Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I am a Food Swapper*

I am sitting here writing this blog post, and I can say with certainty, excitement, and a full stomach that I am now a Food Swapper. 

(Terrible iPhone pic)

During my daily blog stalk, I was pointed towards the From Scratch Club blog. Naturally, I scoured their website and checked out everything they had to offer, and boy did they have a lot!! 

The From Scratch Club is a group of women in the Capital Region, NY where I live. They focus a lot on homesteading and supporting local farms/businesses. They offer various technique classes like curing bacon, making dairy items, and fermenting. They have a book club. They have a blog. They even have a podcast.

What really intrigued me was their focus on the local community. Not to throw a pity party, but I moved to the area mainly for work and my boyfriend at the time (my husband now). I had a pretty great core group of friends that also congregated here after college, but other those and my coworkers/friends in the area, I didn't really know many people. When my Husband and I decided this is where we planned on settling down and finally bought a house last year, I really wanted to become a member of my new community.

When I learned about their Food Swaps, that are actually 3 miles from my house, I knew I had to just try it out. What did I really have to lose? 

I wanted to make something amazing. I chose to make a few batches of my Salted Caramel Bars and several jars of Apple Cider Syrup per Marisa's blog - Food in Jars

Pardon all of the terrible iPhone pictures. My real camera was dead, naturally, and I wanted to take pictures of everything before I dug in, which I promptly did.

I got to the swap and was greeted warmly by several of the swap helpers. Swelpers? I first met Chris at the check-in table, and she gave me a great intro. Then Deanna walked me over to a table and helped me set-up. Seriously, they were so nice.

I was a little nervous to participate in the swap. I read through various blog posts about strategy, best practices, do's and don'ts, etc. The truth is... you don't need to know anything to go to this swap. The coordinator of the swap was Chris and she is a great hostess.

After I set up my area, complete with samples (**A MUSTTTTTTT**), I walked around and checked out everyone's display and did a little tasting. I was so impressed with all of the time, effort, and care that others put into their swap display. Some people went all out!! 


This is Chris, the woman in charge of it all. She went over some general FSC housekeeping items, discussed upcoming classes, the current book club reading Handmade Pantry, and other items.

I didn't realize how much more this event was than just a Food Swap. We had plenty of time to mingle with other swappers, talk to the FSC contributors like Deanna and Chris as I mentioned, but the club also arranged for two guest speakers. How awesome!?

The first was a representative from the Schenectady Green Market, she gave us some great history on the market as well as its plans for the future. I have only been to the market once, but I really need to get their every Sunday. There is no excuse!! The second guest speaker was Marty Butts from Small Potatoes. They also had several FREE raffles going on, one of which I was a BIG WINNER. I won a 1 hour consultation with Marty. Marty and I hit it off right off the bat, because he is a lover of all things caramel. It was only fitting than I won the giveaway.

I won't go over all of the rules of the swap, as FSC's website goes over it very well. But, I will say, my salted caramels were quite the hit. So much so, that my swap card was totally completely full, and I even had people sign-up on the back of my card. 

Needless to say, I am very happy that everyone liked what I made. I can proudly say that I swapped all 10 bags of Salted Caramel Bars, all 4 jars of Apple Cider Syrup, and I also swapped the remaining samples of the caramels and the opened sampled jar of apple cider syrup. I totally forgot to keep an Apple Cider Syrup for myself. Wooops. I don't even think that my Husband got the chance to try it.  

Anyway, here is my loot! 

 (Orange and Lemon extracts!)

 (Quince Jelly)

I want to thank everyone so much for making my first swap so successful and enjoyable! You were all so great and had amazing products to offer. I particularly loved the two pretzels that I just devoured while writing this post. I wish I had all of your blogs to link to, but sadly I don't. Leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

ALSO ---- In your Salted Caramel Bar packages you should notice two different types of bars. I've made both kinds before.. one is a softer caramel bar and the other is a harder caramel bar. Which one do you like better???? I, personally, like the softer caramel. what did you think my little guinea pigs??

Overall, I am happy with my display. I would like to beef it up a little more, i.e. no Daisy sourcream container for spoons. 

Everyone should seriously do a food swap. Just do it. 


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cooking {First Try at Creme Brulee}

I looooooooooooove Creme Brulee. 

I mean seriously, I am obsessed with it. 

If it is on a menu, I will order it. 

I will also NOT share it. Don't even try. Ask my husband or girlfriends.

I will also savor every single last bite of it, taking upwards of 25 minutes to consume the entire thing. 

I will also not care one bit.

I will also consider ordering two. 

That may or may not have happened in the past. 

Whatever don't judge.

You guys know me, I'm intimidated by the stupidest stuff. The seemingly fancy stuff, even the stuff I have been eating my whole life, like Creme Brulee, intimidates me. Or maybe its not intimidation, but maybe by making it myself I am taking away some of the allure of the dish? I am taking away the mystery that makes the dish so special?

I don't know. Whatever it is, it doesn't matter anymore because I have semi-successfully made Creme Brulee. 

1) Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with a dish towel in the center. 

2) Get your creme brulee dishes ready, or your ramekins.

3) Get your vanilla beans prepped and ready. Slice them down the side and scrape out all of the vanilla beans. Also, taste a few while you are at it, they are amazing. 

(Please ignore my gold nail polish)

4) Make your custard, by heating heavy cream with the vanilla beans and pods. 

5) Make the egg mixture part of the custard by whisking the eggs with sugar. 

6) Strain the heavy cream mixture through a sieve and then mixed the egg and heavy cream mixtures together.

7) Boil water and pour the boiling water into your rimmed baking sheet. 

8) Pour the mixture into you creme brulee dishes or ramekins.

9) Bake for maybe 35 minutes? Can't recall. 

10) Top with sugar, and try to light this baby on fire. I did a double dose of sugar, caramelizing between layers. 

Then eat it. Savoring every bite. Lick the bowl clean, please. 



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Food Preserving {Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam}

I have been following Marisa's blog over at Food in Jars for a while now, and the funny thing is that I wasn't even a canner!!

Her pictures, recipes, and instructions are all fantastic. I knew canning was something I wanted to get into this year, in case our garden produced a ton of goodies, I surely wouldn't want to waste any. 

I actually took a canning class from her back in July in CT with my mother in law. It was a great class. We learned how to make a rhubarb chutney and it was fantastic. 

I also got a signed copy of her new book Food in Jars. 

The one crop of our that did very well in the garden was our tomatoes. We planed a variety called Gold Medal, which are extremely meaty yellow/fire red heirloom variety as well as a rockstar of a cherry tomato. 

Marisa's tomato jam recipe just sounded so good. I decided to go for it and make it.

After her class, her whole attitude and demeanor about canning put my mind at ease a little bit. I was so stressed about it because every recipe made me panic that I was going to kill someone. Seriously, take one of her classes if you can.

I followed her recipe pretty spot on, but my tomato variety was probably very different from hers. 

It was amazing. So far, I've had on both grilled cheese and brie. They were both phenomenal. Do it. You will not be sorry. The end product is a sweet and spicy autumn flavored jam. I can't praise it enough.