and it was a HUGE hit with everyone I shared it with.  I have been getting a ton of requests for more, so this weekend, I grabbed a bunch of hot peppers (jalapeno’s and habaneros), along with some garlic, and spices.  It is now fermenting away on my counter.  All I need to do is burp the jars every day and wait…

Saturday we were invited to a birthday party for two of the little girls who live next door.  Their Mom decided on a taco bar as our entree so I made a batch of mango salsa and paired it with chips as a side dish.  It went over really well, slightly spicy and sweet, it was the perfect combo and a great salsa for a party with children.

mango salsa

Sunday we were invited to a friends house for dinner.  I supplied the desserts…

confetti cookie doughconfetti cookiesderby pie

Confetti cookies, because they are just fun and taste AMAZING and Derby Pie because every rainy Sunday deserves a bit of bourbon and chocolate!

Monday, I made a toll house pie for us to enjoy as our dessert.

toll house pie

Tuesday came far too quickly, I was really enjoying my time at home.  Thank goodness we are lucky enough to have Friday’s off for the entire summer.  I only worked three days this week. It was the perfect way to ease back into the job after so much time off!

Grilled Chicken with Bok Choi

The weather last week was a total anomaly.  Seriously, it was in the 70’s all week.  Most days the sun was shining.  It felt more like spring than winter.  I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, I just know mother nature is going to drop a blizzard on us when we least expect it.   Anyway….I decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth and took the opportunity to grill out doors, we even ATE outside one night last week, whoo hoo!

chx-with-bok-choy

I marinated boneless skinless chicken in a sesame ginger marinade, then grilled it.  While that was cooking I made a batch of white rice and quickly sauteed up some bok choi in a little of the same marinade.  It was delicious.  Quick, healthy, and so so satisfying!

I know global warming is a bad thing for the planet, but I have to tell you, I really enjoyed our weather the last few days.

Lasagna

The weather this week has been outrageous!  It was 66 degrees and sunny on Wednesday, then downright frigid, windy, and SNOWY on Thursday…..

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Today the snow is washing away in the warmish rain.   Crazy, crazy, crazy!  Another crazy thing….I unexpectedly have the weekend off, the WHOLE WEEKEND, whoo hooo!  To celebrate, I went to the butcher shop and picked up a bunch of meat.

I made lasagna with the meatloaf mix and the hot italian sausage.  It turned out so, so delicious!  I made a HUGE pot of tomato sauce, so much in fact, that I ended up freezing three batches for meals later in the winter.

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Goodness knows I have a horrible time resisting carbs…give me cold, dreary weather and well…all my good intentions go down the drain.  At least I am eating well…..right?   Happy winter everyone, the only thing that excites me about winter is the longer days.  Each and every day I get a few more precious minutes of light – spring is on the way, never fear!

Chicken Salad

I have been experimenting with my chicken salad.  I have never been one for a salad with a TON of mayo, and in an effort to be healthy, I have been looking for ways to cut back on fat.

With that in mind, I have been trying to find a substitute for the mayo in my chicken salad.

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I started by replacing all of the mayo with fat free plain greek yogurt.  It wasn’t bad….but it wasn’t good either.  I ate it, but I can’t say I was looking forward to ever eating that again.  Sigh….I figured I would play with the ratio of mayo to yogurt and FINALLY came across the perfect combination – 2/3 yogurt to 1/3 mayo.   Low fat, delicious, and as an added bonus – extra protein from the yogurt.  Now I just need to eat it on greens and not in a roll….baby steps people, baby steps!

US Physics Tournament

I haven’t had much time for cooking in the last two weeks, instead I have been working non stop.  We were lucky enough to win the opportunity to host the US Physics Tournament at our university last weekend.  I worked a total of 54 hours in three days between the set up and actual tournament.  I was one tired girl by Sunday night when we wrapped up the pizza party for all 200 of the event attendees.

The event was a logistical challenge and my entire team rose to the occasion beautifully! Team USciences for the WIN!

Each physics “fight” consisted of two teams of four and a panel of six judges.  We had six fights happening simultaneously, in multiple buildings, for two straight days.  My AV team was able to capture each fight on film and with the technology in the rooms, we were even able to  live stream the finals and award ceremony to the friends and family who weren’t able to attend in person.

We welcomed a total of thirteen teams from around the globe and the event went flawlessly.  The buses showed up on time, the food was plentiful and delicious, and the technology worked, whew! We set up a command center and tabulation room in our training center and with the help of a google document and wifi, we were able to significantly reduce the amount of actual paper involved with the event as well as keep everyone informed and updated in real time.

I think the best part of the entire event was the connections made between the high school physics students who came from around the world to compete.  We had teams from as far away as China and Tunisia and as close as the Philadelphia suburbs.  The level of competition was amazing, but the camaraderie and sportsman ship shown by all of the students was a beautiful sight to behold.

Word is we are looking to host this event again in two years, followed by the International Competition in 2021 – I say BRING IT, we are up for the challenge!

HELLO! I’M BACK!

Oh my goodness, I so did not mean to take this long to write another post.  It has been one heck of a holiday season!  Work was insane….which scares the heck outta me because typically the spring semester is busier than the fall semester.  Time just seems to go faster and faster every year.  I can’t believe we are already in the second week of January.  It is hard to believe that my students come back on Monday.  I doesn’t feel like it has been a week since they left.

Anyway, I have been cooking and taking photo’s – just not blogging – so here goes!

For the last admissions open house in December, I always make desserts for our student ambassadors.  This year, time was tight, so I made a pan of caramel brownies, a pan of blondies, and this amazingly awesome apple cake.  Oh my, was the apple cake delicious, so full of apples, barely sweet, with a nice hint of dark rum….YUM! It was the first dessert that the kids devoured, but have no fear….they ate every bit of the home made desserts and begged for more.

 

2016 was a crazy year and I didn’t get the opportunity to make as much jam as I usually do, thankfully, I was able to make a 5 gallon batch of hard cider and multiple batches of cranberry vodka, so at least I had gifts to give away to friends and co-workers.

Hard Cidercranberry-vodka

I, of course,  made  multiple batches of what my neighbor Kim lovingly refers to as Christmas Crack….aka….Burnt Sugar Almonds

sugar almonds

So all was right with the world.  I am hoping that life will slow down a bit once I am finish my responsibilities as task force chair of one of our program review teams.  I am putting in an additional 15-20 hours per week as part of the task force.   March 1st can’t come soon enough!  I hope you all had a lovely holiday season, mine was good, it just went  by wayyyyy to quickly!