Homemade Rhubarb Jam

Last spring I made this recipe from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook (my jam bible). I think it was the most popular by far.

The recipe is as follows

4 pounds of washed and trimmed rhubarb cut into 3 to 4 inch pieces
2 3/4 pounds white sugar
3 oz freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice.

Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl, stir and cover. This needs to sit for twenty-four hours.

Before you begin on day two place five small spoons in your freezer on a saucer.

The following day put the mixture in a large copper pot and stir to re-distribute everything.
Bring to a boil stirring occasionally. After about ten minutes decrease the heat slightly and cook until thickened. At this point I stir very frequently to avoid burning the jam. Continue stirring and watching the jam for approximately fifteen more minutes.

Remove a spoon from the freezer and scoop a small amount on to the spoon. Return the spoon to the freezer for about three minutes. Remove from freezer and tilt the spoon. If the jam is sticky and drips slowly from the spoon, the jam is ready to put into sterilized jars. If not continue to cook the jam and repeat this process again in five minutes until you have received the right consistency.

If you are not going to use the jam right away, I would recommend processing it in a canning pot, as shown in my photos.

If you are serious about jam making, I would definitely invest in this book. I gave a copy to my best friend for her birthday last year and she loves it as much as I do.

I make my jam seasonally and this is the time of year to pick your rhubarb, if you are lucky enough to have some in your yard and start “jamming”.

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Why You Should Plant Peonies

About ten years ago I planted two peony plants – one in the front garden and one in back. Spring/summer came early this year and when I got back from grocery shopping today, I couldn’t believe my peony plant in the back – it had full blooms. Normally I would have to wait until early or mid-June!

I love to cut the flowers and bring them in the house. My plant in the front garden faces north so I won’t get blooms for about another week. It is great to stagger the blooming this way so you have fresh flowers for a longer period.

The best time of year to plant peonies is at the end of the summer. If you love flowers as much as I do, give it a try. Plant peonies of different colors. I have seen gorgeous deep reds through to dark purple. />
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Homemade Pizza

Tonight I decided to try a new recipe for pizza dough. Since there are only two of us, I made two small pizzas. The second pizza is what I call a “white” pizza. I just slather the dough with olive oil and top it with sliced tomatoes and Buffalo mozzarella. After I remove it from the oven, I add slivered basil leaves and serve.

I always use blue cornmeal on the pizza peel. I find it is less fine that the yellow cornmeal and it works better when you are trying to slide the dough on to the pizza stone. My best advice is get the pizza on the pizza stone asap. The longer it sits on the peel, the harder it is to slip off.

I recommend preheating the pizza stone for at least one hour at 550 degrees. This ensures a nice crisp pizza crust.
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pizza-Dough-14646?recipename=Pizza%20Dough&saved_to_box=y

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Double Fudge Chocolate Cake

Yesterday I was watching the Barefoot Contessa. I love all of her recipes. This cake looked so delicious that I decided I had to make it today.

I buttered the sheet pan and lined it with parchment so I could skip the flouring part. I love to use parchment because it makes cleaning the pan a breeze.

I looked at the frosting recipe and thought it would be too much for a cake without sides so I made half. It is more than enough to cover the cake adequately.

Because this is a “grown-up” cake, I used white chocolate pearls for my decoration in lieu of M&M’s.

I can’t wait to try a piece.

I would recommend that you measure out everything ahead of time and then this should go pretty smoothly.

Here is the recipe along with my photos.http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/double-fudge-cake-with-chocolate-buttercream-frosting-recipe/index.html

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Shady Garden

This is the perfect time of year to grow some lettuce. I bought some plants last month and put them in the back garden. My garden faces south, but because of the large trees, it doesn’t get a lot of the afternoon sun. Lettuce loves shade and cooler temperature. Once you taste fresh lettuce from your garden, you will be so impressed with the lovely flavor. It is so delicious you can make a salad with a simple vinaigrette and little else.

This is really a no-brainer and takes so little time and effort. You put them in the ground, water regularly and enjoy!

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Lemonade

In the summer I love homemade lemonade. It is so easy to make and tastes so much better than anything you get from the supermarket.

Use fresh lemons at room temperature. Cold lemons from the refrigerator don’t render as much juice. I also like to roll them around on the counter with the palm of my hand to soften them up a bit.

Here is the recipe

2 cups of water
2 cups (14 oz) granulated sugar
Zest from two well washed lemons
2 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately eight lemons)
Pinch of sea salt

Combine water, sugar, zest and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and stir. Allow to cool.

Decant into a container preferably with a pouring spout and store in the refrigerate for up to two weeks.

This is concentrated so you have to pour a small amount into a drinking glass and add water to taste. I usually put approximately two inches in an 8 oz. glass, add cold water, ice and stir.

Once you try this, you won’t go back to buying your lemonade.

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Pain au Chocolate

For years I thought about making croissant pastry, but thought it would be too complicated. Last November I was watching “Martha Bakes” and Martha Stewart dedicated a whole show to the making of croissant pastry and the various things you can make from the dough. I decided to make Pain au Chocolate. Yesterday my daughter and I made it together.

If you decide to attempt it, read the recipe as few times and start early so you are not baking at midnight. These are so superior to anything you buy in a bakery. Do as much ahead of time as possible.

This batch was better than my first because I was a little more confident this time around. I have already had two with my cappuccino this morning.

Here are the links to the recipes:

http://www.marthastewart.com/868784/pain-au-chocolat

http://www.marthastewart.com/868901/croissant-dough

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Toffee

I make this toffee every Christmas and give it away to friends. My youngest daughter wanted to learn how to make it so we made a batch today.

She was amazed how simple and straight-forward the recipe was.

I must warn you it is addictive.

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Pansies

Pansies need to be picked. Their stems are so small that it is often difficult to arrange them and it seems like you need so many. This small glass vase is perfect. They come in singles, doubles, threes, and fours. I also own one that is the shape of a wreath.

As you can see from the photo, only nine pansies make a statement!

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The Garden Comes to Life

I have finally finished my “spring” gardening. Of course, there will be more planting as the weather warms up and I plant more flowers and of course my weeding.

It was a lot of work, but when I was sitting out there with my Architectural Digest this afternoon soaking up the sun, all the work was worth it.

As you can see from the photos, my chocolate lab, Rufus appreciated the effort. I hope he has the good sense to leave the petunias in their pot. I noticed a few strays scattered around the yard when I was outside this morning. I wonder how that happened?

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