Jammin’ Time By Allison

Low-sugar Strawberry Vanilla Jam by Allison

These strawberries were calling my name. Literally. I rode my bike to the Holesivice farmers market and purchased 4 kilos of these  gorgeous strawberries from one of my favorite vendors. Luckily they just fit into my saddle bags on each side of my back tires.

Low-sugar Strawberry Vanilla Jam

Ingredients:

9 cups hulled and sliced fresh strawberries

2 cups sugar

one large vanilla bean

the juice of one lemon

Once I unpacked them at home I rinsed them and cut them in half, measured out 9 cups of cut berries and added two cups of sugar and a chopped vanilla bean to let the flavors blend and to let the juices run. I turned the heat on high and let the berries boil and then I mashed them and smashed them with a potato masher. I prefer to have some bits of strawberries in my jam instead of it being ultra-smooth, but if you’d like smooth jam then you can pulse it in your food-processor to get a uniform consistency.

After the mixture reaches a boil and the desired consistency, add the pectin. I used two of the packages below which I purchased from Albert. Three parts fruit to one part sugar and I added the juice of one large lemon as well which helps increase the levels of pectin in the recipe.

As the water was boiling away in my canning pot at the correct temperature for canning berries, I sterilized the jars in preparation for the strawberry mixture to be added to the jars.

Jars get placed in the “water bath” for 10 minutes immediately after filling.

I purchased these handy two-tone wooden knives at the farmers market and tied them to the jars! I picked up these cute jars at Interspar which are the perfect size for homemade jam. 

Low-sugar jam was what I wanted so one could still taste the natural strawberry instead of just a spoonful of sugar! Knowing that low-sugar jam doesn’t preserve well and needs to be kept in the refrigerator and consumed within a few weeks, I was hoping the people I was giving it to would enjoy it and eat it up! Indeed they did!

Early Summer Yellow Zuchinni by Nikki

Farmer’s Market by the Vltava River

It is the first weekend of summer vacation. As a teacher, it is one of the most important weekends in our busy teaching life. At the end of a busy school year, this particular weekend signifies not only the beginning of summer holiday, but of becoming human again! I started my summer holiday by meeting up with a good friend and heading out to explore a new market in town. Actually, I have been to the Farmer’s Market on the river before; however, recently, I have mainly been frequenting my neighborhood market. It was a beautiful day to walk along the river and enjoy the atmosphere of the market especially the colors of the vegetables- they are so bright and crisply colored this time of year!

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but was oh so happy to find these early summer yellow zucchini. I haven’t seen yellow zucchini since I was home in Portland last year. So with delight, I snatched up a few. The same vendor had these beautiful, fragrant Roma tomatoes, and I couldn’t resist the fresh carrots either!

My market finds…

I love summer veggies!

This evening, I had friends for dinner. The weather in Prague has finally begun to resemble Summer, so I wanted to make something easy, fresh, but not very labor intensive for a summer’s evening dinner. I decided on a summer veggie pizza! Because I am more and more interested in healthy eating, I used a whole wheat pizza dough recipe I found online from a blog called Kristen in her Kitchen. The crust was soft and tasted great topped with a fresh herb-ricotta spread and a sauteed mixture of the yellow zucchini from the farmer’s market, red peppers, and mushrooms. Very easy summer dinner!

Summer Veggie Pizza with Herb-Ricotta base

This pizza was perfectly accompanied by a green salad using (of course) the Roma tomatoes and fresh carrots also found earlier in the day at the market by the river…  there is something very satisfying about cooking a meal, sharing it with friends, and knowing that you made a good choice at the market that day! Happy Summer everyone!

Green Salad with farmer’s market veggies

Hip! Hip! Puree! by L

Simple. Easy. Practical. Lately, these are the words that continiously ring in my head. My husband and I come from different continents and our parents still live in the cities where we were born and raised: NYC and Valencia, Spain. We both grew up with members of our extended families living in the same neighborhoods and we both experienced relatives coming in to pitch in and help raise the children. Our adult lives turned out differently, mainly because our jobs took us far from home. Sadly, our daughters don’t have the luxury of having all those family members nearby to spoil them. In order to provide some of that extra family support, we had to come up with an alternative. We asked our parents to come to Prague and move in for a few months for some extra tender loving care, both for our twin daughters and ourselves. They happily accepted and we devised a schedule that allowed both sides of parents to have a chunk of time with us. Unfortunately, all good things must come to a pause. This past weekend, my mother flew back to NYC, after 4 wonderful months of having her by my side. Mom got the babies started on solids, witnessed the first time they crawled, taught them to wave “hello” and even attended swim lessons with us. I started missing her before she even left. However, my solo flight time will last just a week. My in-laws are eagerly awaiting our arrival for the summer holidays. But there is nothing like having your own mother by your side.

My mom even enjoyed preparing the babies’ food. Every two weeks, we receive a box of organic fruits and vegetables from Fresh Bedynky to make the girls’ meals. As soon as the delivery arrived, my mother would whip out the hand blender and start creating a variety of pureed baby food.  Without my mom, Team T&P are minus some extra hands. Hence the words: simple, easy and practical. This meal is exactly that, a puree for all!

What is particularly special about this week’s order from Fresh Bedynky are the purple carrots. This heirloom vegetable appears to be making a comeback and when I saw that it was available, I had to sample a bunch. Don’t these carrots have a gorgeous blend of colors?

When the zucchini, potatoes, onions and carrots were cooked, I separated a batch on the side for the grown-ups in the house in another pot. While the girls’ portion was cooling down, I added a little more seasoning and broth to make the adult version of Puré de Verdura. We often have this dish as a starter in Spain, followed by a second course. For us though, the only accompaniment was a salad on the side. I still have some of that leftover baby belly to shed. Ugh!

Puré de Verdura (Vegetable Puree Soup)

For babies, omit the garlic, bay leaf and bouillon cube. Instead of frying the vegetables at first, boil them all together in one pot. Use the liquid from the boiled vegetables to puree the baby food to the consistency of your liking.

3 potatoes
1 zucchini
1 carrot
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves
water or vegetable broth
bouillon cube (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Peel and chop all the vegetables.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot.
Add onions.
After a few minutes, add the other vegetables.
Stir and let cook for a few more minutes.
Then add enough water or broth to cover the vegetables.
(If just using water, you may add a bouillon cube here)
Add mashed garlic clove and bay leaves.
Let it come to a boil, then lower heat.
Cook for at least 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Then set aside to cool.
When ready, remove the bay leaves and pour into a blender
or use a hand blender, to purée all the ingredients.
Pour mixture into a serving bowl.
Add a tablespoon or two of good olive oil.
Mix well.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Top with croutons and serve.

Homemade croutons

2 slices of whole wheat bread
Few tablespoons of olive oil
salt and dried herbs

Chop the bread into tiny cubes.
Heat a small pan with some olive oil.
Add the bread to the pan on low heat.
Sprinkle some salt on top and other dried herbs to your liking.
Cook until toasty brown on both sides.

Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream by Allison

I’ve been wanting to experiment with desserts without tons of carbs and loads of refined sugar……let me tell you, this recipe is simply delicious. I don’t know where these roasted pears with espresso mascarpone cream have been all my life but I’m so glad they are in my life now. I made this recipe on Friday and adapted it Sunday morning for brunch guests and dinner guests and boy oh boy did it turn out delicious. It is light, creamy, and rich in all the right ways. You have to try this and soon:)

Ingredients:

for the pears:

4-5 pears – sliced in half lengthwise and cored

1/3 cup spiced rum

4 Tbsp. water for the base of the pan

for the cream:

1 cup whipping cream

1 vanilla bean scraped or 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup mascarpone

1/4 cup powdered sugar

3 Tbsp. chilled espresso

for the top:

cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. I sliced the pears in half lengthwise and cored them. I placed them on a roasting pan covered in foil cut side up with a few tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pan. After about 15 minutes I spooned spiced rum over the flesh of the pear and again 20 minutes later. Pears are finished when cooked through, you can test them by inserting a fork. They should be soft to the touch. Let pears cool completely, set aside.

Using my food processor with the whisk attachment, I whipped up the whipping cream , added some powdered sugar for sweetness, chilled espresso and vanilla extract along with the mascarpone and spooned it over the cooled roasted pears. To finish the dessert off, I dusted the cream topped pears with cocoa powder. What a delicious combination. My friend said after tasting one bite of this dessert, “I want this for my next birthday ‘cake'”! It really is that good. You’re not missing the gluten in this dessert:)

Recipe adapted from:

Minimally Invasive: http://chimeraobscura.com/mi/thats-a-wrap/

Tomatoes are Soup-tacular! by L

The utensil getting the biggest workout in our kitchen has been this plain, old and very reliable hand blender. We have been pureeing all sorts of combinations of greens and root vegetables for my little ones, T & P.  The other day, my husband suggested as a way to save time that we should just eat what the babies eat too. Not necessarily a bad idea, in fact I know someone who has been eating that way as a weight loss plan and it’s working. In retrospect, the pureed baby food combos aren’t so bad such as Spinach, Sweet Potato and Chicken or Kale, Zucchini , Carrots and Potatoes, but for my taste buds, they could use a tad bit more seasoning.

Once again the ripe luscious tomatoes at the Andel Farmer’s Market caught my eye and attention. This recipe is partly inspired by my husband’s suggestion. Technically, it is a pureed dish, but tomatoes aren’t yet on the girls’ list of  “Can eat” foods, so this one was just for the grown ups. A creamy tomato soup with none of the fat and made in less than 30 minutes. Chop! Chop!

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

4-5 chopped tomatoes

2-3 cups of broth

fresh basil and oregano,  as you like

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion until soft.

Then add the herbs and the tomatoes.

Simmer until tomatoes get very soft.

Then add the hot broth.

Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.

Let it cool down and then puree it for a smooth and creamy texture.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Optional: If you have some cooked rice available, add a cup for a heartier soup!

A Celebration of parenthood AND local markets! – By Nikki

Mustard Fruits and Baked Ham

Last week, Allison and myself threw a non-traditional baby shower for our two good friends who live in Holland. It is a friendship that has strength and no relocation or distance could stop us from throwing an incredible party to celebrate our friends’ upcoming adventure of parenthood! With the menu planning already in effect, I spent a week picking up things here and there from various grocery stores, making sure I had everything I needed to make my dishes. By Tuesday, I was starting to panic after visiting my third store of the week looking for pecans and figs. These were two main ingredients in two separate dishes and I NEEDED them. I began assessing my schedule for the week trying to decide how I would rearrange an afternoon to make a special trip to the Billa in Dejvicka- the only place I have ever bought both of these culinary delights at the same time! Then Wednesday afternoon, I got off the green line metro at my usual stop, Jhiro z Podebrad, and the farmers market was hustling and bustling… I scanned for the orange tent and it was there- the dried fruit and nut vendor! I was in luck, and that afternoon, I walked home with 200 grams of big, beautiful dried figs and 500 grams of natural pecans!

Desserts: Lemon Squares, Chocolate Brownies, and Pecan Squares… and a few strawberries!

You might be thinking what did I actually use the figs and pecan for? The figs were a complimentary ingredient for the Mustard Fruits to go with my baked ham and the pecans were the star ingredient for the sweet and buttery Pecan-Shortbread squares. Both recipes were gobbled up with flattering compliments and many trips to the kitchen for second helpings.  I have to admit, these are the moments when I am thankful for the consistency of the local farmers markets around town…  and I realize that there is no need to panic because I know that if the vendor I need is not set up in their usual spot on Wednesday then they will be there on Friday and/or Saturday! I can rest easy… and enjoy! – Nikki

Below are links to the recipes I used last weekend!

Mustard Fruits Recipe

http://www.marthastewart.com/343422/pecan-squares

 

 

My Mama’s EGG-cellent Omelette by L

Guess how many eggs I brought home from the farmers’ market? When I lived in the US, my eggs always came in a dozen and that’s what I asked for at the farmer’s stall in the Andel Market. The vendor politely told me that  I had two choices. I could choose between the magic numbers of 10 or 15.  I took 15 .

I have been truly blessed. Raising two infants is not an easy task and fortunately my mother and in-laws have taken turns giving up their lives in NY and Spain to come and help me care for our children.  There is even more magic in all this, both my mother and mother-in-law are excellent cooks. And since the birth of my daughters, I happily turned over the reigns of my kitchen to their hands and enjoyed their delicious home cooked meals.

With 15 eggs,  the possibilities are endless, so on this particular Friday, I asked my mom to make “her” omelette, which in our Filipino household is called: “torta.” I grew up on this simple meal composed of eggs, tomatoes, onions and garlic.  Sometimes, I ate it stuffed between two slices of white bread and a dollop of ketchup for   lunch when I was in elementary school and other times, it was served with garlic fried rice for breakfast.

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

4 eggs

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil. Then fry the garlic until golden brown and then add the onions and tomatoes. While that is cooking,  place the four eggs in a bowl and beat. When the garlic/onion/tomato combination is completely cooked through, add it to the eggs and mix well. Then return the entire mixture to the pan. When you think the bottom side is cooked, flip it over. When both sides are done, enjoy with some bread or the good old Filipino way, with some garlic friend rice on the side. In my case, it was that and a tofu sausage!