The Best Do-Ahead Breakfast Foods

This June, my husband and I are hosting the highly anticipated reunion of my family. Coming from as far away as New Mexico and British Columbia, my two parents, three siblings, three siblings-in-laws, three nieces and two nephews will join our family of four. If you count it up, that’s seventeen mouths to feed, and I couldn’t be happier.

We haven’t all been together since summer of ’07; three years (and several grandchildren later) is just too long to be apart. Obviously, we have much to celebrate.

Since the countdown is actually weeks (2!) and not months away now, I’ve started the menu planning. Yes, I like to feed people. A lot. And I like to be organized. That means stocking the pantry and freezer, jotting down a loose menu plan, and reserving another side of local beef.

The sudden influx of house guests might leave some people feeling overwhelmed, but with proper planning, it can be quite manageable.

I’ve already outlined several ideas for do-ahead dinners in this post on warm weather batch cooking, and most of our lunches will be picnic-style, so all that is left to think about is breakfast. I love a big breakfast, after all, it’s the most important meal of the day!

Here’s what will be joining the strawberries in the freezer in preparation for our breakfasts… [Read more…]

Four Simple Methods for Freezing Strawberries

Strawberry season has just started where I live and I’m already stockpiling the precious fruit. This is the first summer that I have a deep-freeze and it is standing at attention, waiting to be packed full of produce, starting with local, sun-ripened berries.

OK, so you’ve been to the U-Pick or the roadside stand, and now you’ve got more strawberries than you know what to do with. Strawberries are sensitive to both heat and cold and are very delicate, so it is wise to ‘put them up’ as quickly as possible. Yes, they are best enjoyed just as they are: fresh and sweet, or perhaps stirred into a quick Strawberry-Rhubarb Micro-Mini Jam, but the majority of your berries should be frozen so you can enjoy them all year long.

While you feast on a bowl of berries and cream, consider your options for freezing the berries. Why yes, there are options! Please don’t lump the ruby jewels together in the bottom of a plastic bag, so that they freeze into an indistinguishable lump that is destined to become freezer burnt. Freezing strawberries is about the simplest preserving you will do all season. 

Here are suggestions for a few different methods for freezing strawberries. I use all of them, as they each have their benefits. [Read more…]

Warmer Weather Batch Cooking

For some, batch cooking tends to go out the window when the thermometer rises outside, because, well, most batch cooking is not ideally suited to hot weather. Who wants to simmer a stew on the stove all day when you’re trying to keep the kitchen cool? And while we’re asking questions, who wants to spend hours cooking when the kids are calling you to come out and play?

Still,  it’s nice to jump-start dinner with something from the freezer, especially after a hard day’s work in the garden. Batch cooking can still be done in the summer heat, but in my kitchen it changes from pot-roasts and lasagnas, to something more suited to summer.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes to double and triple for stashing away. While they are not entire meals unto themselves, they proffer a spring board to dinner (or dessert!), and provide the opportunity for a meal with substance. [Read more…]

Weekend Reading

How to Make Homemade Jam in 30 Minutes (with no special equipment)

What would you say if I told you that it was possible to make a small batch of homemade jam today? I imagine your schedule is already jam-packed (pardon the pun, couldn’t resist), as is mine, but I’ve discovered a new way to make jam that is quick, easy and totally doable for the busy mom, career girl or both.

OK, you’ve heard about freezer jam, but what about microwave jam? In her book, 250 Home Preserving Favorites (Robert Rose, March 2010), jam expert Yvonne Tremblay created a line of homemade jams that she called ‘Micro-Mini Jams‘: very small batches of jam, cooked in the microwave and requiring no special canning equipment.

What a fantastic concept! I’ve used the microwave to reduce liquids for sauces and such, but never thought to whip up a batch of jam. It makes perfect sense though, because the batch of jam is so small, there is no need for sterilizing or processing. Simply jar the jam and store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks -if it lasts that long. [Read more…]