Cinnamon Pluot Jam.

Weird things terrify me…moths, for instance.  Hate them.  Run screaming like a teenage girl in a bad horror flick when I even sense one fluttering in my presence.  Up until yesterday, canning scared me, too!  Although not on the same level as a moth, the thought of improper sterilization, food borne illness, and ruining a giant batch of jam and wasting all of that fruit caused me to steer clear of the whole process.  What changed my mind?  My exploding tomato plant.  My Beefsteak tomato tree bush has more than 20 green tomatoes just waiting to ripen.  They were taunting me last week, saying, “We’ll all ripen at the same time, THEN what are you gonna do?!”  I love tomatoes, but not enough to eat that many within a few days.  The thought of any of my little nuggets going bad makes me want to cry because I’ve worked SO hard for a fruitful garden.  Then the tantalizing thought of Fall and Winter cooking with my own tomatoes started tickling my thoughts and I decided to bite the bullet, get over myself, and take the food preservation plunge.  A friend of mine tried her hand at canning this summer with great success, so I had a glimmer of hope and confidence in my ability to do this.  Turns out it’s not so bad!  It’s a technical process [don’t deviate from the basics, folks!  Do your research, pay attention, and be sure to a) properly sterilize b) follow the recipe c) properly clean the threads of the jars d) properly seal], but an extremely rewarding one.  If you’ve been on the fence about canning at home, I highly suggest giving it a try.  You won’t be sorry! What better way to truly know what’s coming out of the jar and going into your meal than to be the one putting it in the jar in the first place!  I went to bed feeling pretty proud of myself, last night, and of the Cinnamon Pluot Jam I’d just preserved for the chilly days of Autumn.

Okay, so the first “jam” out of the chute tastes amazing (check out the recipe:  http://eatingappalachia.com/2010/08/03/cinnamon-pluot-jam), but it is a little more “saucy” than I’d like.  The recipe didn’t utilize additional pectin as there is so much natural pectin in the Pluot skins.  The recipe actually warned against the sauciness, but the dream of cinnamony pluot jam on toast took me over and for good reason…this jam is fantastic!  I’d make this again in a heartbeat, perhaps adding a little less water next time.  Next up, a savory Pluot jam (they’re in season, they’re all over the market, and I’m taking advantage!) with balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and lemon zest – I found the recipe on the Bon Appetit website, which suggests that this jam be served over goat cheese atop baguette slices.  Um, OKAY!  Twist my arm.  It will be great, too, over a nice bone-in pork chop or roasted turkey breast.

Between the tasty Pluot concoctions on the shelf and the promise of home-preserved tomatoes on the horizon, Fall and Winter cooking just got turned up a notch.


I’ve never been the biggest fan of chocolate chip cookies, especially the ones that I make. It’s true, call me picky. That world famous, go-to cookie was always a bit lost on me…until now. I found the perfect recipe. I’m no longer let down by a cookie that’s too greasy, too buttery, too doughy, too cakey, too crunchy, too rich, too sweet, or not sweet enough.

It was a rainy afternoon in the Pacific Northwest this past Tuesday and my daughter and I were in need of a project to take our minds off of the wet and dreary. What better way to transform a dreary, rainy afternoon into a cozy one than baking cookies!  When it comes to baking she loves to help do it all by herself, so I set out to find yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I found one.  I tried it without much hope.  I was blown away.  I may set up a cookie shrine in Jacques Torres’ honor :)

I halved the recipe and even went a little shy on the butter because I didn’t have quite enough.  They were still fantastic and I may even go shy on the butter again next time!

Jacques Torres’s Secret Chocolate Chip Cookies


  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons pastry flour
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 pounds Jacques Torres House (60 percent cocoa) Chocolate or other best-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate; mix until well combined.
  3. Using a 4-ounce scoop for larger cookies or a 1-ounce scoop for smaller cookies, scoop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, but still soft, about 20 minutes for larger cookies and about 15 minutes for smaller cookies. Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Hello, it’s been awhile! What better day to re-start the regular blog updates than the Summer Solstice? Change in season. New beginnings. What have you.

I made this dish last night and quickly realized that it will be a summer staple! Fresh, vibrant, refreshing, colorful, succulent…PERFECT! I changed it up a little bit and substituted Fava Beans* for the Berlotti (which are more commonly known as “cranberry” beans). I also added a handful of halved cherry tomatoes. The beauty of this dish is that you can substitute and add as things come and go in your garden. The addition of the seared, lemon zested Ahi (I bought a smaller steak and left it whole instead of piecing it up) puts this dish over the top. It’s simple to make, yet plates like you ordered it on the patio of some chic Napa Valley eatery. Pile the dressed beans ever-so-slightly off center on the plate and lean your perfectly seared Ahi steak up against it. Remember, when pursuing elegant plating, think height! Serve this dish with a cold glass of Pinot Gris and some toasted baguette. Perfection.

*If you’ve never used fresh Favas, here’s a brief tutorial: Remove pods. Blanche the beans then submerge in ice water. Remove the thick outer covering from each bright green bean. Now they’re ready for use.

Photo ©David Loftus

Char Grilled Tuna with Dressed Beans and Loadsa Herbs
By, Jamie Oliver


• 100g/3½oz dried cannellini beans
• 100g/3½oz dried borlotti beans
optional: 1 tomato
optional: 1 potato
• extra virgin olive oil
• 1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
• 4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
• 1–2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 4 x 225g/8oz sustainably sourced tuna steaks, about 1cm/½ inch thick
• zest and juice of 2 lemons
• 3 handfuls of mixed fresh herbs (chives, chervil, basil, parsley, mint), roughly chopped


This is a really beautiful summer dish that takes hardly any time at all to prepare – and of course you can use different kinds of beans, such as black-eyed beans, flageolets, butter beans or even lentils. It’s a terrific hot snack or main dish – and with the tuna all torn up it makes a great salad. I like to griddle the tuna for a minute on each side so it has colour on the outside but still remains a little pink in the middle. A lot of people still want to cook tuna all the way through (which I think is madness!), but you must do it how you like best. It’s worth seeing if you prefer it pink in the middle though. I’m really going heavy on the herbs in this recipe – 4 or 5 years ago this might have been a bit OTT, but it’s really easy to get hold of a good selection of herbs now, so the more the merrier.

Feel free to use a couple of tins of beans if it’s more convenient. Tinned beans aren’t bad these days – they have got much better for some reason. But if you’re using dried, which still taste better, soak them overnight in water. They’ll double in size. You then just need to drain them and put them into a pan with fresh water to cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer them for around 40 minutes or until tender – sometimes I put a squashed tomato and a potato in the water with them, as it helps to soften the skins. When done, drain them, discarding the tomato and potato, and put them into a large bowl with 8 tablespoons of peppery olive oil, the red onion, anchovies and chillies. Season with salt and pepper and the lemon juice – for a bit of a twang.

Preheat your griddle pan until really hot. Season the tuna steaks with salt and pepper, sprinkle over the lemon zest and pat a little olive oil on both sides. Sear the steaks for a minute on each side. While the fish is searing, get your guests round the table. Throw the herbs into the dressed beans, mix up and divide between the plates. Take the tuna off the heat, tear it up and place on top of the warm beans. Nice with some cold white wine.

My super talented (beautiful, smart, and funny) foodie friend Cecilia is just as big a food lover as I am, so I was so excited when she blogged this article the other day.  She and I share the belief that good quality food is the way to go and she makes the point that, even when one is sick, it’s still possible to eat well.  I’ll go one further and say that when one is sick it’s not only possible, but necessary, to eat quality food!  When we’re sick we tend to go for the easy, perhaps not so nutritious options, but shouldn’t we be reaching for quality ingredients that will fortify our bodies to fight off whatever ails us?  Yes!  Read on for a wonderful go-to pasta dish made with all of the staples that one should keep in the pantry at all times (if you don’t, start, I know I do!).  Thanks, Cecilia.


If you peek in at There’s Dirt On My Food on Facebook, you’ll know that I bought 2 Thai Chilies yesterday.  I’ve experienced them in dishes enough to know their potency, but have never cooked with them…until tonight.  I was planning on chronicling the stir fry for you this evening (but, seriously, there isn’t much to write about stir fry, really), but as dinner prep. unfolded, the story morphed into that where a 3 year old asks to try spicy vegetables…and likes them.

On one hand I’ve been craving Stir Fry, lately.  On the other, I’ve been craving eggs, so I decided to “put my hands together” as Joey on “Friends” would say.  My reasoning for buying the chilies was, well, they were pretty.  It was with crossed fingers that I chopped up the pepper (One.  Singular.  I’m no fool!) and added it to the hot oil, because I was really hoping not to blow my face off.  I also found some super rad purple cauliflower that I couldn’t pass up.

My daughter is the queen of “no, thank you” when asked if she wants to try something, so she was supping on brown rice while I was finishing the stir fry.  She caught a glimpse of the purple cauliflower and  began to lurk.  She asked questions, which I answered.  I asked once again if she wanted to try it, “no, thank you”, so I sat down and began to eat.  It wasn’t long before she crawled up into the chair next to me inquiring as to what each vegetable was.  Then, because it was her own idea and not mine, she asked for a bite.  I was slightly dumbfounded, but had to find a way to oblige while quelling the spice (it was hot – flirting just enough with “too hot” to clear my sinuses, while still tasting damn good).  I mean, really?!  You want to try this of your own volition?!  Spicy vegetable stir fry?!  Because she’s 3 and I’m a mom, I quickly sucked the hot oil and sauce off of each bite before giving it to her.  She ate every bite and asked for seconds.  Yes.  Asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, bok choy, peanuts, and onions.  The only thing she didn’t like was the red bell pepper.  When she was done, I told her how proud I was that she tried something new all by herself, then she sucked down water like there was no tomorrow and I had no qualms about offering her an ice-cream frozen yogurt (I’m sneaky like that) cone to cool her tiny tongue.  Just another testament to the fact that if kids are involved and given a little credit, they’ll surprise you and eat the healthy stuff you want them to eat.

How pretty is that?!  Lovely.

I’m still in the process of unpacking and organizing (which is why my photographs are of the “i” variety right now).  Given the exhaustion coupled with disorganization coupled with sick kid coupled with energetic toddler, I decided on breakfast for dinner.  Regular old boring eggs and pancakes, though, were just not an option.  Yawn.  I’m tired enough.  On the other hand, I didn’t want to complicate it to the point of losing the beautiful simplicity that is breakfast; thus, Ricotta Pancakes topped with Fresh Strawberries and Cinnamon with a Simple Salt and Pepper Fried Egg topped with Dried Lavender and Herbs.

Add a couple of Tablespoons of ricotta and a dash of nutmeg to scratch pancake batter.  These two things add lovely silkiness and warmth. Top with fresh berries and a dash of cinnamon for freshness and punch, then drizzle maple syrup for that comforting familiarity.  For the egg:  Just fry in a hot pan with a sprinkling of coarse salt and pepper. Leave the yolk runny, but not raw, and top with just a pinch of dried lavender and dried, mixed green herbs like oregano, thyme, and basil.  This dish is a lovely combination of relaxed and sophisticated…like wearing an evening gown and slippers, or a bow tie and pajama pants, to dinner.

My thumb is admittedly black, but my fondest wish is to change that.  Now that I’m living in a climate where more than sagebrush will grow, I decided to plant something.  Now.  Before I lose my nerve.  Allow me to introduce Sammy the Basil plant.

I picked him up at the store today, quietly apologized to him for making him my guinea pig (I’ve fried and/or frozen many a basil plant in the fickle and harsh Nevada weather), and with a gulp, dug into the moist ground with my large, plastic serving spoon (my things aren’t set to arrive until tomorrow).  After a couple of scoops it broke, but I remembered my daughter found a shovel that the previous tenants left, so I happily utilized their lost belonging.  I tucked Sammy in as lovingly as possible and not 30 seconds after going back in the house, the skies opened up and poured for about 10 minutes, clearing into beautiful, watery sun.  A good omen or just weather?  I guess we’ll see!  You may reply to this message with your well wishes, or perhaps more appropriately, condolences, for my poor little guinea pig, Sammy.


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