Baked Tilapia and Roasted Summer Veggies

I know, I know.  I have been on a jelly/jam making kick.  It is probably not going to end anytime soon, however.  The season is just getting started.

Some friends, though, are wanting more dinner ideas.  Since I still make dinner - even when I am canning stuff - I will post this one.  

It is very easy.  Dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less.  Not labor intensive.  Healthy.  Good enough for company.  My kiddos wanted more than I cooked (I consider that a success.)  

 How about that?

I got the idea from a recipe posted on Spend With Pennies and changed it a little to suit me and my family.  It is really good.  The veggies cook at the same time and are done right before the fish.  You could probably use whatever kind of summer veggies you want - these are just what I had on hand.

Here you go.

Cook on.

Baked Tilapia

6 (or as many as you need to cook) Tilapia fillets
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
3 Tablespoons softened butter
1/3 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 lemon - about 2 Tablespoons
1 Tablespoon fresh dill, minced

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a baking pan, place all of the fish.  Grind some salt and pepper on top.
Bake for 15 minutes.

While the fish (and veggies) are baking, mix the remaining ingredients.

After 15 minutes, remove fish from the oven.  Move the oven rack to a high position and turn on the broiler to high.

Spread the Parmesan cheese mixture on top of the fish.

Cook under the broiler for 4 minutes.

That's it.

Roasted Summer Veggies

1 bunch thin (the thick won't cook through in 15 minutes) asparagus (about 1 pound), trimmed
3 zucchini. sliced
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 Tablespoon olive oil (don't measure, just drizzle)
Salt and pepper OR 1 teaspoon Emeril's original seasoning

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Put all of the veggies in a baking pan.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning of choice.

Swirl the veggies around to get them all coated.

Bake at 350 degrees (with the fish) for 15 minutes.

That's it. 


Honeysuckle Jelly

It is summertime.  Here in New England, it is very green.  Very green.
A few hundred feet from my home.
  I love it.  It was a long, hard, winter and I welcome the green and heat and even the humidity.

This is an intersection near my house.  Can you find the stop sign?
Here in the rural area I live in, honeysuckle is growing wild everywhere.

It smells so good.

Do you remember picking the blossoms and gently and ever so slowly pulling out the pistil to get that tiny little drop of nectar.  It was so sweet.

This is what prompted my desire to make honeysuckle jelly.

This jelly tastes a little like herbal tea to me, sweetened with honey.  The color of the infusion was a little concerning.  It was green.  Not a little green - super green. 
 Not attractive for jelly.  When I added the lemon, though, it turned a beautiful golden color.  So pretty.  Bees know what they are doing with this nectar.


Honeysuckle Jelly

4 cups of honeysuckle flowers (loosely packed)
4 cups of boiling water
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
8 cups sugar
2 packages of low sugar pectin (6 Tablespoons)

Place the blossoms in a large pot.  Try to make sure you don't have any leaves (they are bitter.)
Pour 4 cups of boiling water over the blossoms.  Give this a quick stir to make sure all the flowers are in the water.  Let steep for 2-3 hours (or more.)

Line a fine sieve with cheesecloth or coffee filters (that is what I use.)  Drain flowers through the sieve for 2-3 hours or overnight.

You should have about 1 quart of honeysuckle "tea".
Don't worry about the color.
It will be fine.

At this point I put the "tea" in the fridge until I am ready to make the jelly - usually within 2 days.

Prepare your jars, lids and boiling water bath.  This recipe made 9 1/2 half pint jars.

It a large pot, combine the honeysuckle "tea", the lemon juice and the pectin.
Heat until rolling boil.

Add all of the sugar all at once.
Bring back to a rolling boil and boil for 1 minute.
Remove from heat.

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars.  Wipe the jar rims.  Place the lids and rings.
Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Remove from the bath to a towel draped counter and listen for the *pings*.

Bask in the glory of a job well done and listen to the accolades of all of your family and friends for creating such a unique jelly.


Granola Bars

As I have mentioned before, my oldest kiddo has a life threatening allergy to peanuts.  Have you ever found a granola bar in a store that doesn't have peanut traces?  I haven't.  If you have, I would love to know about it.  This means that he has never had a store-bought granola bar in his 20+ years - not that he is really missing much.  Now I am cooking for a group of sweet 18 month - 3 year olds.  One of them has a severe egg allergy.  

So, I dug out my old granola bar recipe.  I forgot how much I love these.  They are so good!  


You might never buy another pre-made bar again.

The fun part is that you can put anything you want in them.  These have M&M's in them - something that I never used before because, you know, peanut allergy.  But oldest kiddo is not living in CT anymore.  He is in sunny CA. (to read about what he is doing see this post http://ahawker.blogspot.com/2012/06/california-san-fernando-mission.html)

You could also make these gluten-free if you so desire.  Yep, it's a winner.

These granola bars are not hard, but they are chewy.  I used sunflower seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, and almonds in this batch.  Other things I have used are pumpkin seeds, chopped pecans, any dried fruit, coconut, chocolate chips.  All are so good.  My recipe is adapted from Ree Drummond.

Give it a try!

Oh, yeah.  This recipe makes a bunch.

Granola Bars

6 cups Rolled Oats (not Quick Oats)
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil OR Canola Oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 cups honey
1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)
1/4 cup molasses
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (get the good stuff - I like Mexican vanilla)
1 cup oat bran or germ
1 cup wheat germ (if you have issues with wheat, just use more oat or get rice)
1 - 1 1/2 cups of any kind of nuts or seeds you want (I used almond slivers and sunflower seeds in the pictures.)
1 - 1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used raisins and dried cranberries in the pictures)
1 bag of M&M's or 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a half-sheet pan with foil.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with the oil, butter and salt.

Spread the mixture on the baking sheet ant toast in the even for 20 minutes.

Remove the oats from the oven and let them cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and molasses.  Heat the mixture until it begins to boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Toss the toasted oats, bran and/or germ, nuts/seeds, and dried fruit together in a large mixing bowl. (I just use the same one that I used for the oats.)

Pour in the sugar mixture, stirring as you pour, until it is combined.  Add the chocolate - if you are using it - and mix it up.  It's going to be sticky.

Butter or spray the foil in the same foil-lined pan that you toasted the oats with.

Press the oat mixture into the pan.  I usually put a piece of parchment paper on top to press it down.  Trust me - you want to do this.

Bake the huge granola bar in the 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

When it is cool, lift out the humongous bar by the foil.  

Place on a cutting board and cut into smaller pieces with a sharp knife.


Whole Wheat Bread

I don't often do whole wheat bread.  I am picky.  I like a moist bread with a good whole wheat nutty flavor and with a soft crumb that slices well.  That takes a little time - not really more work, just more time.  There are a few tricks to getting the bread just the way I like it without turning it into a whole wheat brick.  It takes science.

I love science.

I am going to be teaching my 13 year old daughter the science of cooking for her science (home school) class next year.Here is some of what I will be doing.  Tell me what you think.

Making bread is basic.  Every culture on earth has some kind of bread.  In the USA, most people buy their bread.  You can get squishy bread, heavy bread, almost any kind you want.  We are going to concentrate on yeast breads.  Artisan breads use very little yeast, but they taste so good.  These breads are usually fermented with the little bit of yeast, the process taking a couple of days.  Not hard, but I usually make a "quick" yeast bread.  This type of bread uses more yeast, shortening the time.

Yeast is one of the common factors.  It works by converting sugars to ethyl alcohol and releasing carbon dioxide gas (the byproduct).  It is the carbon dioxide which makes the bread rise.

During this fermentation process, the gluten in the wheat relaxes and becomes more supple and elastic.  While this is happening, the carbon dioxide from the yeast is blowing air into the elastic dough like a balloon.  That is where you get the tiny "bubbles" in bread.  Each time the bread dough rises, you get a different elasticity and bubbles.  Even if you punch down the dough, effectively popping those bubbles, the yeast will continue to work and make more.  This happens even in the oven until the heat of the oven kills the yeast (yep, it's alive) - this last rise in the oven is called the "spring".

The lighter the flour (meaning how much of the actual grain bran was removed) the easier it is for the yeast to inflate the dough.  With whole wheat dough, there are some tricks to help this process along.

One of the tricks is to use a little bit of white flour.  I know, it is not 100% whole wheat, but it is still good.  Another trick is to soak the whole wheat flour in the milk for at least 8 hours.  This is what the artisan bread makers do.  We aren't going to do that this time.

One trick I do is to turn the dough during it's first rising.  This removes large gas bubbles and helps the yeast to ferment the dough more evenly.  I also make a shallow slash in the top of the dough right before sticking it in the oven.  Have you noticed the "slits" cut in most artisan breads?  This makes it easier for the dough to spring in the oven.

We also cover the dough while it is rising.  The reason we do this is to not let the surface of the dough make a crust in the air.  If it makes a crust, the job of the yeast is thwarted.  It can't rise to it's full potential.

Whole Wheat Bread

1 Tablespoon dry yeast (1 package)
1 can evaporated milk plus enough water to make 2 cups
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup molasses OR honey OR brown sugar
1/2 cup oil plus more for oiling the bowl
1 cup oatmeal
2 cups white flour
5 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) salt
1 Tablespoon butter, melted (optional)

Combine the milk, water, and molasses in a large mixing bowl.  Add the yeast a stir just to barely combine.  Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes.  You should see a bubbly concoction in your bowl.  This means that your yeast is alive and hard at work.  If it isn't bubbly, start over.

Add the remaining ingredients, except butter, to the yeast mixture.  Using a dough hook, knead until the dough forms a ball and leaves the sides of the bowl.

If you are kneading by hand, add the oil, oatmeal, salt and half of the flours.  Mix.
Turn out your dough onto a floured surface.  Add the flours, kneading the whole time, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Put the dough into an oiled large bowl.  Flip the dough so there is oil on both sides of the dough.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes.  It should double in size.

Remove the plastic wrap and punch down the dough.  With a rubber spatula, fold the dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward the middle.  Turn the bowl and do it again.  You are going to do this 8 times.

Cover the dough with the plastic and let it rise again for about 30 minutes.

Grease 2 loaf pans.  Punch down the dough and divide it in half.
Press half of the dough into a rectangle and roll it into a loaf.  Put it in the pan.

Cover the loaf pans with plastic wrap and let them rise again.  You want them to rise about 1 inch over the edge of you pan, about 20 minutes.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

When your dough has risen, make a shallow slit in the top (this is totally optional, it will be wonderful without it.)

Brush the slit with a bit of the melted butter.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when gently tapped (the loaves should register 200 degrees if you want to take its internal temperature.)  Brush the tops of your loaves with the remaining butter.

Remove loaves form the pans and let cool to room temperature.
This will keep (wrapped) for about 3 days.  If you won't finish 2 loaves of bread in 3 days - not a problem in my house - wrap one of the loaves in plastic and foil and freeze it.




Strawberry Lemonade Jam

We have been loving the Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate that I made.  Because we have been going through it, I decided to make another batch.  I pureed the rest of my strawberries, which came to 4 cups.  Fine.  I could deal with that, even though the recipe says 6 cups.  I could adjust.  Easy peasy.  Then, I juice the rest of my lemons.  I only had 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice.  Oops.

It was after the stores had closed, too.

Double oops.

Not wanting anything to go to waste, I decided to try to make the fruit into jam.


It is so good!  The color stayed more true to the strawberry color, probably due to the large amount of lemon.  It is sweet and tart.  Lovely.  My 18 year old daughter says that it is her new favorite.  High praise, indeed.

All of my kiddos have been eating it all week.  They LOVE it in plain yogurt.

Here is what I did.

You're welcome.

Strawberry Lemonade Jam
makes about 7 half pints

1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups pureed strawberries (a little less that 4 pounds)
pat of butter (optional)
4 cups sugar
1 package (3 Tablespoons) low-sugar pectin

Prepare your canner, jars and lids.

In a large saucepan, combine the lemon juice, strawberry puree, butter and pectin.

Heat the fruit until it comes to a hard boil.

Add all of the sugar, all at once.

Stir until it comes to a hard boil, again.

Boil for 1 minute.

Remove jam from the heat.

Skim off the foam and let your kiddos taste it.  

Ladle the hot jam into your prepared, hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe the rim.
Center the lids on jars and screw the band down until fingertip tight.

Place jars in your canner, making sure they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.

Remove from boiling water bath to a towel covered counter.  Cool and wait for the pings of your jars sealing.  Store sealed jars in your pantry.  If any jars don't seal, store them in your refrigerator.

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

Finally it is June.  I planted my garden with the help of PapaH and the kiddos.  It has rained to water the garden.

And rained.

And rained.


I am thankful for the rain.  It makes everything so green and beautiful.  I would like to be thankful for the sunshine, too.  Soon.

Lemonade makes me think of sunny summer days.  Strawberry lemonade is a step beyond.  I am smiling just thinking of it.  Strawberries are also in season right now.  Go ahead, get a bunch.  This concentrate is so easy to do.  I got the recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  If you don't have it yet, go get it.

The recipe says to reconstitute one part concentrate with one part water.  This is a little too strong for me and my family (even the kiddo who likes things strong enough to dance on.)  I reconstitute it with 3 parts water and ice to one part concentrate.  Perfect.

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

6 cups of hulled strawberries
4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cups sugar

Prepare your canner, jars and lids.  This made 6 pints plus more to make a big pitcher of lemonade right away because who wants to wait.

Juice lemons and add to a large stainless steel saucepan.

In a blender or a food processor, puree strawberries until smooth.  Add to the lemon juice in the saucepan.

Add the sugar and stir it up.

Heat the mixture to 190 degrees, stirring occasionally.  This will be right before it starts to boil (you don't want it to boil.)

Ladle the hot concentrate into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe the rim and place hot lids and bands on the jars.  Tighten.

Place your jars in your canner, making sure they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.  Remove  jars, cool and store.