Lemony Goodness in Homemade Blueberry-Cranberry Jam!

It was the perfect afternoon to make jam – after a hot and humid 94+ degree morning, I saw gray clouds forming on the drive home and knew rain was on the way. Wonderful opportunity to spend time in the kitchen!

I stopped at Aldi’s, where I found blueberries on sale – $1.99 per pint, so I picked up two pints.  I remember the last time that I made blueberry lemon scones and how quickly they disappeared….and thought, wouldn’t it be fun to make blueberry-lemon jam? But plans were just a tad derailed when I found a bag of frozen cranberries.

20200702_150221

An estimated three cups of blueberries and two of cranberries went into a large stovetop pot, along with the zest of one lemon and the juice of two lemons, with 2/3 cups of organic sugar sprinkled on top.  As the heat increased, the cranberries popped. I used a wooden spoon to keep the berries moving along for about half an hour. I pulled the pot off the heat and let it cool a bit, and then poured it into the Vitamix, mixing it well until the blueberries and cranberries were truly incorporated into a vibrant red shade that I poured right back into the pot, waited until it was back up to boiling point and then poured pectin into the mix, using the wooden spoon to keep it moving along to becoming one of the very-berry best jams ever!

20200702_155942

Of course I cleaned off the spoon…it was amazing. After pouring the jam into 3 large glass mason jars, the pot still had a little bit of jam left, so I couldn’t help but peel a banana and enjoy cleaning off the remains….it was amazing!

And then thought…..wouldn’t this make an amazing Berry-Banana Bread to celebrate the 4th of July? Stay tuned for that recipe coming up soon this weekend.

But I did happen to try something new and different this week as I contemplated all things lemon. I actually put fresh lemon juice into my coffee! Sounds insane, right? But when I researched this mix, I found that as both coffee and lemons are high with antioxidants, due to this combination, it could help lower belly fat. The taste was not bad – it was different, so I will be trying this out and will see if this truly helps. It is an acquired taste for sure!

What are you making for the 4th of July?

 

Which do you prefer….Lemon or Lime?

20200620_135510

In my research, I was fascinated by the fact that Lemons and Limes come from the same family and have similarities in their benefits, both low in calories and hosts of Vitamin C, but have a different flavor with a distinctive taste, and originally were grown in two different continents.  Limes, which originate in Southeast Asia, come in two varieties, sweet and sour.  I read how they were first grown in Assam, northern Burma, now Myanmar, and China.

Lemons, known as Citrus limon, originate from limes, Citrus aurantifolia. They were originally developed as a two-step hybrid, first between the lime and the citron in India and Pakistan, and the second lime with pummelo in the Middle East, with the lime being significantly smaller than the lemon, with its bright green peel versus the bright yellow of the lemon.

According to the National Geographic, researchers have used the DNA of today’s citrus trees to trace them back to some time in the late Miocene epoch which means that wild citrus trees have been growing for around seven to eight million years. That’s pretty amazing!

It was in 1493 that Christopher Columbus took lemon seeds to Hispaniola, which is when the lemon was introduced to the Americas.  The first substantial cultivation of lemons in Europe began in Genoa, Italy in the middle of the 15th century.  And lemons have been grown in Florida since the 16th century, becoming a million dollar industry.

It was in 1747 that James Lind discovered that lemons and oranges wouldn’t just prevent scurvy, a disease that caused mouth hemorrhages, internal bleeding, and tooth decay, but cure it!

One of my favorite types of lemon is the Meyer lemon, a mix of citrus and meyeri, a hybrid fruit native to China, which is sweeter and rounder than the traditional lemon. Limes are in season from May to October, and lemons are best from May to August.  I travel to Aldi’s for well-priced lemons or limes, but if I’m thinking of making lemon scones, as the Meyer lemon is much sweeter than a regular lemon, I’ll go to Trader Joe’s. The Meyer lemon ripens from November to March.

It was not until I moved to South Florida that I tried key lime pie for the very first time. Having always loved a mix of sweet and sour, the flavorful key lime pie became my preferred Miami dessert.

I had no idea how adding fresh lime juice to a ground turkey dish would elevate the flavor, adding a special zing to it! There are innumerous dishes in every style of cooking which use lemons or limes, from the juice to the zest, as a means to add that amazing citrus flavor.

I admit I was floored, just floored, when I read that you can create “invisible ink” with a mix of lemon juice, onion juice, milk and vinegar. If you write a message on a piece of paper and let it dry, it will not be seen, but under heat the acid in the lemon weakens the fibers of the paper, so it turns brown, in other words, legible!

And let’s not even think through the myriad of options of using lemon juice as a cleanser or as a skin softener. My maternal grandmother, as well as my mother, always kept a cut lemon near the sink on a little plate, so that after she finished washing the dishes or working in the yard, she would use the lemon on her hands to clean and soften them.

My grandmother also had the biggest lemon tree in her yard in Carrasco. The lemons were as big as my hands and they were delicious.  Those were the only lemons that I actually bit into…yes, supremely tart, but delicious nonetheless.

So lemons can be used in so many options, from marinades to salad dressings, or to be the main ingredient in sweets, such as the cake shown below.  This is what I call my ‘Naked Lemon Cake’, as it is not covered with frosting.  In the mix I used fresh lemon juice, as well as lemon zest, and created a lemon cream, which I used between the layers and to decorate the cake.  This cake was oozing lemony goodness throughout each bite!

Tune in soon for another segment of Lemons or Limes!

IMG_2249 (1)

Luscious Strawberries Alert!

Now I love Aldi’s, but I have never shopped at the very same Aldi’s twice on the same day to buy the very same thing I purchased just a few hours before! When I found a lb of luscious strawberries at only $1.29 per lb, I had to go back and get some more…..now I was on a mission! But it was past 5pm….I rushed in to the produce section to be shocked at seeing only a few boxes left….picked up 3 more and ran home, and began a new style of all-purpose strawberry sauce!

These strawberries were large, bright red, and just gorgeous, besides sweet and delicious. I rinsed and chopped them, and into a large pot they went, with two tablespoons of Swerve, one shot of Bullet bourbon, and the juice of one lemon.

I cooked them for about two hours and let the strawberries cool, before I poured the mix into a blender and returned it to the pot, so it could continue cooking until the liquid had a thicker consistency.  Then it was poured into a glass mason jar, sealed, and placed in the fridge.  I can’t wait to use this sauce this coming weekend…..will continue adventurizing with strawberries and report the next new “strawberry” concoction…..

I loved chopping the strawberries and laying them on a plate….they were so very pretty, bright red, and juicy, I couldn’t help but taste a few, as I continued chopping. It was apropos to think through how our amazing Creator created such diversity in the fruits and vegetables that we can consume! I am ever so grateful to have such a myriad of varieties to try, and cook with. It also brought to mind Psalm 139, which speaks how we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, each unique slice reminding me how they had some similarities but each was unique in its own special way, just like the way that God chose to create you and me. Together, we are part of this enormous melting pot of people from every corner of the earth.

Melting pot……that brought about thoughts of chocolate…melting chocolate and dipping strawberries……might just have to tweak that thought tomorrow and try elevating the flavors this weekend…..stay tuned!

Avocado Heaven – Practicing for 5 de Mayo!

20200426_150319

What to do with avocadoes which have all ripened to full maturity? This guacamole is flavorful and delicious!

3 avocadoes

4 freshly squeezed limes

freshly squeezed lemon juice from one large lemon

1 chopped large red onion

1 chopped large tomato

sea salt

freshly peppercorn

This is the fastest and easiest meal, yes, meal, that you can put together. In an aluminum bowl I placed the avocadoes, chopped onion and tomato, and then the fresh lime and lemon juice, sea salt and pepper….mix is thoroughly and place it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes unless you are serving it as soon as it is made.

I use Live G Free (gluten free) brown rice crackers, sweet chili flavored. The burst of fresh and sweet chili flavors with the guacamole is delicious, and quite filling.

This is a wonderful appetizer to share with friends….or have yourself as an entire meal.

Happy Sunday, everyone.

Limoncello Cupcakes with Ghirardelli Chocolate Dusted Whipped Cream

ImageI finally made the time to make a different version of my Limoncello cake…into cupcakes!

Decided to not frost them, so I made a whipped cream, incorporating 3 tablespoons of Limoncello with half a cup of powdered sugar, and then dusting it with Ghirardelli powdered chocolate….can I say yum, yum, severely yummy dessert?

Let me share with you how I made these cupcakes:

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 stick of unsalted butter

3 eggs

1 cup of sugar

3 lemons, juiced and grated

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup Limoncello

1/2 cup carbonated water

Sift the flour with the baking soda and powder in one bowl for the dry ingredients.

In another bowl, place the eggs, sugar, melted butter, Limoncello, freshly grated lemon peel and juice, and carbonated water and beat until well incorporated.  In batches, place the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and beat it.  If it is too dry, use a little bit more of the carbonated water so that all the ingredients blend well together.

 

Place in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes and enjoy!!! I have a cream cheese frosting that I make the same way that I made the whipped cream…..8 oz. of Neufchatel cheese, at room temperature, beaten with one cup and a half of powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons of Limoncello and one heaping tablespoon of grated lemon peel.

Need a natural pick-me-up? Try my New Carrot-n-Sweet Potato Soup!

Way too soon to be encountering a second cold in 2013, I opted to stay home on Sunday….and came up with this new simple but delicious soup that put a smile on my face!Image three chopped carrots

the juice of half a lemon

one very large sweet potato

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

The chopped carrots went into 2 cups of low sodium chicken broth, which was brought to a boil, adding in the fresh lemon juice.  As soon as the sweet potato was done in the microwave, I carefully peeled it, chopped it and in the pot it went, to cook for a good 5 to 10 minutes. 

This mixture went into a blender, where it was blended till everything was well combined…..and then the taste test….simple but deliciously good!

 

Early Saturday Breakfast: Strawberry & Muenster Cheese Mini Sandwiches!

1-19-2013 001

Remember that yesterday I shared with you how my Tomato Soup Biscuits came about? Biscuit left-overs provoke me to think out of the box…..yesterday not only did I purchase those lovely vegetables to make the absolutely-aromatic-fill-your-tummy-with-goodness-tomato soup, I also found that they had the most extraordinary bright red, juicy strawberries!

Knowing that I had Muenster cheese waiting for me in the fridge, out came the strawberries, left-over tomato-soup biscuits, awesome cheese…..what better combination for a mini-sandwich breakfast, accompanied with freshly grated lemon-ginger-honeyed hot tea???

I like to keep a lemon and fresh ginger in the freezer as it makes it so easy to grate….so one lemon was grated as well as one healthy heaping spoonful of freshly grated ginger went into 2 cups of boiling water, with the fresh lemon juice of the grated lemon, and a friendly drop of honey made this beyond delish….a wonderful accompaniment to the light strawberry-Muenster cheese mini sandwiches for Breakfast!

Have a Fantastic Weekend!!

Best comfort food for a chilly day in Miami? Why, Tomato Soup, of course!

ImageWoke up to 56 degrees……but in Miami, that feels like it’s a lot colder than it really is! I bundled up to go to work, in Boots, Sweater, Scarf and Coat.  Yes, it was That Cold to me.

On my way home, I passed an open field where they were selling fresh fruits and vegetables….so I stopped and walked right up to the stand where they had some gorgeous colorful vegetables. My grumbling stomach said…it’s time to make Tomato Soup!

I purchased some large tomatoes, a poblano and vidalia onions.  Couldn’t wait to get home in order to start creating a new style of tomato soup.

As soon as I walked into my kitchen, out came a large cookie sheet, where I spread out the tomatoes, poblano pepper and vidalia onions to broil them first. Into a stovetop pot went garlic, tomato paste, tomato sauce, dash of kosher salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and the juice of one lemon, as well as two cups of low sodium chicken broth.  As soon as I could smell the lovely aroma of the broiled tomatoes and the vidalia onions,  the tomatoes were peeled, and then were chopped up with the vidalia onions and the poblano pepper, and all went for a swim with the rest of the ingredients in the stovetop pot. After a good 20 minutes, small batches of the soup went into a blender, where it liquified the vegetables together….such an amazing aroma came from this light and superbly flavorful soup.

But there was something missing…..I always keep my biscuit mix nearby, so in went one cup of the tomato soup, as well as half a cup of parmesan cheese and 1/3 cup of chopped bacon.  In just 12 minutes at 400 degrees, the tomato soup biscuits were done!

Yum……now where did I put my soup spoon????

 

My citrus torrid love affair continues…..with lemons!

My grandmother had the loveliest lemon tree in the backyard.  From the first lemon that I plucked from that tree as a little girl, I’ve loved the lemoniness loveliness of fresh lemons!

So tonight after my Insanity workout (yes, I am now 3 weeks into the insanity of the Insanity workout) I sought good fuel after an awesome workout.  The challenge: create a healthy meal from my cupboards, so off I went in search thereof.

Found chicken thighs……tomato paste…..minced garlic…asparagus…a large and juicy lemon and an orange.  Simple, right?  And soooooo delicious!

I took about half a teaspoon of unsalted butter and allowed that to melt into two tablespoons of tomato paste and 2 tablespoons of minced garlic with a third of a cup of water and allowed those ingredients to marry before placing the chicken thighs right on top, with slices of lemon perched on each one, after having been juiced into the bubbling sauce.   After approximately 15 minutes, the chicken was turned over to its other side for another 10 minutes. I chopped the asparagus and dropped it right into the pan and allowed it to cook right with the chicken in that delectable sauce, juicing the orange right on top of the asparagus and leaving the orange in the pan. 

 

Not five minutes later, the aroma coming from the kitchen beckoned me for a taste test and oh my! How delicious.  I fixed myself a plate and enjoyed each bite!! 

 Talk about wonderful flavor…..it was just amazing how good lemons are with anything! I found that I couldn’t help myself from eating the lemon itself!!!

What a wonderful meal….and the best part – I’ve got my lunch and dinner for tomorrow from making this meal tonite! It’s easy, fast and so wonderfully tasty. 

I didn’t use any salt nor pepper nor any other spice……the lemon and orange did the work in creating such an awesome sauce with the minced garlic and tomato paste, so it’s an option for those that have to restrict their sodium intake.

Try it yourself and let me know what you think!!!

Have a blessed evening.

Gabi

Oh, what a day! And I mean last Saturday, March 24th at Tart & Berry

I had such a Great Time!  Talk about intense baking…..last Friday I ran home from work and made quite a few goodies:

  • Nespresso/Chocolate Mini-cupcakes
  • Strawberry Mini-cupcakes with fresh Strawberry/Neufchatel Cheese Frosting
  • Lemon/Key Lime Mini-Cupcakes with fresh juice
  • Chocolate & Peanut Butter Mini-cupcakes, with a hint of orange
  • Banana and Dulce de Leche Mini-cupcakes

And on the savory side

  • Parmesan, olive and sundried tomato mini-mini biscuits, and last but not least
  • Corn and black bean mini-muffins!

I had a grand time baking and what fun it was to meet so many people!  We had quite a few hundred that stopped by to taste mini-baked goodies made by yours truly, as well as try the numerous yummy yogurts and awesome paninis and salads that Tart & Berry sells!

Make sure to stop by Tart & Berry and try out their Tiramisu yogurt…..talk about severe yum factor!!!!