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Ginger Peach Jam

I have two fun announcements today!

First of all, I am now the proud owner of my very own web address.  I am officially “fromscratchblog.com”!  This shouldn’t affect you, my readers, at all, but if you notice a problem picking up my RSS feeds that could be why.

Secondly, this week we are having a Peach Party!  My mother-in-law has a peach tree in her yard and this year it has produced fruit in a big way.  We are the happy recipients of a LOT of peaches, so this week I will be celebrating all the different ways I use them up.  Hopefully you will find some inspiration too.

This summer I have begun dabbling in canning and preserving.  So far I have made strawberry jam, Chinese plum sauce, and now ginger peach jam.  I have to say it’s pretty fun preserving perfectly ripe foods to enjoy in the “off-season”!

This jam is delicious!  The ripe peach flavor is the star, with just a hint of ginger to spice it up.  I do wish I had diced the peaches into smaller chunks, but otherwise it is perfect.  Not only is the jam good as a spread, but I think it will make a wonderful topping for vanilla ice cream or waffles.  And I can’t wait to try stirring it into Greek yogurt!

Tonight I had a some leftover puff pastry scraps.  I used a little of this jam to make peach turnovers – quite tasty!

Here is the recipe. It’s from the book Put ’em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton. If you have never canned before, PLEASE find a reliable source detailing the steps for proper and safe canning before attempting this recipe.

Ginger Peach Jam

Print Recipe

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Pomona’s Universal Pectin (I found it at Whole Foods)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 4 pounds peaches
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger (I used 1 T. for a subtle ginger flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon calcium water (included in the Pomona box)

Combine the sugar and pectin in a small bowl and set aside.  Combine the water and lemon juice in a large nonreactive pot.

Bring another large pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl.  Using only a few peaches at a time, blanch them in the boiling water for 30 seconds.  Scoop the peaches out of the water and place them in the ice-water bath.  Repeat with the remaining peaches.

Drain the peaches from the ice water.  Peel, pit, and dice the peaches.  Add the diced peaches to the lemon water as you work.

Bring the peach mixture to a boil.  Add the ginger and simmer for 5 minutes.  Lightly mash about one-quarter of the mixture.  Slowly stir in the sugar-pectin mixture and return to a boil.  Add the calcium water, stirring well, and remove from the heat.

At this point, the jam can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 weeks if you do not wish to can it.

To can, ladle the jam into clean, hot half-pint canning jars (I filled 6 but had enough jam to fill 8), leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.  Release trapped air.  Wipe the rims clean, then center the lids on the jars and screw on the jar bands.  Process for 10 minutes (you may need to adjust this time at higher altitudes – again, find a reliable source for detailed canning instructions).  Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let the jars rest in the water for 5 minutes.  Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours.  Store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.



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Bread Challenge: An Update and a Recipe

Honey-Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

I’ve been dead silent about my Bread Challenge for a while, but I did do quite a bit of bread baking this spring (not so much during the summer…).  I had one failure (I fault the recipe because my Mom had similar issues as me), some mediocre results, and a really good sandwich bread.

I have learned quite a few things during this challenge:

  • While I still need practice, and I am definitely learning how to tell when my bread has been kneaded enough.
  • I know how to make adjustments for my climate and altitude:  add an extra tablespoon of water, and do an extra rise before shaping the dough.
  • After a number of attempts making a 100% whole wheat loaf, I have decided that I prefer recipes that use a bit of all-purpose or bread flour.  The white flour adds a little more gluteny stretch, which I prefer.
  • It no longer seems like a “big deal” to make bread.  It just takes a little planning to get started early enough in the day.

I am now feeling pretty confident with my basic bread-baking skills, so I would like to start spreading my wings a bit more.  Perhaps trying some rolls or maybe even a baguette.  For my next challenge, I am considering this hamburger bun recipe:  Beautiful Burger Buns.

This bread is a failure…it shouldn’t be so flat!

My favorite bread recipe so far is called “Honey-Oatmeal Sandwich Bread”, and it comes from King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking.  I thought I would share it with you!  I give instructions for using a stand mixer, but feel free to substitute whatever method (hand kneading or bread machine) that you prefer.

Honey-Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

Print Recipe

  • 1¼ cups (10 ounces) boiling water
  • 1 cup (3½ ounces) rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup (3 ounces) honey
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (7 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) nonfat dry milk
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast

Place the boiling water, oats, butter, salt, and honey into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix well using the flat paddle beater and let the mixture cool to lukewarm.

Add the remaining ingredients to the mixer bowl.  Mix again, just until the flour and liquid are combined.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let the dough rest for 45 minutes.

Uncover the bowl and switch to the dough hook.  Knead the dough on low speed until you have a soft, smooth dough, about 15 minutes.  Stop and scrape down the bowl and dough hook as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover it.  Let rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.  Oil your hands, then gently deflate the dough and shape it into a 9 inch log.  Place it in the prepared pan.  Cover it gently with greased plastic wrap.  Allow the bread to rise until it is crowned 1½ inches above the rim of the pan, roughly 1 to 1½ hours.  Preheat the oven to 350°F when the bread is almost fully risen.

Uncover the bread and bake for about 45 minutes, until it is golden brown.  Tent it with foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning.  The bread should register 190°F when tested with an instant-read thermometer.

Turn the finished bread out onto a cooling rack.  Cool the bread completely before cutting it.

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Mud Pie

Happy 4th of July to all of you in the U.S. – I hope you all had a fun day!  We had a relaxing family day.  I grilled some chicken and made homemade baked beans.  Yum!

I have always loved ice cream desserts and this Mud Pie recipe is one of my favorites. I often requested it for my birthday when I was growing up. This year I decided to make it myself to celebrate my birthday last week. Does anyone else find joy in making your own birthday cake?

My Mom got this recipe from The Seattle Times in the late 1970’s.  I usually make it with vanilla ice cream, but use whatever flavor you like! Coffee ice cream would be especially good.

Mud Pie

Print Recipe

  • 1½ cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, divided
  • ½ gallon vanilla ice cream
  • 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Melt ¼ cup of the butter and mix into the cookie crumbs. Press mixture firmly and evenly into a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool completely.

Soften the ice cream and spoon it over the prepared crust, spreading it evenly.  Freeze until firm.

Melt the chocolate with the remaining ¼ cup butter.  Add the sugar and stir to mix.  Slowly stir in the milk and cook until the mixture boils.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and almond extracts.  Pour the chocolate mixture over the ice cream.  It’s OK if some of the ice cream melts into the chocolate.  Place in the freezer until the chocolate begins to firm up, 10 – 30 minutes.  Sprinkle the top of the pie with the walnuts.  Continue freezing until the chocolate is completely firm.

To serve, take the pie out of the freezer and let it rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove the outer ring from the pan and cut into slices.  Serve with dollops of whipped cream, if desired.

Note:  I used a springform pan, but you can also use a 9″ pie dish or a 7 1/2″ x 12″ baking dish.

Serves 12


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Pork Fried Rice (Remembering House of Rice)

There used to be an Asian shop in Seattle called House of Rice, located in the University District (the neighborhood surrounding the University of Washington).  House of Rice was on the south end of “The Ave“, a fun street filled with funky shops and restaurants.

The original handout from class (click to enlarge)

Soon after my family moved back to Seattle in the late 1970’s, my Mom took some Chinese cooking classes at House of Rice.  She learned how to make won tons, won ton soup, and fried rice, among other things.  Throughout my childhood she made these dishes on a regular basis, and my family still uses the fried rice recipe as our go-to recipe.  It’s been years since I’ve had the won tons, but they are so good (but time-consuming to make).

When I was in high school I had to take the city bus to get home in the afternoon.  One of the routes I took left me with a 20 – 30 minute wait in the University District.  I often made quick jaunts out to shops on The Ave, Tower Records being one of my favorite stops (back when it was filled with vinyl records and cassette tapes!).  Another of my favorite stops was House of Rice.  I loved looking at the exotic Chinese and Asian goods.  There were food items, dishes, cookware, and all sorts of other trinkets and decor.  When I was a little older and ready to buy my first wok, House of Rice is where I went.  Certain smells, particularly Chinese five spice powder, always take me back to that store!

All that remains of House of Rice now are memories and copies of those recipes.  I made the fried rice recently and was reminded of just how good it is.

Pork Fried Rice

Print Recipe

Have all the ingredients prepared before starting.

  • 1/2 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup diced barbecued pork (about 4 oz.), purchased or homemade
  • 8 oz. bean sprouts, washed and drained
  • 4 – 6 cups cooled cooked rice
  • 4 – 6 green onions, white and green parts, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

To prepare the mushrooms, place them in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over to cover.  Soak until mushrooms are soft, about 20 minutes.  Drain the mushrooms, remove the tough stem, and slice.

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high to high heat.  When hot, add the beaten eggs and stir-fry until set.  Add the barbecued pork, mushrooms, and bean sprouts and stir-fry for an additional minute.  Add the rice to the wok or pan.  Break it apart with a spatula and stir-fry until rice is heated through, at least 5 minutes.  Add the green onions and soy sauce.  Stir to mix thoroughly.  Taste for salt; add salt or more soy sauce if needed.

Serves 4 – 6


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Tortellini Soup

Recently I was in the mood for some tortellini soup.  The few recipes I looked at weren’t quite what I had in mind.  Then I noticed that the back of my Kirkland Signature (Costco’s brand) chicken stock had a recipe for tortellini soup.  It was very close to what I was looking for!

I have made this soup several times now and I’ve made a few tweaks to the original recipe.  This is a great weeknight meal and most of the ingredients can be stored in the pantry or freezer.  Keep them on hand for when you have a little extra spinach to use up!

Tortellini Soup

Print Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • small piece of Parmesan cheese rind (optional, but adds a lot of flavor)
  • 8 or 9 oz. package fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 4 – 6 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnishes:  chopped fresh basil leaves or pesto

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium pot.  Add the chopped garlic and stir until softened, being careful not to burn it.

Add the tomatoes with their juices and the chicken broth to the pan.  Add the Parmesan rind, if using.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the tortellini an cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the tortellini is just tender.

Coarsely chop the baby spinach leaves.  Or leave them whole if you are lazy like me.

Remove the Parmesan rind from the pot.  Add the spinach and cook until wilted, just a few minutes.  Stir in grated Parmesan cheese.

Add pepper to taste, and additional salt if needed.

Garnish each serving with additional grated Parmesan and one of the optional garnishes, if using.

Serves 3 – 4

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Whole Wheat Banana-Walnut Muffins

Tucked away in the back of King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking is a real gem of a recipe: Easy Banana-Walnut Bread.  It has become my go-to banana bread recipe.  It is so easy to make I wonder how I manage to let any bananas go to waste!

I was looking for a little change of pace, so I decided to try using the recipe to make muffins.  It worked great!  I love muffins because they are easy to freeze for quick breakfasts or snacks.  This recipe yielded 6 regular-sized muffins and 16 mini muffins.  It would probably make at least a dozen regular muffins.

Banana-Walnut Muffins

Print Recipe

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups (12 oz.) mashed ripe banana (approx. 3 medium-large bananas)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (traditional or white whole wheat)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a muffin pan, or line with muffin cups.

Beat together the butter, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla until smooth.  Add the banana, honey, and eggs, beating until smooth.  Add the flour and nuts.  Stir until smooth.  Spoon batter into the prepared muffin pan.

Bake the muffins until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 23 – 28 minutes (less if making mini muffins).  Remove from the oven and let rest on a rack for a few minutes.  Remove the muffins from the pan and cool.

To make banana bread:  Spoon the batter into a lightly greased loaf pan.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Bake for 50 minutes.  Gently lay a piece of foil across the top and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.


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Hot Cocoa Mix

For teacher/aide/bus driver/therapist gifts this year I made homemade hot cocoa mix and marshmallows.

The hot cocoa mix was fun and easy to make!  The hardest part was finding all the ingredients.  The key to making good cocoa mix is to use whole milk powder.  That was the hardest ingredient for me to find.  I ended up with Nido Fortificada, which I found in the Hispanic food section at Walmart.  It is also available on Amazon.com: Nestle Nido Instant Dry Whole Milk Powder.

The flavor of the hot cocoa is delicious!  Very smooth and chocolatey and not too sweet.  Usually when I drink hot cocoa I end up with a sickly, sweet taste in my mouth and that did not happen with this cocoa mix.

Making the marshmallows was quite an adventure!  It took me three tries to get it right (I would not have made a fourth attempt).  The problem was my candy thermometer.  Apparently if the liquids are not deep enough, it does not read accurately.  I ended up burning my sugar-syrup badly!

I packaged the hot cocoa mix and marshmallows in little bags, with enough of each to make about 4 servings.

Hot Cocoa Mix

Adapted from Alton Brown of The Food Network

(click here to print)

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa (preferably Dutch-process)
  • 2½ cups powdered whole milk (I used Nido brand)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly.  Can be stored indefinitely in an air-tight container.

 To Serve:

Fill a mug about a third full with the hot cocoa mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine.


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Infamous Crab Dip (A Christmas Memory)

Growing up, we spent Christmas Eve at my Grandma’s house.  In my Dad’s family, they always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, so we continued that tradition.  First we would go to late afternoon church services and then we headed to Grandma’s house (which sometimes involved a song about going over the river and through the snow).

When we arrived at Grandma’s house my sister and I were allowed to open one small present each, but then we had to wait until after dinner until the real present-opening began.  When we were younger, the wait through dinner was torturous!  I’m sure we were pretty obnoxious about it.

Grandma always made the same thing for dinner: ham, scalloped potatoes, jello salad, and angel food cake for dessert.  But the thing we enjoyed the most was her “Infamous Crab Dip” that she served as an appetizer.

Grandma stopped hosting Christmas Eve about 8 years ago and none of us have had her crab dip since.  When I hosted Grandma and the rest of my family for Thanksgiving this year, I thought it would be fun to serve her crab dip.  It was a big hit and as good as we remembered!

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!!

I was lucky to have my Dad bring a fresh piece of horseradish from his garden!

Infamous Crab Dip

(click here to print)

  • 1 can (6½ oz) crab meat, drained
  • 6 0z cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish (grated fresh or jarred)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper sauce (like Tabasco)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Spoon into a small ovenproof baking dish.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until heated through (I find it takes a little longer…).  Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.

Makes about 1¼ cups.


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Indoor S’Mores


I was a little bit naughty last night, and now I want to enable you to be a little bit naughty too.

I was in the mood for a little treat, but we didn’t seem to have anything good around. Then my husband came out of the kitchen eating a marshmallow and a wonderful idea popped into my head! A S’more!

This is so easy: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place half a graham cracker on a baking sheet. Put a square or two of chocolate on the graham cracker, and top with a marshmallow. Place in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is melted and the marshmallow puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and press the other half of the graham cracker on top. Careful! The chocolate will be hot, but it will be oh, so gooey and delicious!



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Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts

Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that people love to hate. I used to hate them. Then I married a Brussels sprouts lover.

Unfortunately, my husband first introduced me to frozen Brussels sprouts that were simply steamed and served with butter and salt. Those soggy, bitter sprouts didn’t do anything for me (I still don’t like them that way). Then I began to experiment with different recipes, and I slowly began to appreciate them. One of the first recipes that helped me begin warming up to Brussels sprouts is a sauteed sprout recipe that my Mom makes.

But the dish that turned me from a Brussels sprouts “tolerater” to a Brussels sprouts lover is Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts. The sprouts are sliced thin and sauteed in butter and olive oil, and the pine nuts really bring out the nutty flavor. This has become one of our favorite dishes.

I have since branched out and truly enjoy other sprout recipes. I can now say that I love Brussels sprouts, with one caveat: they must be cooked properly.

This recipe is adapted from the November 2007 issue of Gourmet.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts

(click here to print)

  • 3/4 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti or other long pasta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Trim the Brussels sprouts.  Slice them in a food processor fitted with a slicing disk.  They can also be thinly sliced with a knife.

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  When the butter is melted, cook the pine nuts, stirring them until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the Brussels sprouts, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Saute until tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water.  Drain the pasta and then add it to the skillet, tossing to mix it all together.  Add some of the reserved water to moisten if necessary.  Adjust seasonings and serve with grated Parmesan.

Serves 3 – 4


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