Friday, June 29, 2012

How To: Make Natural Raspberry Peach Fruit Leather


I don't know what it is about those fresh little pints of raspberries from Agriberry Farm at our local Farmer's Market, but they always get me in the mood to make fruit leather.
At the end of the season last year, we tried our hands at our first batch of natural homemade fruit leather using apples and these same raspberries. As soon as I saw the raspberries at the market again last weekend I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of the almost over-ripening peaches from our latest Farm Table delivery box. You guessed it — a new batch of raspberry peach fruit leather.

Heck, I even pulled out those cute animal shaped cookie cutters we picked up at Ikea back in March to play around with this go round:


Fruit leather is such an awesome way to use up and save any combination of fruit you have on hand that might be quickly approaching over-ripeness. All I did was pull up the post we did back in October to follow the basic fruit leather recipe, simply switching in a couple peaches for the apples this go round. I'll lay out the steps again here to keep things simple:


Homemade Natural Raspberry Peach Fruit Leather

You'll need:
  • Very ripe peaches, peeled and chunked
  • Very ripe raspberries
  • 1 lemon
  • Water, 1/2 cup for every 4 cups fruit
  • Pinches of allspice & nutmeg
  • Sugar, (optional)
  • Large baking sheet/s
  • Parchment paper
  • Wax paper & twine (optional)
  • Cookie Cutters and Scissors (optional)


Combine peaches and raspberries (or any prepared fruits you prefer) into medium saucepan; 4 cups of fruit makes roughly one baking sheet of fruit leather. Pour in 1/2 cup water for every 4 cups fruit you add to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to lowest setting and simmer for about 5 minutes or until fruit has softened considerably.

At this point, add lemon juice, spices and sugar to taste. If deciding to add sugar, go slowly with about a teaspoon at a time until you reach desired taste (the fruits may be sweet enough on their own). The juice from the lemon will not only add a hint of citrus taste to the leather, but will help bring out the brightness of the color. While we used pinches of allspice and nutmeg to season our leather, you can swap in any of your favorite spices to experiment with.


Once fruit has softened, mash by hand with a potato masher until fruit mixture thickens. Continue to simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes, then transfer mixture to blender or food processor and pulse until you get a smooth pureed consistency.


Pour fruit puree onto parchment paper lined baking sheet, then spread out smoothly and evenly to the edges of the parchment paper (the thickness will go down a great deal during the drying process so don't worry if you think your spread looks too thick going in).

 

Place baking sheets in oven on the top racks at your oven's lowest heat setting — ours goes down to 170 degrees in our new house on our gas stove. Now just let it sit and do it's thing. We checked about every hour for 5 hours, then removed from the oven and let cool on the parchment lined baking sheet overnight. 

You'll know your leather is ready when it's still a little tacky to the touch but smooth and not clumping back up on your fingers — it should be sticky but firm. It should peel up freely and easily from the edges of the parchment paper.


At this stage last go round, I simply left the leather on the parchment paper, rolled it up and sliced it into individual rolls — get instructions for doing this here. This time I wanted to play around with different shapes and packaging so I just peeled the entire sheet of leather right off the parchment paper to work with.

I pulled out different shaped cookie cutters to make shapes with and even cut other simple shapes like hearts directly from the leather sheet with kitchen scissors. 


I also cut snack size strips of the leather, rolling them up in wax paper and finishing with a bit of baker's twine for easy unrolling when time for a snack.


Once you've finished cutting shapes and rolling, your fruit leather is ready for eating or storing. We keep ours in an airtight container and store them in the fridge.

  
Here's a funny fact about fruit leather. So long as you're using fruits that aren't harmful to dogs, they can actually make great natural pet treats. We realized Basil would go nuts for a little taste of fruit leather the last time we made it. This time, he just followed me everywhere I went when trying to get good shots of the finished rolls for this post. Here he is below, resting his nose as close to the rolls as possible without touching them while I was trying to shoot:


Basil ended up getting the animal shaped cutouts since he's the biggest baby we have in this house! Speaking of the little ones, this is such a great activity to take on with children and have a tasty, healthy snack at the end to boot! Just think what a fun surprise it could be to slip one of those little animal shapes in with their lunch.

 
I hope we've helped show you how simple it can be to make homemade fruit leather — we're looking forward to trying out new variations on the recipe as new fruits come into season!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bean Plant Update & Canning Spicy Dilly Beans


Our little backyard urban garden continues to grow and we're now at the stage where we've been able to enjoy and preserve some of the fruits of our labor! Today, we want to talk about beans.


You may recall we planted some purple bush beans in a little container a few months back — well they grew quickly, producing some of the most beautiful purple beans we've seen. It was our first time trying to grow bush beans, so we were quite tickled that they did so well.

Here's a progress shot of them, don't mind the photo-bomb by the bean guard, he couldn't help himself with serious business like this:


First they sprouted beautiful purple flowers before producing the colorful beans — it was a lot of fun to watch them grow.


Once the purple beans reached full maturity we snapped all of them off from the main plant and brought them inside to get cooking with!


I knew exactly what I was going to do with these guys — I've been craving spicy dilly beans for a while now and actually had a few other bean varieties on hand from our Farm Table box deliveries and a recent trip to the farmer's market to mix them with.


This also gave us the perfect opportunity to use more of that dill we've been growing from seed too (our box herbs finally sprouted)!


I laid out the entire dilly bean canning process over on E.A.T. this week, but this is it in a nutshell:

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb green beans (or mix — purple, wax, etc will do just fine), blanched
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (find our tutorial for making this from scratch here)
  • 2 T Kosher salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 red chile pepper, sliced
  • Cloves of garlic
  • 6 T pickling spices
  • Sprigs of fresh dill

Process:
Trim and blanch beans. Combine water, vinegars, salt and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, boiling until salt and sugar have dissolved. Divide chile pepper slices, garlic cloves, fresh dill and pickling spices among jars, then pack in beans tightly. Pour hot brine over the beans, filling the jars and sealing tightly. Let cool, transfer to fridge and let them do their thing for 2-3 weeks while you wait patiently. Jars will keep 3-4 months in the fridge. Find the full play by play with more recipe details here.


If you haven't tried dilly beans, they are amazing — packing a big punch and some good crunch in a small bean. They are awesome to just eat straight from the jar, as a relish or one of my personal faves — in a spicy Bloody Mary.

What's interesting about purple beans is how they turn green once harvested and cooked. As for the bean plant — we've continued to water it each day and are already seeing new buds and beans!

Are you having success with your garden or any particular plant this season? Have you tried canning or have a great recipe we should know about for beans?

Discover More:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bok Choy Update

Today we're excited to share a little Bok Choy plant update alongside the 4th installment of our Sustainable Scraps mini-series over on The Rikrak Studio where we've documented each of the steps in the growing process thus far!


We were thrilled when Kristal from Rikrak contacted us to guest post on her popular blog with a sampling of the plant projects we've been undertaking. For those of you not familiar, we've been trying our hand at growing Bok Choy straight from the scraps, very similar to the way we've been re-growing our celery.

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + -

Boy Choy Update:
If I recall correctly, we left off with our first try at re-growing Bok Choy with something like this:


#FAIL

Determined to get it right, we tried again. We had too much success in the beginning and really wanted to be able to share the Bok Choy post on the RikRak series, so we chopped off the base on one of the Bok Choy plants we got in our Farm Table delivery box, placed it face up in a shallow bowl of water and let it do it's thing...

 

 Not long after, we had more success!


 Then it came time to plant. We did so a little sooner this go round and in a larger container.


So far so good! Find even more photos outlining the process with step by step directions over on RikRak Studio — and should you #FAIL like we have in the past, don't let it get you down, just try again!

Follow along with the full Rikrak Studio Sustainable Scraps mini-series here and keep up with our full Bok Choy plant progress, learning how to start growing your own right here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Storm Hits Richmond

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program to bring you new shots of storm damage from the Fan! You may recall the hurricane that came through while we were in our old house — well we had another violent storm hit during tornado warnings in our area yesterday and it was a little scary.

Here's a shot of the clouds rolling in quickly over the city:


Before I knew it, the storm was here and picking up traction fast. Here's a shot of the trees swishing in the wind as I went up to check and make sure the plants weren't getting knocked off the railings:


When all the power went out I decided to just shoot a little video from my phone of what was going on. Please excuse the darkness and Blair Witch-like walking effects — you can also hear Basil's little feet clicking around the house during the dark patches:


Right when I switched off the video, the wind really picked up and I hunkered down further into the home — that's when I heard that tree right out front crack, splitting down the middle (good thing it's a little tree).

Once everything calmed down, Tim came home and we got some shots of the backyard and split tree a little closer up.


One large tree branch cracked off our tree in the backyard, taking out one of the string lights with it...


There must be something about us and major storms since we found this poor little bird's nest knocked out of the tree in our front sidewalk:


Remember the same thing happened with this squirrel's nest in last September's storm?


Tim ended up making a sign for the tree right in front of our house — which hopefully gets the point across not to park under it with a little humor at the same time:


Everyone passing by stops to read it, laughing, then taking a good look at the tree. Tim called the city to let them know about the tree since it's technically on City property — they let us know it will taken care of anytime between now and July 3rd.

It was our first time hanging out in this house without power — we joked as it went further into the evening that this is probably closer to the way things were back when the house was built in 1912.

All in all, we are completely fine and any damage that happened right near our home is minimal and easily fixable — several areas near weren't quite as lucky. This is what happened just down the road from us. We were lucky not to have had worse damage and get our power back within 24 hours — but these things are a little jarring when they happen so quickly without warning!

Click the image below for some storm damage photos from around Richmond:



Anyone else experiencing any summer storms and hot as hot weather of late?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekend Basics

We've had a few back to back jam packed (say that 5 times fast) weekends over the past couple weeks and more to come soon, so we jumped at the chance to hunker down around the house over the weekend. We took time to just relax, and catch up on season 4 of Breaking Bad in prep for the upcoming premiere of season 5! Anyone else hooked on this show?

Weekend activities also included some gardening, cooking and a little bit of jewelry-making (on Mary's part):


In predictable fashion, we did make a quick Saturday morning trip over to the farmer's market and I simply couldn't leave without a dozen blue crabs — being in season, they were the perfect weekend snack. Look out for a picking tutorial and my standby crab cake recipe coming soon.


While at the market, I also snapped up these padron peppers and loved them so much, I wrote about cooking them over on E.A.T. today:


We also caught Basil in the act of putting on one of his cutest begging faces for a new fruit leather recipe Mary made this weekend — more on that later this week. While she was photographing them for the blog, he just rested his snout right on the table, getting as close as possible to the snacks without actually touching them — it was hilarious.



P.S. We also finally got around to watching The Music Never Stopped, a movie Mary and I have both been wanting to watch since seeing the trailer way back when. I'll be man enough to admit this one was a tearjerker — not the chick flick kind. A good one for any music fan of the 60's to say the least.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Our NYC Photo Album

It wouldn't be us if we didn't share a little photo roundup of our week in NYC, so sit back and (hopefully) enjoy our week in photos:


After a long drive up, we were happy to return to our home away from home in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn — Hotel Le Jolie. It's a great little hotel right in the neighborhood where I used to live, so it gives us a chance to stay in an area we are really familiar with.

I'm still really eager to try out airbnb — especially tempted at the idea of a place that allows pets, but this go round we went the hotel route we are most familiar with. Maybe we are way behind the curve with this one, but we were tickled to find full size shampoo, conditioner and body wash bottles essentially locked into handles on the shower wall — you just squeezed the bottle (no caps) and it dispensed as much product as you need, no little travel bottles!


On the dining front, we hit up 2 of our favorite Brooklyn haunts along with a couple new places. First up was (maybe our favorite space) Aurora. The food and atmosphere here are unbeatable — we like to sit at the bar and have dinner while chatting up our favorite bartender, Latzo. If you ever make it to Aurora we hope you'll say hello and tell him "Tim and Mary from Virginia" sent you.


Next up on our list of favorite little places was Le Barricou — an amazingly quaint french country bistro.


I don't know what it is about taking a photo of us in the mirror at each of the bars, but we're starting to get quite the collection:


We also met friends for drinks and tacos at Mesa Coyoacan — where this cucumber margarita happened.

 

And tried out The Bellwether:

 

There's always something new going on in the Brooklyn Etsy offices each trip I make — be it lighting in the bathroom, an amazing EATSY meal, a new grilled cheese at the Morris Grilled Cheese truck, or the new-to-me dogs playing about the space! I've always wondered how Basil might fair if I brought him into the office for a day — he'd probably love it.



  

While up this time, the first ever Etsy Dessert Contest was taking place. I couldn't believe my luck, given my voracious sweet tooth. Monday morning when I got to the office I had an email from Corinne, my coworker who was running the contest. It went something like this:

Corinne: Are you around on Thursday? Do you want to be a judge for the Etsy dessert contest?
Me: Did I just die and go to heaven???? YES!!!!
Corinne: Yay! Judge email to follow.

An Etsy Dessert Contest judge??? Yes. It happened.


There were over 20 entries and we got to sample each and every one, rating them on taste, presentation and creativity. You can imagine what a tough competition it was with all the creative minds in a place like Etsy. I literally had one of the biggest sugar highs and crashes I've ever had after judging this contest, but it was all worth it.

In the end, the winner for both presentation and creativity was this take on "french fries and ketchup" made from pound cake and raspberry syrup!


We also got to partake in a little whiskey tasting — Tim brought this amazing version made locally in Hudson that disappeared quickly. One tiny sip was more than enough for me!


You also already learned about the portrait we got while in town:


Leaving work one evening, I snapped the following shot of the ground getting painted in primary colors. You never know what you'll see in DUMBO:


After we got back home, I saw the following photo in one of my friend's Facebook feeds of the end result:
Image courtesy of Lisa Kraushaar

When we take the train into the city, it usually involves the L...

While I stay in Brooklyn throughout the day, Tim always ventures into Manhattan to his regular stops. The views are unbeatable:

It wouldn't be a trip to NYC for Tim if he didn't venture over to Chelsea Market and the Union Square Farmer's Market:


Or stop by the Grand Central Oyster Bar for a dozen oysters on the half shell at the bar:

 

On our way out on Friday we walked on over to The Meat Hook, one of our favorite spots, to pick up some handcrafted sausages that Tim would put in a cooler to bring safely back to RVA...which later made an appearance in this Father's Day spread.

 

The Meat Hook is such a fun space filled with little odds and ends in a huge pantry format — a culinary treasure trove of sorts.



We left with a variety of sausages, some new Weck canning jars, canning labels, a ice cube tray for those larger than life cocktail ice cubes and a few other odds and ends.

It was a wonderful week to say the least. I loved living in New York for the time I did and am happy living back in RVA now — but it's always a treat to get to go back up to the city together in short bursts.


Thanks for taking a stroll through the city with us — this is how we do it.

Where do you like to stay when in NYC? Have any favorite haunts? Have you ever tried airbnb — we'd love any tips for success or hear about amazing spaces you've stayed!