Wednesday, August 25, 2010

month.

227.365





207.365
205.365
201.365
+ i'm getting married one month from today.
+ i made roasted broccoli with shrimp twice last week.
+ i also cried over wedding centerpieces. i'm ok now.
+ right now, there is tomato soup bubbling on the stove.
+ i also made meat loaf.
+ honey cafe's macaroni and cheese is amazing.
+ there are 12 ears of corn on my kitchen counter.
+ pancit is my favorite pot luck dish.
+ i also baked a cake.
+ i picked up my wedding dress from the seamstress today.
+ good night.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jam! Jam! Jam!



There are three snacks that I distinctively remember from my childhood that my sister would feed me. The first was a spoonful of peanut butter, which was just that. I remember licking it off the spoon like ice cream. The second was a bit more substantial and complicated: a slice of bread topped with an American cheese single and spread with leftover spaghetti sauce, then sprinkled generously with garlic powder and baked in the toaster oven. Classy, I know. We called it Crazy Bread.



And then there was Jilly Jam. Toast + butter + jam. Not only did I have Jilly Jam for breakfast, but it also became an afternoon snack, or right-before-bed snack, or just-because snack. I still get cravings for it. Just a few months back, all I wanted to eat after dinner was toast and jam, toast and jam. The cravings usually end abruptly, and don't return for another few months, or even years. But when Jenny made homemade jam a couple of weeks ago, the Jilly Jam returned in full force.



Jenny made this strawberry lemon jam herself, and filled cute little jars tied with ribbon and labeled J+M, for Jacqui and Murdo. We passed them out as party favors at my wedding shower, because Jenny is crafty and creative like that, and I'm just grateful for that.

The jam has a refreshing lemony tang to it, with chunks of strawberry that spread smoothly over toast. Fruit on bread. Who thinks of this stuff? Geniuses, that's who.



I wish I could tell you more about the jam, like how easy it is to make, except that I didn't make it. I just ate it, so all I can tell you is that it tastes good. But just look at that recipe. All you need are strawberries, sugar, lemons, and jars. Jenny found that a bunch of recipes called for pectin to help the jam keep longer, but she wasn't too into the hard-to-pronounce ingredients and chemistry behind pectin, so she went without. The jam only lasts for two weeks in the fridge, but when you're on a Jilly Jam kick, that's really not a big issue.



Jammin’ on the One (or Jenny’s Strawberry Lemon Jam)

4 lbs (64 oz or ~4 pints) strawberries
2 1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 large lemons, juice and zest

1. Clean, hull, and slice berries. Put a small plate in the freezer.
2. Place berries in a dutch oven. Toss with lemon juice, zest, and sugar.
3. Heat over medium heat until mixture boils and becomes frothy. Lower heat to medium low and let simmer for 30 minutes. Continue to simmer until a small amount of liquid gels when spooned onto the chilled plate.
4. Remove from heat. Let cool in pot for 5 minutes, then pour in a rectangular baking pan to cool. When at room temperature, ladle into jars.

Yields 7 jars. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A birthday and a cake.

Last year, I almost missed my blog's first birthday completely. This year, I've come prepared. With CAKE.



This is no ordinary cake, people. I can't really say it's my very first cake, since that would be failing to acknowledge the little berry cake that graced this blog's pages nearly a year ago, baked in a mini pie tin and dedicated to my blog twin. Since then, I made a very casual resolution to learn how to bake. There have been muffins, and more muffins, and not much else. But today, there is my second cake, for my blog's second birthday. Happy birthday, Happy Jack Eats!



With another year passed, it's impossible not to look back and reflect a bit, and I'm OK with that because we need it. I need it. To look at what I was doing a year from today, and two years from today, and everything in between and just allow the "wow" of it all to settle in. That first year was all about discovery -- finding my voice, meeting new people, opening my eyes to a world of new foods and the blogs that embrace them. The second year, there was growth.



I picked up a film camera for the first time and learned to look through a new lens, and with each new camera there came a new way of seeing things. Suddenly, it wasn't just about taking pictures of my food. There was the light, the shadows, the composition, the background, the people. And then there was more than just food. I often catch myself noticing little things, like the way the light hits the trees a certain way, or the reflection of the sky in a puddle, and stopping to appreciate it for just a moment. Like this.

their kitchen table.

I'm also learning to appreciate the art of baking. There is a quiet calmness to it that I've come to notice -- a relaxing beat that I can sometimes miss from the rush of cooking on the stove, when the mission is to get food on the table, and once the pan is hot you better get moving. There is nothing quite like the smell of baked goods in the oven, and pulling out a cake that looks and smells just like a cake should.



This is a blueberry-lemon bundt cake that I made with a bundt pan I got from my first wedding shower and baked for the guests at my second wedding shower. (Whew. Yes, we've been very busy lately because have you heard? I'm also getting married this year which means besides all the picture-taking and baking and growing, there has been a wedding to plan, which is a type of life-changing craziness all its own.) Anyway, about this cake already. I don't know about you, but I'm all about lemons in everything. This cake has a great lemony base, with bits of gooey blueberry throughout, kind of resembling a blueberry muffin but then that great, moist cake texture comes in and you realize that this is so not a muffin. It's cake, and it's good, and you should make it. Don't pretend like you haven't seen blueberries all over the place lately. They're just calling your name. I'll go right ahead and say it: If I can bake it, you can bake it.



I think the best part about birthdays, though, besides the cake and the looking back and the growth and all of that, is the looking forward. What will the next year bring? Well first, a husband. And then, naturally, cookies. (And maybe another camera. But don't tell the hubby.)

P.S. That will be the last time I use the word "hubby" in this space. Promise.



Blueberry-Lemon Bundt Cake (from Martha Stewart)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon for blueberries and zest
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups blueberries
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
Nonstick cooking spray, for pan
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk 2 1/2 cups flour with baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of sour cream.

In a bowl, toss blueberries and zest with remaining teaspoon flour; gently fold into batter. Coat a 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan with cooking spray. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake cake on bottom rack of oven until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes. Invert onto a rack; cool completely, top side up. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving, if desired.