Friday, September 30, 2011

We Be Jammin’!

A year ago, I was lucky enough to run across a lovely blog hosted by an even lovelier blogger, Steph Chows. It all started with two words. 

Jam Exchange.

She had me from “hello”.

I’d never been involved in a bloggy exchange before but the idea intrigued me, and so it began. It was very simple, really. Send two jars of jam to the person you are paired up with.  In return, that person will send YOU two jars of their own homemade jam.

What a fantastic concept, yes?

I thought so. I posted about my exploits with last years exchange here. You can imagine how anxiously I awaited this year’s edition.  A pineapple, some farmers market blueberries, and a caramelized stovetop later, and my congealed creations were on their way to Georgia and Florida. What did I make? This year’s selections were Piña Colada, and Blueberry Lime. Both of which went over famously with the family here as well as an old high school classmate down in Florida, who caught me posting on Facebook about the adventure and “offered” to taste test them for me. I gladly complied and carried my little parcels to the post office the very next business day.

And what did my wondering eyes should appear??? (yes, I’m sorry, I’m already thinking about Christmas) Two lovely jars of jam, straight from Georgia. The Redhead over at Handcrafted with Altitude (you can see a picture of the two jams I sent her here) whipped up a Ginger Vanilla Peach and a Blackberry Peach. Both of which were fabulous. I particularly liked the combination of ginger and peaches.
You can bet I’ll be in line right away for the jam exchange next year! In the meantime, here are a couple of recipes for you to chew on!

Piña Colada Jam 
3 1/2 cups fresh pureed pineapple
1 cup cream of coconut (do NOT use coconut milk) 
1/3 cup white rum 
1/4 cup lemon juice 
6 1/2 cups sugar 
2 (3 ounce) envelopes liquid pectin
    1. In a large heavy bottomed pot, mix together pineapple puree, cream of coconut, rum, and lemon juice.
    2. Stir in sugar and bring to a full rolling boil (one that can't be stirred down) over high heat.
    3. Stir constantly, boil hard for three minutes.
    4. Remove from heat and stir in pectin.
    5. Skim off any foam.
    6. Ladle into sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of rim. Wipe rim clean.
    7. Apply lids and rings and tighten rings just fingertip tight.
    8. Process jars in boiling water bath canner for 5 minutes.
    Blueberry Lime Jam
    4 1/2 cups blueberries
    1 package dry pectin 5 cups sugar 1 tablespoon lime zest 1/3 cup lime juice

      Crush blueberries one layer at a time. Combine crushed blueberries and pectin in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in grated lime peel and lime juice. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Process 15 minutes in a hot water bath.

      Monday, September 26, 2011

      The Help: A Movie Review

      I am well aware that in the grand scheme of things, my opinion means very little. However, there are times that I still feel the need to express it. Last month, my book club read The Help by Kathryn Stockett.. We have found in the past that we usually love one book, and then the next month we can barely get through our current selection.

      September was a very good month.

      We all simply adored The Help and couldn't wait to get together and discuss it. It was my turn to host, so I even made themed food for the occasion. Southern-inspired Black Eyed Pea Soup,  Muffaletta Pinwheels, Alabama Firecrackers (spiced crackers), and, yes, Chocolate Pie. (Read the book and you'll understand)

      When we selected The Help, I didn't realize they were making it into a movie, but how could the timing have been more perfect? I waited and waited, and finally this weekend, it came to our quaint little hometown theatre, The Marvel (yes, because I am too lazy to drive an hour to the nearest theatre where it was playing).

      Now, bear in mind that when I go see a movie that was made from a book, I try and go in with an open mind. So often I hear people being very critical of movies made from books because they "weren't enough like the book". Well, my theory is that its awfully hard to squeeze every aspect of a fantastic book into a matter of 120 minutes of darkened theatre mystique. I try and view these films as free-standing stories, and take them for what they are, entertaining (or not) in their own right, and try not to hold them to the standard of the book from whence they came.

      This generally works out pretty well for me. Especially considering that I don't think I have ever seen a movie that actually closely resembles the book is was made from.

      Until now.

      I have to give high praise to the creators of The Help (the motion picture) for their attention to detail, their dedication to the flow of the novel, and their unforeseen ability to make a grown woman cry in public.

      I have to say that The Help so closely followed the book that I was amazed. Granted, there were details left out. How do you cram every last speck of information from a 500+ page book into an after dinner treat? But, while I noticed the exclusions, I did not miss them. The film stood on its own, an homage to the book, and while I still highly recommend reading the original from cover to cover, if you can't, the movie version is a darned good substitute.

      Read it. See it. Bring tissues. If you don't get choked up during this film, well.... you just ain't right.

      Saturday, September 24, 2011

      New Beginnings

      Hello again, everyone!!! As promised, I am back and ready to roll again. We have had a very busy and eventful summer but I have missed my bloggy world and can't wait to dive back in. I will have some new food posts coming up soon (I have jam exchange news!) and I will be hosting Food 'n Flix in October. We'll be cooking dishes inspired by the film that inspired my Little Man to cook with me - Ratatouille! I'll have an announcement post up with the guidelines soon, but hop on over and check the site out!

      SO, what have I been up to? Glad you asked. Instead of doing what normal families do over their summer vacations, know....TAKING a vacation..... instead we gutted our house and commenced a remodel of gargantuan proportions while Ty was on summer break. I'd say we replaced everything but the kitchen sink, but that's not true. We DID replace the kitchen sink. And the cabinets, and the floors (all of them), and repainted every inch of wall and ceiling, and 22 new light fixtures, curtains on every window, new siding, new bathrooms fixtures and an enormous new deck. Yes, we did it all. and more. In less than three months.

      As you can imagine, it was a whirlwind of a summer, and I promise to post pictures soon. We are still putting finishing touches on and trying to get settled back in. I am really looking forward to having my beautiful new kitchen to do all my holiday cooking, baking and candy making in.

      Since starting back to school last month, Ty has also signed up for Cub Scouts, and...please try to control your surprise.... I "volunteered" to be one of his Den's leaders. SO, be on the lookout for some fun posts about what its like being a Cub Scout mom! I was in girl scouts myself for YEARS, but this will likely be a whole new experience for me.

      But, you really just want to hear about the food, don't you? I thought so. Well, you'll just have to wait a TINY bit longer until I get pictures loaded on my new computer, but I'll give you a little teaser and tell you that for this year's Jam Exchange (hosted beautifully by Steph Chows) I made Blueberry Lime jam and Piña Colada jam, both of which were huge hits! I promise (again) to post more soon.

      In the meantime, thanks for hanging around this summer! I'll make it worth your while.

      See you soon!
      Beth Anne

      Monday, September 5, 2011

      Fair Warning....

      I'm baaaaaaack.... 

      I've got some new posts coming up and an explanation for my bloggy hiatus....see you all soon!