Festive Persimmon and Pomegranate Cookies

 

These persimmon and pomegranate cookies are for when you really want to share something special during the holidays. So many people I shared these with  had fond  memories or persimmon cookies during the holidays. This cookie surprises as it has a little twist. I use persimmon and pomegranate . I use my Christmas Jam in these, and this recipe is a snap if you already have the jam on hand. See my recipe and make extra for gifts to go along with these cookies. Persimmons and Pomegranates are two very special ingredients, that is very expensive at the stores, but I was lucky enough to have a neighbor with an ancient Pom tree as well as a long-standing persimmon tree up in knights ferry. Make your holiday extra special by making these cookies! The cookies freeze nicely, and kids love them as well! Glad I wrote down the ingredients when creating this recipe, and hope you will enjoy!

Yield: Approx 20 Large Cookies                                             Time: 45 Minutes

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Ingredients:

  • 1 C Butter
  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 1/2 C Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Yogurt ( Try my Recipe to make your own!)
  • 1 1/2 C Christmas Jam
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla
  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 C Flour
  • 2 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 3 Tsp Cinnamon
  • 3 Tsp Nutmeg

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 375 F. Sift Dry ingredients into bowl and set aside. In bowl of mixer add butter and sugars, cream on high until light and fluffy. Add  jam and yogurt, mix until smooth.  Adding one egg at a time, beat at  low speed until just incorporated.

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Hint: Batter can be clumpy, its best to not over mix eggs, they will mix once dry ingredients are added.

Slowly add dry ingredients, taking time to stopping to  scrape sides, adding 1/3 of dry mixture at a time until just blended together. Drop large rounded spoonfuls onto parchment paper 1 1/2″ apart. Bake for approx 12 minutes. Do not over cook, cookies are done when edges appear golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if desired. Happy Holidays!

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Christmas Jam; Persimmon and Pomegranate

This is a recipe that if you are fortunate to receive or have large amounts of this special produce should be made with care and given with love. It is literally so good you can eat this by the spoonfuls! It has just the right amount of sweetness.  I don’t even like Persimmons, or so I thought. This will be used in many recipes from a cheese cake to a turkey glaze, so stay tuned, and get creative using this in your own recipes!  This was truly a blessing and joy to make. Our Meyer lemon tree is almost ripe, and the juice in the lemons worked well to bring some tartness to the super sweet persimmons. We picked the persimmons from a ranch in Knights Ferry that my aunt so graciously lets us visit anytime. The persimmon tree has been there for ages and is a sight to behold as you wind your way down to the valley on the ranch. The boys helped pick a bunch. We eagerly tasted one, big mistake. Not quite ripe,  I liken it to eating a bitter cotton ball!  The persimmons set out a week they became mushy soft, which is what you want for this variety, also known as Hichiya,  before you try to eat or bake. They were super sweet in a delicate way. Little did we know we came upon a fortune, as at the grocery store persimmons were going for 2$ each! My sweet neighbor, Barbra, brought us a large bag of pomegranates from her beautiful tree, these are the best I have ever had. Store bought does not compare, I can barely taste the seeds in these there is so much fruit inside. I thought combining these two seasonal fruits into a Jam that will serve as a gift and an ingredient in holiday baking would be festive and appreciated!

Ingredients:

(You can triple this recipe to give as gifts for Christmas)

  • 1 C Persimmon Puree (6 large persimmons)img_8703
  • 1/3 C Sugar (or to taste, depending on how sweet fruit is, can also be left out)
  • 2 Tbsp Water
  • 1 Tbsp Corn Starch
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 C Fresh Pomegranate Juice

 

Directions:

Peel persimmons into blender. I find it easiest to use my hands and kind of mulch out the innards.  Seed the pomegranates by cutting in half and using a large wooden spoon to whack until seeds fall into bowl.

Will seem messy at first but once you get the hang of this it will go fast. Make extra and freeze the juice for later or for drinking.  Puree Persimmons until smooth. Using juicer juicepomegranate  seeds to extract juice. (Or use store bought!)  Place puree in sauce pan, add sugar and pomegranate juice over medium  heat until incorporated. Add water and corn starch in separate bowl and whisk until dissolved. Whisk into puree. Add lemon juice. Boil on low until thickened, approx 15 minutes. Let jam cool to room temperature and pour into sterilized jars. Can if desired, or store in refrigerator.  Enjoy and share the love!

Spiced Pear and Pumpkin Yogurt Muffins with Graham Crumble

 

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Over flow topping makes great ice cream fixings!

“Spiced Pear and Pumpkin Yogurt Muffins with Graham Crumble”…I love seeing how far a recipe can go in giving to others. I seem to always double a recipe so that I can save for giving or to feed my family later…food hoarder? Maybe. I think it goes beyond that, I think we all connect with food. To value food and take the time to cook means a lot in terms of who you are. Its part of the essential skills of living, just as farming is. God gave us the ability to create, communicate and care for this earth. Growing food, preparing it and giving of it to others gets us in touch with something greater than ourselves. Those who understand this appreciate the gift of food immensely, and I love sharing with those who feel the same. One of these is our sweet auntie, or technically cousin, Sierra. She gave us this delicious home-made Spiced Pear Butter that was prepared in her kitchen on their family dairy farm, along with bread and something else I’m sure, all the while 5 kiddos running around! Amazing. I had never tasted it before and it was delicious. I almost hated to hide it in a muffin, as it would be so good on toast or pancakes…maybe we can get some more… I will share her recipe later as well.

 

This recipe, of course, incorporates our yogurt made fresh from our dairy. Try my method for simple Cultured yogurt in the oven.  I was happy this recipe yielded 30 good-sized golden beauties, and were shared not only on a camping trip but also with two special neighbors, and employees at the dairy! All gave rave reviews, so pat on my back and hoping to share with you a successful moist muffin recipe!

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Everything here but the pumpkin!

Ingredients:

  • 4  C Flour
  • 1 C Oats
  • 3 Tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 1/3 C maple syrup
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tsp Salt
  • 2 C Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 C Yogurt
  • 1 C Pear Butter (can substitute apple sauce)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Sticks Butter Melted

Crumble:

  • 2 Sleeves Graham Crackers( 3 C Graham Cracker Crumbs)
  • 1/2 C Butter Melted
  • 1 /2 C Brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp Flour

Directions:

Pre Heat Oven to 350 F. Prepare Muffin Tins: (Recommend Pam Baking Spray). Melt Butter in small pan and set aside. Measure out flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. In separate bowl measure out oats. By hand mix in  yogurt, melted butter, pumpkin, pear butter and sugar until combined and free of lumps. Let oats sit for 5 minutes. Fold an egg at a time into wet ingredients.

 

Slowly fold wet into dry ingredients until just combined, being careful not to over mix. Lumps at this point are fine! Spoon 2 large spoon full into each muffin tin. Should yield approx 30 muffins. For Topping melt the butter in same pan as prior and once melted add crumbs, brown sugar and flour. Add a pinch of salt. Using a pinching method mix until forms a rough crumble, adding more flour if needed. Add 1 tbsp toppings to each muffin, and bake for 20-25 minutes until firm in center and golden brown. Enjoy and spread the love!

Harvest Short Ribs; Braised in Brown Butter and Tarragon on Bed of Creamy Yogurt Polenta

img_8608Tried to sound fancy; got you didn’t I?? This is simple as food gets, but we can make it sound pretty elevated. This is “peasant food,” which by the way is the kind of food I love to eat and cook. It is about using what you have, making the most of it. When cooking my recipes, have fun be creative. Don’t have nutmeg? Don’t drive to the store, use something you may have, cloves or coffee can warm up this dish with flavor just as well, then it will be truly your creation.

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The short rib is by no means a fancy cut, but when cooked right it is buttery melt in your mouth divine. I used the last of our garden vegetables as I prep our garden beds for a fall garden. I roughly chopped up the vegetables, letting them cook down through out the day, and then puree in a blender. I plan to use the other half for a vegetable based soup. The ribs are braised with tarragon,  butter and coconut oil, then allowed to stew with the sauce until tender. The coconut oil allows the butter to get to a high temperature without burning. I serve this over polenta. My mother and grandmother always had polenta, I was shocked at how little other people use this Italian staple!  I like my polenta creamy, but not watery, similar to a thick “grits,” with the grain of polenta is finer. I stir in my yogurt made fresh from the dairy farm to give the polenta extra creamy.  If you haven’t tried to make your own yogurt try it using my method! This is a perfect meal for a cold fall night. Make extra and invite friends!

Ingredients:

  • 4-8 Qts vegetable puree. (A full 8 Qt Pot of chopped vegetables)
  • 4- 6 lbs Short Ribs
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Tarragon
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1/4 C wine
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1 tbsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 C molasses
  • 1/3 C balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 C sugar

Polenta:

  • 1 1/2 C Corn Meal
  • 6 Cups of Chicken Stock
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Yogurt
  • Parmesan Cheese

Directions: Roughly chop what vegetables you have on hand (carrots, celery, onion, kale, garlic, eggplant, zucchini etc) Add olive oil, salt and pepper and cook until all vegetables are tender. Puree in blender or with immersion blender in pot.

In separate pan, brown short ribs. I will explain the method of braising; start by heating the butter and coconut oil in saute pan. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Chop tarragon and add to pan. Pace ribs in pan and let brown on one side, then flip. Approx. 3 minutes a side at very high heat. Make sure you get a nice “crust,” this will allow the ribs to seal in any juices and lead to tastier meat. Now you will have some burnt looking bits, this is the fat that has been rendered and is full of flavor. Add a little liquid of your choice, wine, water or chicken stock. About 1/4 cup. Using spatula scrape these bits with the liquid and let it reduce a bit. Add ribs and browning liquid to vegetable puree.

Add molasses, nutmeg, sugar and vinegar. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Place in 350 F oven for 2-4 hours. Make polenta by boiling chicken stock and butter. Add Polenta slowly with whisk to avoid lumping. remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Serve short ribs over polenta with extra juice and a little parmesan if desired! Enjoy.

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Because if I ever become a mother who keeps their family from eating to get a good picture, please tell me to stop

 

Lavender Rosemary Freezer Cookies

 

img_8449These Lavender Rosemary Freezer Cookies are not like eating soap, promise. My children can testify! This is a classic butter cookie recipe with simple ingredients, made special by adding a little fresh lavender and rosemary from our garden. I use my home made yogurt fresh from the dairy- store bought regular or greek yogurt is fine! This is my new go too butter cookie recipe, perfect for up coming holiday. You can get creative and add your own spin; maybe mint, lemon or almond? A little pumpkin and maple for fall? Experiment and enjoy. I tried to put detailed instructions for a no fail cookie!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Sticks Butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Yogurt 
  • 2 Eggs (at room temperature)
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla
  • 4 C Flour ( sifted)
  • 3 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Minced Rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp Minced Lavender Flowers
  • Directions:

In large bowl (not the mixing stand bowl) sift flour. Stir in salt, rosemary and lavender.

In mixing bowl cream butter and sugar at high-speed until light and airy, (see pictured).

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Beat in 1 egg as a time on low, add vanilla. Add 1/4 dry mixture and mix on medium, stop, scrape sides, and repeat for remaining dry ingredients. Do not over mix; (leads to tougher cookie). Chill 30 minutes. Place 1/3 chilled mixture on parchment paper and roll into log.

Place in bag or cover in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough. Store in freezer for up to 4 months. Thaw a little before using (approx 10 minutes), then slice in 1/4″ rounds and bake on parchment lined baking sheet for 10 -15 minutes at 350 F. Enjoy your beautiful cookies, they make a great gift in special tin as well!

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Lilly’s favorite part! 

Art to Feed; “Community Hearts” and the Parent Resource Center

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The Parent Resource Center of Modesto 

You don’t need to drive far to see need in our community. Often we are unsure of how to help. We feel we can’t help or we simply have too much in our own lives that helping others is last on our list. However just being there for your family and friends is enough to improve community. If everyone took care of themselves, their neighbors their children what a better world we would have. So much of our world’s problems comes from hurt, pain and a lack of understanding. We really don’t know why the man on the corner is without a home. We can guess, we can judge. Or we can simply choose to use what little we have to help. While we need to protect our resources and our energy, I also think it’s within our ability and our responsibility to take care of those in need. Not needing a reason, other than because we are fellow human beings. When we start believing we are better and the other is less deserving, what a slippery slope that is. Compassion its wants needed, even when you donate or give time and get nothing in return. All the drama is just a distraction, let’s use what we have and make the most of our abilities to help those we come in contact day-to-day. If you feel inclined beyond that seek out opportunities to help. Modesto has one of the highest crime rates in America, including violent crimes (Neighbor Hood Scout.com, 2016). According to the Census Bureau website, close to 28 % of our residents live below the poverty level. Our county has double the average illiteracy rate, approx 16 % do not speak english well, and homelessness rates are rising. I want to share this not to depress you or further convince you that Modesto needs help, but to shed some light on the fact that we have such an amazing rich agriculture region and yet we are so disconnected from the reality that lives “further down the road.”

The Parent Resource Center lies in the heart of Modesto. In the heart of a community littered with trash  and an abandoned gas station sits next door. Highway 99 is heard rushing by outside it’s front door. It could have no better location, it sits neatly to give direction to those in need. To help families so desperate for support. They have new mother programs, family literacy programs, a pantry and clothing. They have child care during classes, education for youth and teen parents. They also offer a program called “Hero’s for Change” to provide nutritional education to families. I was pleased to support their cause at the Art Walk in Turlock, CA this August. The community, both young and old painted their hearts on a canvas as they learned more about the Parent Resource Center and their programs.

The painting was then pulled together by myself and donated as a symbol of community love and support, as well as encouragement that they will reach many more families in need. I pray we can all take small steps and use what  little valuable time we have to put others first. I am blessed to be able to have the resources to give, and pray for an improved community.

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Donation of “Community Hearts” Painting at The Parent Resource Center with some of the wonderful staff who lovingly serve our community. 

“Community Hearts” for the Modesto Pregnancy Center

 

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Some of the wonderful staff at Modesto Pregnancy Center with our “Community Hearts” painting

Its funny even now writing this I lack confidence. I am slowly but surely gaining confidence in my faith. My faith is winning, and the judgments of others seem to matter less.

I want to share my experience not to shock you but to share a hard truth. As a new nurse practitioner I decided to work at a women’s health clinic to gain skills and knowledge that would help me in my career. I was excited to help women and empowered. This clinic also offered medication abortion. I justified working there by thinking that I could help prevent women from having an abortion through educating them and offering family planning. The clinic turned out to be a machine. My visits were shortened as we were required to see more and more patients each week. The women’s faces who so desperately needed time became a blur as I ran form room to room, and it never stopped. The next step in clinical training was to learn how to perform ultra sounds. I was sent to a busier clinic where ultrasounds were done frequently. Little did I know what I was in store for. The day was like walking in a fog after witnessing a train wreck. I was to follow a doctor around and do ultrasounds on women who were being seen  for surgical abortion. Surgical abortion can be preformed up to 20 weeks gestation. If you have never seen what 20 weeks gestation looks like, well its like looking at a fully formed baby. I witnessed everything. I had to know the pain of this, the heart ache, the sudden loss and the trauma of it all. By the end of the morning the doctor had preformed numerous abortions on drugged up women without barely speaking a word. His apron was red. A young girl was rushed to hospital for possible perforation of her uterus during the procedure. The last patient was a 25 year old who was having her 10th surgical abortion. She asked for an ultra sound picture of the baby. The image haunts me. The next day the clinic was going to same day abortion; where a woman would not be required to make an appointment and return after being educated about procedure, but would simply have an abortion done that very day. At noon the recovery room was full. I cried and shook all the way home at what I had witnessed. I gave my notice the next day.

Many patients believed this clinic  was their only resource for a pregnancy test, birth control, and care. Modesto Pregnancy Center exists as an alternative. They have ultrasound technicians, a nurse practitioner and offer pregnancy testing as well as resources for a healthy supported pregnancy. They are there to give women time, rest, and the ability to know that they are loved and have options for their unborn child. The collaborative painting we did during our women’s bible study serves as a symbol of our love and support for all the Modesto Pregnancy Center offers those enduring the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy. I pray for continued community support and the ability to reach many more in need.

One Pot Chicken for Two Meals

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And one fabulous pot I may add!  I use my red cast iron dutch oven, which was a wedding gift, ( 8, or is it 7 years ago?), for so many different things throughout the fall and winter months. You could use a crock pot for this as well. This recipe incorporates my yogurt- sweet potato pasta sauce. Since I was out of my sauce I made a batch by roughly cutting up garden vegetables place in pot, cooking through and blending with immersion blender (love this tool!). I then placed the chicken in the sauce and cooked through, so no fuss and less mess for busy week nights! You could substitute a similar marinara. The first dinner I made with this recipe I simply served the chicken over rice.The second dinner I used the leftover chicken, sauce and rice for  enchiladas! See directions below and enjoy this simple but satisfying meal! img_8110-1img_8286

Ingredients:

  • 6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 4  C Pasta Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 2 Tsp Fresh Chopped Tarragon

img_8285Directions:

Place Chicken Breasts in dutch oven or crock pot. Season with salt, pepper. Cover with sauce. Add tarragon and nutmeg. Simmer for 2-4 hours until chicken shreds easily with fork. Serve over rice of choice.

For Lentil Rice as pictured:

Boil 1 c white rice, 2 c lentils in 3 c water with 1 tbs of butter and 2 tsp of chicken bouillon unit cooked through, (around 50 minutes).

Ingredients for Enchiladas:

  • Left over Chicken Breasts with Sauce and Rice (About 2 Qt Total Leftovers)
  • 4 C Shredded Jack and Cheddar Cheese.
  • 6 Large Flour Tortillas
  • 2  15 0z can of Enchilada (Red) Sauce.

Directions:

Pre Heat Oven to 350F. Place 1/2 C Enchilada sauce in bottom of 9″x 13″ dish. Place 1/4 C leftover mixture in tortilla and top with 2/3 shredded cheese. Fold and roll as you would a burrito. Place seam side down in dish and repeat with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over rolled tortillas, being sure to get edges as well. Top with Remaining cheese. Bake covered for 30 minutes, remove and bake additional 10 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

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Yogurt Bread Calzones

img_8102This recipe was inspired by a traditional Georgian  bread called “Cheese Bread” I came across the recipe for “Cheese Bread” in my favorite cook book “Feast” by Nigella Lawson. I adapted it based on what I had. I had left over Pasta sauce and hamburger thawed out in my fridge I decided to add them to the cheesy filling in this bread. The filling is a mixture of feta, mozzarella and ricotta. The dough is made with yogurt, butter and flour. A dairy lovers dream! I also had my yogurt and ricotta made fresh from our dairy farm on hand. You can of course use store-bought, but look for best quality ingredients, or try my recipes for home-made yogurt and ricotta. If you are not a fan of the Feta tang, you can always substitute more mozzarella and less feta. This recipe creates either one large monster calzone to bring to a large table a feast, or individuals,  it’s up to you!

img_8104Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 3 1/2 C Flour
  • 1 C Yogurt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 C Butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt

Filling:

  • 2 C Feta
  • 7 Oz Mozzarella chopped ( 2 C shredded )
  • 1 C Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/2 Lb Ground Beef
  • 1/2 C Pasta Sauce

img_8106Directions:

Pre heat oven to 350 F Cook ground beef until browned through and leave to cool. In large bowl combine butter, yogurt and eggs with hands. Add flour to mix, 1/2 C at a time. Add baking soda and salt. Knead dough until pulling away from sides of bowl. Cover and let rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes. May leave for up to 3 days before using. In a separate bowl combine feta, mozzarella, ricotta, ground beef, and sauce. Cut dough into fourths. Place on greased baking sheets. Pat into disks approx 3/4″ thick. Pur 1/4 beef mixture on one half and fold remaining half over top, creating a half circle. Crimp edges with a fork. You can also make mini cheese balls as I did for my kiddos! Bake in oven until golden brown. approx 30- 40 minutes.

 

 

Simple Cheese Making: Ricotta from our Farm

img_8103Feel like doing a science experiment? This is such a fun thing to do and with kids or a partner even better! Such a simple cheese to learn.  You can get the hang of this after a couple of times and always have fresh ricotta on hand. Use ricotta similarly as you would use yogurt, in baked goods, and of course lasagna. Try with my Cheese Bread Recipe also. I love the process of making cheese, it really takes you back to a simpler time. I use raw milk fresh from our dairy farm, but you can also use store-bought pasteurized as well, just stay away from ultra pasteurized! Some grocers are carrying raw milk or non homogenized, low pasteurized milk which gives a much better flavor and texture for cheese making. I’ve included  a link below for ordering liquid animal rennet online.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Tsp Liquid Rennet 
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Gal. Fresh Milk
  • Tsp Salt (Cheese Salt is ideal)

Directions:

Place milk in sterile 5 qt. pot. Slowly heat milk until milk is too hot to touch, (or 200 F on candy thermometer). Remove from heat. Slowly add rennet, lemon juice and salt. Stir gently. Leave pot to sit for 10 minutes. Check to see if whey (liquid) is separating from curds. Add more lemon juice if separation has not occurred and wait a few minutes. Scoop curds out with slotted spoon into strainer lined with tea cloth. See photograph for example. Strain for 60 minutes and place in air tight container. Store in refrigerator and use within one week. Enjoy the rewards of you experiment and try different recipes!