Thinking Outside the Jar: Strawberry Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

Disclaimer: I feel like this recipe was obvious to everyone but me. If that’s the case, smile and shake your head at me. If not, read on!

This recipe was born out of necessity (yes!) for a piece of frozen crumbly gluten-free birthday chocolate cake that was screaming for a side kick. The obvious pairing of ice cream wasn’t available and I wasn’t about to make buttercream frosting for one, but this is where whipped cream came in handy.

It’s really, really simple:

1. Cool your whipping cream, your bowl and your beaters then whip it, whip it good.

2. Fold in your jam. Any kind of loose set jam, really. I’ve been eating my Strawberry Vanilla Bean with and on everything and it was perfect with chocolate cake. It has a really soft set and blended perfectly, but avoid the stiff jam/jelly and opt for something that will fold nicely into the cream and help it retain it’s airiness. Start with about 2:1 ratio of cream to jam and if you want more jam, add more, just remember that the more jam you add, the looser the cream will get.

I know it’s obvious, but think of the possibilities! Tomorrow, when our American friends are gobbling up their pumpkin pie, what about a big dollop of Spiced Apple Butter Whipped Cream? Heaven.

Let me know if you give this a try.


Thinking Outside the Jar: Buttermilk Cake with Plum Port Preserves

Buttermilk Cake with Plum Port Preserves. Is is coffee time yet?

It’s hard not to be jealous when I see pictures of gardens coming alive, forsythia and apple trees blooming and ramps reading for harvesting. This Easter, we awoke to 8 inches of snow, which was disheartening and somehow not surprising, given that we had the exact same thing happen five years ago. On the upside, this “Poor Man’s Fertilizer” is great for the gardens and hopefully all our fruit bushes will reward us.

While the garden is slowly reawakening, our family continues to grow and thrive. I’ve had to dramatically alter my expectations of what I can accomplish in a day, never forgetting that my kids “won’t keep.” Thankfully, my daughter loves to help me in the kitchen and you can count on her to happily dump cupfuls of flour or help stir dry ingredients together. You can also expect that she’ll take the pepper mill and grind you some fresh pepper or sneak bites of raw-egg batter when your back is turned.

I made two versions of the following cake recipe and even baking with a toddler, I had both cakes ready for the oven and the kitchen cleaned within 45 minutes. Total and complete score! Since my stomach revolts when I eat gluten and baby Sam’s system seems to revolt when I eat dairy and soy, I absolutely love a recipe that’s open to dietary interpretations and this one fits the bill. The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking’s Buttermilk Cake is a gluten-free riff of What Julia Ate’s original recipe, so my adaptations are an ode to them both. I chose a rhubarb preserve to play up the tangy note of buttermilk, but a conserve with dried fruit and nuts would be really tasty. Lots of room for interpretation!

Gluten and Dairy Free “Buttermilk” Cake

1 cup gluten-free all purpose blend (I use Land O’ Lakes recipe)

1/2 tsp xantham gum

1/2 tsp baking powder and baking soda

1/2 cup sugar (I used palm sugar)

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp ground vanilla powder or extract

1 egg

1/4 cup any flavour jam

1. Stir dry ingredients together into a mixing bowl.

2. Mix wet ingredients together.

3. Stir wet ingredients into the dry and spoon into a greased 8″ pan. Smooth and even out the batter. Spoon jam over batter and smooth.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

"Buttermilk" Cake with Rhubarb and Grand Marnier Jam

The second cake, I followed Hip Girl’s recipe exactly, substituting organic, unbleached flour for the gluten-free blend. It came out beautifully and had more of a lunar appearance. I topped this cake with a Plum Port Preserve and offered it as a get well gift for a friend. The richness of the plum and port should pair nicely with the cake and hopefully it tastes as good as it smells!

Lunar Goodness.

Thinking Outside the Jar: Gooseberry Jam Oat Bars

Life continues to buzz and flutter with lots of exciting activities. Our uncanny toddler is now 2.5 and our newcomer, Sam, is a big, bouncing 4 month old. While I still stare at my kitchen in sheer longing for just one afternoon to play, I recognize the importance of living in the moment with my kids. That’s why recipes that involve my kids are a big hit right now and ones that repurpose jam are even better.

This recipe comes from my dear friend and total kitchen renegade Alyson at Dates and Quinces. I love how her recipes are always full of story and flavour, rich with beautiful photography that inspire me with every post. She made Jam Oat Bars and I loved its simplicity and versatility and bonus for being accessible for kids. Expecting her own child, I’m sure there will be more child-friendly recipes in her future!

Child Labour

The Jam Oat Bars are similar to a date square: an oat and buttery flour base and topping with a sweet filling in the middle. The dough is basic and perfect, with no competing flavours so your jam can really shine through. I went for the gooseberry jam, since it’s often overlooked for its sexy sister, strawberry jam. It was perfect. The brightness added a great contrast to the hearty sweetness of the dough. While any jam works, I like something with a good acidic nip to make the bars really shine.


Thinking Outside the Jar: Elderberry Cream Hearts

Elderberry Cream Hearts

Now that my daughter is 2.5 we’ve been having such fun with holidays. She has a much greater understanding of the activities and rituals behind holidays and looks forward to them with anticipation. From her books and talks with her friends, she now understands Valentine’s is about cards, candy, hearts and “I love you’s”. Since this is her first year of really experiencing these holidays, I’m feeling compelled to really make the most of it and help make her first introduction to them really special.

After watching the Tedx Manhattan video about the effects of eating processed, food colour rich foods, I’m hesitant to let my daughter enjoy much of the candies that may come her way and so this treat was my attempt at using natural ingredients to create something nutritious and fun.  Debating between rhubarb and elderberry syrup as a base, I opted for the antioxidant rich elderberry syrup, mostly for its dramatic colour. When I canned this syrup, I intended to pour it over pancakes or add it to club soda, but I’ve done neither and my syrup is wasting away in the pantry. I like recipes that give preserves a new life!

Elderberry Cream Hearts

2 cups elderberry syrup

1 cup water

3 packets of powdered Knox gelatin

1/2 cup whipping cream (unwhipped)

1. Dissolve the packages of gelatin in a cup of cold water. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.

2. Pour syrup into a small pot and bring to a soft boil. Remove from heat and add gelatin.

3. Pour in whipping cream and stir. Pour into prepared pan and refrigerate until set. Cut into squares or shapes.

** While I’m not 100% convinced elderberry syrup was the right choice, there’s something here and with some tinkering, we could  create something really fantastic. Perhaps my rhubarb syrup with orange zest or a mango juice with orange concentrate might taste good? Or, switching agar flakes instead of gelatin? Since this is my first attempt at making homemade gelatin, I welcome your suggestions and feedback!

Thinking Outside the Jar: Marmalazed Chicken Legs

In my sleep deprived sleep, I honestly typed marmalazed without realizing how it’s the perfect fit for this recipe. It’s marmalade used as a glaze for chicken legs; marmalazed.

I tend to use up preserves for other sweet things, like thumbprint cookies, as a cake filler or thinned for a glaze for quick breads. I almost always forget how preserves can be used for savoury purposes, especially as a glaze for meat. I really liked this glaze and when baked, it became caramelized and delicious spooned over some brown rice.

Marmalade Glazed Chicken

Yields enough glaze for a dozen chicken legs

1 cup orange marmalade

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce

Dash of hot pepper flakes

Touch of water to thin it out

In a small pot, combine ingredients and over low heat, stir until everything has come together. Taste and adjust to your taste. If you want to reserve the glaze as a sauce, bake in a smaller dish and pour over chicken and bake at 350 until chicken is cooked. If using this as a glaze, spread chicken out on a greased, tin foil lined baking sheet and coat legs with glaze. Bake at 375.  Enjoy!

Thinking Outside the Jar: Rhubarb Preserves

No Scurvy Here!

Last spring, I had about 30 lbs of rhubarb donated to me and not wanting to waste anything, I froze a quarter, made rhubarb syrup with a quarter and made rhubarb preserves with the remainder. Some of it was preserved in a simple syrup and some with vanilla bean.

Well, it’s been over 6 months since I made it and let me tell you, it’s delicious. Add in some apples and the fruit I froze over the summer and you’ve got yourself a delicious fruit salad that is deliciously local (OK, minus those oranges, but it *is* citrus season and I can’t resist).

Added bonus is the syrup. While it’s a tasty base for the fruit salad, it also makes a killer drink.

Rhubarb Vanilla Syrup

While I’m sure it’s noon somewhere and it’d be a delicious martini, I decided to opt for a morning mimosa-style by adding club soda to the syrup and grabbing a fancy flute and pretending I was somewhere warm and sunny. Besides, nothing starts off a Saturday morning quite like sipping something sweet with the extravagence of real vanilla bean floating in your flute.

Have a happy Saturday!

Thinking Outside the Jar: Cranberry Preserves

Since the arrival of our son, Samuel, life is definitely hopping! Before his arrival, I made up a batch of Cranberry Preserves, a la Linda Zeidrich, a lovely baked preserve that keeps the berries whole and imbued with lovely citrus flavours. What I love most about this recipe is its adaptability – you can either can it or store it in the fridge for up to a month. I chose the latter, since I had some big plans with the preserves and today, my first day of being alone with two kids, I managed to whip up this dessert using the stored Cranberry Preserves, but any kind of cranberry sauce will do.

For my American buddies, you may have plenty of leftover cranberry sauce and this is just one way to use it up besides pairing it with turkey. For my gluten-free/grain-free/dairy-free buddies, this cake is for you! The cake is beyond delicious and really easy to prepare. Enjoy!

Cranberry Preserves

German Chocolate Cranberry Cake

Recipe courtesy of a friend.

100 grams unsalted butter (or dairy-free margarine, if needed)

100 grams sugar

3 eggs, separated

4 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp baking powder

150 grams almond flour

1  348 mL can whole cranberry sauce or equivalent home made

250 mL whipping cream, whipped (or whipped topping, if going dairy-free)

Dark chocolate shavings for topping.

1. Mix butter, sugar and egg yolks until they are frothy.

2. Add cocoa powder and baking powder, then almond flour.

3. Whip egg whites until stiff then fold into above mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes in a greased spring-form pan and when you take it out, spread the cranberry sauce immediately over the top.   Cool.   Spread with whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Serve.

** Since I’m going dairy-free, I cut an individual slice and topped it with whipped topping and dairy-free dark chocolate, but feel free to slather the top of the cake with whipped cream and chocolate shavings before serving. **

As a side note, here are a few things I’ve learned about cooking with a toddler and newborn:

1. Wear your baby.

2. Now is the time to have “mise en place”! As much as you’d love to tackle a recipe from start to finish, chances are mayhem may ensue and you’ll get called away from your recipe. If you’ve got all your ingredients in place, it’ll make finishing that recipe even easier when you have a minute.

Mise En Place is Critical

3. Toddlers need to be watched like a hawk. No matter how many times I mentioned how we’d have cake when it was finished, I turn my back for a second and my 2 year old has eaten a big chunk of cake dough. Let’s hope those farm-fresh eggs won’t do any harm.

Thinking Outside the Jar: Strawberry Liqueur Update

After patiently waiting my almost four weeks for the vodka to extract all that fantastic strawberry flavour, today was the big reveal. I wish I could convey the full aroma of the liqueur and its perfect strawberry smell; it’s like opening “June”. The process was really simple and in a nutshell: Take some berries, throw some vodka over them, put them in a cool dark place and gently shake once a week until the four weeks are up. To complete the liqueur, I strained the berries in a large coffee filter nestled in a fine mesh strainer for crystal clear liquid and poured it into a hot and clean 1 L mason jar, where it will reside in a low traffic cupboard so it won’t lose its colour from sunlight exposure. Another idea is to get fancy and fill dark green, 250 mL wine bottles and cork it so it’s ready for gift giving. The dark green will help protect it from colour loss.  (Full instructions on how to begin found here.)

My batch yielded about 2.5 cups and although I had the best of intentions of using this as Christmas presents, one whiff and I realized I couldn’t bear to part with it. It really is that good.

It started like this:

Vodka Meets Berries

And turned into this:

Strawberry Liqueur

I tried serving the strained, boozy strawberries with a sweetened ricotta dish when I made for company and while they enjoyed the berry-turned-shooter, it was agreed that I should find another use for them. Given that I hate wasting food and they still had a lot of strawberry flavour, I decided to repurpose them into this:

Rhubarb Pineapple Strawberry Preserve

Rhubarb Pineapple Strawberry Preserve
* Actually, it’s closer to Kitchen Sink Preserve as I had some leftover crushed pineapple that needed to be used, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Yields: Almost 5×250 mL

4 cups diced rhubarb (frozen works fine)

1 small can of crushed pineapple, with juice

1 cup strawberries, from the strawberry liqueur

2 1/2 – 3 cups sugar

2 tbsp strawberry liqueur

1. Combine pineapple, strawberries and rhubarb and bring to a boil over medium heat.

2. When the fruit has broken down to your liking (I prefer my rhubarb more on the stewed side), add your sugar and return to a boil, stirring until jam has thickened to your liking, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add strawberry liqueur. Pour into hot, clean jars and process at 10 minutes in your boiling water bath.

These are not pectin rich ingredients and I was aiming for a very soft set and something to spoon over my morning porridge or blend into yogurt. The strawberry flavour really shines through and balances nicely with the pineapple and rhubarb. A great, impromptu preserve that takes very little effort. Enjoy!

Thinking Outside the Jar: Rosemary Apple Cider Sauteed Cabbage

I know proteins tend to be the star of the show, but we’ve been blessed with a fantastic CSA and the bounty of vegetables is always inspiring. I love nothing better than having vegetable sides that are as delicious as the meat and cause you to take notice. Tonight’s cabbage side stole the show:


Rosemary Apple Cider Sauteed Cabbage

It was served alongside other local delights, including an apple cider vinegar, butter, rosemary glazed pork chop and boiled new potatoes with pan gravy and chopped fresh garden herbs.

Here’s the lowdown on the cabbage. It’s extremely versatile and I kept it on the milder side to appeal to a toddler, so please adjust as you see fit.

1 small cabbage, shredded

3 slices of freshly smoked bacon, chopped (we get ours locally and it’s a very meat, thick cut)

1/2 apple, chopped

1 clove new garlic, chopped

1 tbsp uncanny Rosemary Apple Cider Jelly

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp carraway seeds

salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large frying pan over medium heat, fry up chopped bacon and reserve until end. Reserve rendered fat.

2. Add in sliced cabbage, stirring frequently until cabbage has wilted. Add in apple and lower heat to low-medium. Cover until cabbage has cooked to your liking.

3. Remove cover, add in vinegar, jelly, spice and seasonings and before serving, return pieces of bacon to mixture and serve hot.


Garden Fresh Potatoes

The new red potatoes were simply boiled with some of the pan drippings poured over and a sprinkling of garden fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, lemon thyme and dill) and some green onions. Deliciously simple.


Rosemary Cider Chops

This one is compliments of my husband, Jeff. He was kind enough to butcher a roast for me and turn it into chops (I had left the whole dinner thing way too late for a roast!) and he pan seared them before glazing them with an apple cider vinegar, butter, fresh rosemary glaze. I’m not sure exactly how much of everthing he used, but it was substantial enough to coat the chops and provide enough drippings for two servings of potatoes.


Delicious Summer Supper


Voila! Dinner in a flash, with bright summer flavours. Enjoy!


Thinking Outside the Jar: Thumbprint Cookies with Strawberry Preserves

I made this to suit my toddler daughter, Honey Bear and her allergies to peanuts and dairy, but feel free to substitute the real deal when making these. The recipe was born out of a late night snack on a piece of toast with peanut butter and a generous slathering of Strawberry with Creme de Cacao Jam. The nuttiness from the cocoa, the peanut butter and the sweetness was like heaven together. I’m pretty sure this cookie rivels that experience:

Sunflower Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Adapted from this Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint recipe at My Recipes


2 cups all purpose “white” flour (closer to a whole wheat)

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup sunflower butter (recipe found here)

1/4 cup margarine

2 cups eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Jam (I used Strawberry Vanilla Bean and Strawberry with Creme de Cacao)


1. Combine dry ingredients.

2. Combine sugars, margarine in a large bowl or stand mixer and stir until whipped. Add eggs one at a time. Add in vanilla and gradually add in dry ingredients.

3. With oiled hands, roll out little balls of cookie dough onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and indent middle with your thumb. Refigerate for one hour.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes and allow to fully cool before adding about 1/2 tsp of jam. (I got impatient and added the jam, leaving a jammy pool under the cookie. Really is best to follow directions sometimes!)

Thumbprint Cookies with Strawberry Vanilla Jam


*Cross-posted on our family’s blog: 100 Mile Locavores*