Category Archives: Things in Jars

How to Preserve Lemons + Basmati Rice Pilaf with Preserved Lemon and Dried Fruit

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Winter has officially hit Upstate NY!  I am watching snowflakes swirl outside my window as I type this, while sitting next to a roaring fire as the cold has simultaneously set in.  I am not complaining in the least as this season has been so mild for us thus far, and the flurries actually seem kind of nice at the moment.  For now…

In the name of hibernating, I have been working through the kitchen making meals out of whatever scraps have been pushed to the back of the refrigerator (Those items always inspire some of the best creations though!  As the proverbial “they” say, “necessity is the mother of invention”, right?) and canning and preserving anything in sight; including lemons.  If you have never tried it before, preserving a lemon goes like this:  slice it into quarters leaving the base intact, douse it in salt, smash it into a jar with spices and more lemons and their juices, seal, and then let the magic happen.

After about 30 days of resting in a semi-warm place, the lemon skin will be soft to the touch and infused with all of that briny flavor.  The timing should coincide nicely with the point at which you (WE! ME!) are so. over. Winter. and are in major need of some sunshine – albeit if the only way to get it is on your plate.  Both the pickling liquid and the peel perk up salad dressings, a few slices of said peel can be used to make a bright risotto (especially good with a handful of fried capers on top), or the entire fruit can be stuffed inside of this chicken.

As another option, you can dish up the basmati rice pilaf hybrid recipe here.  It’s a perennial favorite in my house (You’ll see it in that roasted chicken post above, too!), made with a nod to Middle Eastern flavors, dried fruit, and a heaping tablespoon of that “incredibly awesome” lemon.

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Root Beer Barbecue Pulled Pork

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc. All opinions are my own. #BrighTENtheSeason

 

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I have always had very lofty visions as to what the holiday season should look like.  I love this time of year best of all, and essentially I want it all; the friends and family gathering in a beautifully decorated home with expertly wrapped presents under the perfectly trimmed tree, as we all feast on a warm and cozy meal.  Unattainable?  Maybe.  But I always try.

One Christmas, I took the tree part just a little too far.  I was living in Boston – on my own in a tiny studio apartment – but I would be darned if I wasn’t going to have a large Blue Spruce that I could cover in twinkly lights and the menagerie of ornaments I had been collecting since I was a kid.  With the best of intentions, I set off on foot for the nearest lot.  There, with what seemed like an angelic pool of light surrounding it, I found my tree.  It was big – bigger than I had even anticipated wanting – but I reasoned that I had a sunshiny attitude, the wherewithal to carry it home, and more importantly, it was too pretty to pass up.  That tree was mine.

What ensued over the next two hours was a true comedy of errors.  It began with me dragging my purchase the 7 blocks back to my abode, involved a few choice curse words of which to this day I am still not proud (so much for bringing the sunshine), and ended with me tending to scratched arms and a heaping pile of needles on the floor.  When my best friend called later that evening to see how my day went (she was aware of what I had planned to do), I told her that I would never, ever, ever do that again, and that I had sworn off of decorating completely.  My sentiments lasted all of 24 hours as I am nothing if not a sucker for ornamental flair, but in that moment, they were very, very real.

The thing that did change as a result of that experience, however, is that now I always bring at least one person with me when I head out to find my tree; to keep my ideals in-check and to help load and unload, naturally.  But also because the older I get – and as I learn to let go of some of those “visions” I have created over the years – the more I want this season to be about the people I love and the memories we build.  I am most interested in creating moments, not necessarily perfection, and today I am teaming up with A&W TEN® {10 calories and full flavor} to show you how I did that with my recent Tree Trimming Party.

I believe that the key to entertaining at any interval between November and January is to make the prep work as easy as possible on yourself.  These recipes accomplish that as both the root beer barbecue sauce and the pork shoulder can be prepared well in advance (In the case of the sauce, up to a week ahead of time to be exact!).  A&W TEN®  is at the heart of each of these dishes, infusing them with a subtle sweetness – as the main flavor component in the sauce and the liquid in which the pork roasts.

Once those items are prepared, you can take your menu anywhere you like.  The pulled pork can be served alone on a platter, accompanied by a large green salad, perhaps?  Barbecue nachos would be another fun option.  Let your guests go all-in on a tower of tortilla chips, melted cheese, fresh cilantro – and of course – pulled pork.  I opted for overly-stuffed sandwiches.  My logic was that if we were going to get down and dirty with some Christmas tree sap, then we may as well do the same with our food; sticky fingers for all!  I topped the sandwiches with an appropriately festive slaw of fennel, green cabbage and red pears, in an orange-mustard vinaigrette.  The finishing touches were in stems of arugula and herbs, pretzel rolls from a local bakery, and an apple cider/fennel syrup drink made to sparkle with a splash of club soda.

As I looked around my living room at one point –  in-between bouts of laughter and choruses of carols, my friends haphazardly licking sauce off of their fingers, and my newly adorned tree – I thought to myself that this is having it all.  It was a moment I hope to relive again and again.

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Butternut Squash Shrubs // Shrub, Bourbon and Ginger Beer Cocktail

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More squash! (‘Tis the season, I guess?)  And a couple of housekeeping items…

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately looking for this Stuffed Pumpkin.  There are some issues with external links that I am working on sorting out, but if by chance you land here and read this post, the pumpkin still lives!  I actually made one this weekend (There are a couple of shots of the process below.), and overall it makes me so happy that you are making and sharing it too.  And, if the concept is new to you, or you are in need of a flashy Thanksgiving side (Or vegetarian main course, with the bacon omitted.), this one is clearly a winner.

I have also been slowly but surely updating old posts and organizing what will eventually become a real recipe index, so if anything ever looks out of place or you can’t find something, please feel free to send me a message.  I love to hear from you.  : )

 

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