More Than Food

You all know of my love for cooking and baking.  You have helped make the Air Fryer Book the one selling book in the world on Air Frying as it is now published in 5 countries. As I finish up on my 9th book, I thought it would be appropriate to explain what inspired and brought me to the kitchen.

It seems that all of my life there have been big moments celebrated with food.  Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and weekends were a time when I would gather with family and friends to mark big moments in our lives.  That being said, for me, any moment that I get to sit down and break bread with those I love is a special time for me.

We live in a world that is constantly moving, with fast cars, planes, workdays, kids — so taking time to stop for a moment each day and give thanks for the good things in our lives is important.  Why not take that moment over a delicious meal? I grew up in a home where Sunday was always accompanied with a big family meal that I eagerly awaited all week.  My mom is the best person I’ve ever known.  She raised her children in a home filled with love, conversation, and laughter.  She was quick witted, driven, and warm in a world that was not always so kind.  My mom was thankful for every moment with her children and her family, and that came across in her cooking.

My love for cooking grew from our Sunday meals and the other big moments of my childhood and adult life.  In culinary school, I was lucky enough to enhance my experience in the kitchen under the guidance of the most inspiring mentors.  They taught me to appreciate each ingredient — the look, the taste, the texture — and experiment with different flavors.  I found serenity under their mentorship, and a deep appreciation for the way food heals and brings joy.

Today, I find joy every day in a trip to the market — finding fresh fruits and vegetables, preparing a meal, and sharing an evening with family and friends.  Everything comes together when you find a tomato so ripe, it’s almost sweet; or take in the aroma of fresh baked bread, knowing the care that went into the many hours of mixing, kneading, rising, and baking.  It is, for me, the best way to find a balance between salty and sweet, robust and delicate, good and bad.

Today, I’m blessed that I’m able to share these experiences in my personal life and in my work.  I get to share the warm moments with my mom and my daughter, Jordon.   I get to make new memories every day.  And, of course, I try to do as my mom did — be kind, give love, and share laughter, in and out of the kitchen.

I’ve learned that one person does not make a conversation, nor does one tomato make a sauce.  So, invite a friend over to your kitchen, try something new for dinner, and enjoy.  You will always walk away with more than you came to the table with.

On that note….what should be the next book feature?

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Get dirty this summer!

Summer can get dirty!

Summer is spectacular in Minnesota. You have the chance to leave the winter behind and get outside to enjoy the lakes and farms.

As a chef, it’s even more important to search out the local farms with fruits and vegetables. While I love a great farmers market, here’s an important tip:  make sure to find the ‘grown in 60’ area. This means that what you are choosing is coming from farms that are within 60 miles of your market.

beets2We love getting to know the farms and farmers in our area. When looking for ones near you, I’d suggest asking them if they have an email list.  That way, if you’re looking for a particular crop, such as blueberries, beets, cucumbers or tomatoes, you’re able to ask them to send you the best time to come and harvest at the peak of deliciousness.  I also love to dig in and work with some of the local farmers on harvest days for special items.

Like many of you, my grandmother and great aunt taught me to can foods at the peak of their ripeness. It’s something we love to do and, as a result, we get to enjoy these treats all year long!  If you’ve never canned before, don’t fret;  anyone can do it and put in the freezer for up to 6 months.   Since you already know that I have roots on a farm, it won’t surprise you that I especially love jams and jellies . . . .however I never understood why my friends would stop at putting these lovely concoctions on their toast!  In our home, they go with all kinds of hearty cheeses, cakes, cookies, ice creams, iced drinks with club soda and more. We use these in sauces with beef and pork, as well.  You’d be amazed at the flavor a teaspoon makes in a savory dish.

I wanted to share one of our delicious favorites; Blackberry Basil Jam. One taste of this jam and you might not want to stop eating this light, fresh, rich concoction!  Here’s the recipe (and happy canning!), and please let me know if you’ve got a favorite jam recipe!

Blackberry Basil Jam

Ingredients

16 cups fresh, blackberries
6 cups fresh, basil, leaves, tightly packed
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed, orange juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeeze, lemon juice

Directions

Sterilize lids and jars for 10 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. They can stay in the hot water after sterilization until you’re ready to use them.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, blend the basil leaves, sugar and orange juice until smooth.

Place the blackberries in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot.

Stir the mixture into the blackberries, add water and bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick, about 25 minutes. You can use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to lightly smash them.

Stir in the lemon juice, taste and add more if you’d like. Cook about 5 more minutes until it coats the wooden spoon. Remove jam from heat.

Set a large stockpot filled with enough water to just cover the jars on high heat. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth and seal with the lids.

Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Using tongs or a jar lifter, remove from the water and set on a towel to cool and seal. To test the seal, run your finger over the lid after 30 minutes. You should feel a slight depression in the center of the lid. The sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

If a jar does not seal, put it in the refrigerator and use within one month or freezer for 6 months.

 

 

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