Easy Peasy Summer Strawberry Jam!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!!

It is prime time for all of those luscious berries right now and what better way to enjoy them, besides eating them by the handful, than making jam! Strawberry preserves and jam is one of my favorite spreadable sweet treats. Perfect on oatmeal, toast, biscuits, pancakes, waffles… Ice cream! The possibilities are endless!

My recipe is quick, simple, and of course… easy. You’ll be seeing those words a bunch with my food blogs. Making a jam is a great way to make use of the berries that are super ripe and ready to eat right away. This recipe also works with other fruits such as peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries. If using peaches, I would quickly blanch them in boiling water for no more than 1 1/2 minutes to easily remove the skin before cutting. But let’s get to the Strawberries!!! ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“

Now, I tend to use way less sugar than most other recipes call for, and I also don’t use pectin because the method for this particular recipe is basically a reduction. It creates a nice, thick, and concentrated strawberry flavor. The use of lemon juice is up to you, but I also usually don’t add that either. It’s pretty much the strawberries, and sugar. That’s it! It thickens as it cools and is spreadable and insanely tasty. Here we go!

Easy Peasy Strawberry Jam ๐Ÿ“

2 pounds ripe strawberries, washed and hulled

1 1/4 cups of sugar

1/8th cup of lemon juice ( optional )

1. In a large bowl, add the strawberries and sugar, and proceed to mash the berries with a fork or wire whisk.

2. In a medium sized pot, add the mashed strawberries and cook on medium low heat and to help dissolve the sugar. Taste for sweetness and adjust by adding more sugar in small batches if you need to.

3. Once the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat to medium high and bring to a nice rolling boil, stirring constantly as not to burn the berries. At this point, you’re pretty much reducing down the sauce. The amount of time this takes will depend upon the pot you use and your stove. Usually about 20 to 25 minutes from the start of the rolling boil. Be sure to stay with it and stir it constantly.

4. You’ll be able to gauge if the jam is at the right consistency by the way it feels with a spoon as you’re stirring it. It’ll feel thick and of course you’ll be able to see how it looks on the spoon itself… Check out the video to see what I mean… ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ“

 

5. Cool completely and put into a jar or container, and refrigerate until ready to eat!

Since we typically eat the daylights outta this stuff in a matter of days, I just put the jam in a container and forgo the canning process. And I like that I can make more jam whenever I feel like it because this recipe is so simple and easy. As I said before, this Strawberry love fest of yumminess is great on just about anything! Peanut butter and Strawberry jam on toast makes a great little snack for the little meows! Even makes a beautiful base for a vinaigrette! Strawberry Balsamic, anyone?

That’s what I love about ingredients and how they’re like the gateway drugs to other recipe creations! ๐Ÿ˜One thing leads to another. Use the jam for smoothies, lemonade or iced tea… Jazz up your sparkling water or add to your mimosas! I can go on and on, but you get where I’m coming from… ๐Ÿ˜‰โœจ

Please let me know what tasty creations you come up with if you decide to give this recipe a whirl, dear reader! Thanks so much for stopping by! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Lip Smacking Grilled Tofu Satay with Spicy Honey Peanut Sauce!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Satay is one of my favorite Thai style dishes because I love the combination of the char grill and all those yummy meats and spices together! I also love tofu. I know that most meows have a love/hate relationship with it, but over the years I’ve really grown to appreciate it for its versatility and how it absorbs flavor like a sponge. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but I do enjoy many a meatless meal more often than not.

I promised myself when I started this blog, that I would incorporate some of the tofu dishes that have become a part of my repertoire to help inspire some new ideas for your next Mystic Meal and this recipe is a great place to start. This is definitely one that is a great crowd pleaser, perfect for a bbq, potluck, or picnic, and will make your vegan friends happy!

I almost always use firm or even super firm tofu because I prefer its texture and it holds up well for this kind of cooking application. It’s easier to work with than its softer counterparts and for me, has a meat like mouth feel that I enjoy. It’s hearty and surprisingly filling. And it’s another one of those awesome make ahead recipes that can be eaten hot or cold. Yay!

Spicy Peanut sauce is one of my go to sauces for so many recipes. There are countless dishes it lends itself to. This one uses lots of honey, Sriracha and soy sauce. You can also use either smooth or chunky peanut butter as well. It’s entirely up to you! Alrighty then, meows… Let’s get down to business! ๐Ÿ˜›

Grilled Tofu Satay with Spicy Honey Peanut Sauce

1 14 to 16oz. package of extra firm tofu, drained

3/4 cup of smooth or chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup of soy sauce

1/4 cup of honey

1 T. Sriracha

1/4. cup of water

Skewers for grilling

1. In a medium sized bowl, add the peanut butter, honey, soy, sriracha and water and mix together until well incorporated and smooth. Taste and adjust the flavors as needed. I actually added a bit more honey and sriracha to mine. I like my sweet heat! ๐Ÿ˜ Cover and set aside.

2. Take the tofu and cut it in half down the middle and cut each half into 4 long pieces. Skewer each piece, season with salt and pepper and lightly coat with some olive oil or pan spray.

3. Make sure your grill is nice and hot before adding the tofu so it doesn’t stick to the surface. You want to get some sexy grill marks on all sides if you can. I used my trusty cast iron grill. If you don’t have a grill to use, just sear the tofu in your favorite frying pan. They’ll still be just as delicious cause it is all about that sauce! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ It should take about 2 minutes per side, or about 8 to 10 minutes depending on how grilled you want the tofu to be.

3. Once the tofu is marked on all sides, place them in a shallow dish and spoon about 1/2 a cup of the peanut sauce over the skewers and let them marinate for about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped peanuts and some cilantro and enjoy!

I served mine with some jasmine rice and a fresh carrot and cilantro salad with sliced green onions. It was soooooo yummy! I got all fancy with my grill marks cause I’m a fancy pants chef and love to grill! But don’t you worry about all that unless you’re feeling wiley and want to be a show off like I was… ๐Ÿคฃ But seriously. Can we take a sec to admire my handy work? ๐Ÿคช

And there you have it, dear reader! Another tasty Mystic Meals recipe for you meows to make and enjoy for the summer! I really hope you give this one a try because it’s really easy to prepare and you can change it up by using bbq sauce, buffalo sauce, or any of your favorite marinades! Have fun with it! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki โœจ๐Ÿ’•

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The Perfect Classic Cheeseburger

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Now that the Summer season is rapidly approaching, it’s time to get our menus ready for all that outdoor picnicking and grill friendly cuisine! But what if I told you that in terms of burgers, that the best way to cook them isn’t on a grill? Would you think that I was cuckoo for cocoa puffs? Well, I am, but that’s beside the point. ๐ŸคชI’m a chef after all, and most chefs are slightly bonkers in the head to draw it mild! ๐Ÿ˜œ Most of the classic All American style burgers that I grew up eating from some of the best diners in the world (NYC, of course… ) were cooked on griddles, or flat tops, which is a solid sheet of metal heated by burners underneath them, and not on an actual grill. Don’t get me wrong… I love me the taste of a char grilled burger, however when cooking burgers at home, a well seasoned frying pan, or even better, a cast iron skillet is your best friend. The heat is evenly distributed and helps you get that delicious crust on both sides. But let’s start with the essential building blocks for the perfect classic cheeseburger.

The Meat

Let me start out by saying that when it comes to ground beef for burgers that fat is your friend. You don’t want to use meat like ground sirloin for burgers because it’s very lean with little fat content. You NEED the fat to give you that juicy, flavorful burger. Because the components of a burger are so simple and straightforward to begin with, it’s important that above all, you start with the highest quality of everything from the outset. For the best burger results you want a fat to meat ratio of 80/20. That’s 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat. If you can find it, 75/25 is even better. But let’s stick with 80/20 for now. 100% ground chuck is great, but if you have a local butcher in your area, or good butcher counter at your local supermarket,  see if they can grind up a chuck/brisket combo. It’s slightly more expensive per pound, but hot damn is it worth it!

Another important step in making burgers is the freshness of the meat itself. Don’t use frozen and thawed ground beef as it will be a lot tougher and a bit dryer. Save that for meatballs, meat sauces, chili or meatloaf  if you can ๐Ÿ˜‰ When shaping your burger patties, the less you man paw the meat, the better. Try to be quick about the actual shaping process. This will yield a softer, juicier, and tender burger. If weighing the patties, I’d stick with the traditional size of between 5oz to 8oz per patty. Also, when you’re shaping the patties, try not to pack the meat and make it too dense. This will also result in a tougher cooked burger. Again, the less you handle it, the better. Season well with salt and pepper on both sides before cooking.

The Cooking Method

Now it’s time to get our trusty cast iron skillet ready! Add a drizzle of your favorite cooking oil to your skillet and get it nice and hot. Once the oil starts to shimmer and move like little waves on a lake, carefully add your burger patties, and leave it alone until you’re ready to flip it. Don’t press it with the spatula, or move it around at all. This is how you create that flavorful crust on both sides. It’s the same as if you were making a steak. Depending on how you like your burgers cooked, for a true medium burger, cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side depending on the weight and thickness of the patties themselves. This searing of the burger patties will give you a light and juicy burger because the meat isn’t over worked or over cooked. You’ll have some rendered fat from the burgers in the skillet, so be sure to spoon most of that out so as not to steam cook the patties.

** Side Note~ Grilling. Most of us do associate a good burger with the grilling method but allow me to explain the difference.  A burger usually cooks faster than a steak, and what you’re looking for is the actual browning of the protein in the meat, which creates depth of flavor. This is called The Maillard Reaction. A steak can benefit from being cooked on a grill because of its high fat content and longer length of cooking time. The meat won’t become tough or dry out as a burger would, because a burger takes a shorter amount of time to cook, therefore it benefits more from an even surfaced cooking vessel, like the cast iron skillet to cook the burger quickly and evenly across the total surface of the burger** Meow ๐Ÿ˜ป

The Yummy Melty Cheese

So now it’s Queso ‘o clock for those boigahs! For the Classic All American Cheeseburger you definitely want to use American cheese. It’s melty, ooey gooey, and delicious! And don’t skimp on the amount of cheese you use! At least 2 slices for each burger so it melts all over it and adds to the awesomeness of every bite! A little trick to getting the cheese to melt is by adding a Tablespoon of water and covering the burgers for no longer than 10 seconds. This will help melt the cheese without altering the temperature or texture of the burger. It’s not a necessary step at all, but it does add a nice touch to the burgers themselves.

Buns, Buns, Buns! 

Okay… this is where it becomes a matter of preference because we all have different tastes when it comes to the style of bread for burgers. A sesame seed bun, brioche, potato, whole wheat? It’s entirely up to you. The one thing I will suggest is that no matter what type of bun you’re using is to toast the buns on both sides with a bit of butter. It just adds a richness and texture to the end result of your classic burger extravaganza!

To Sauce or Not to Sauce?

Again… pure preference here. I like my burgers pretty simple. Ketchup. That’s all I need. And that’s how I like it, so there! BBQ sauce is a close second, though… However, there’s a world of options as far as what kind of sauce to put on a burger. Most meows enjoy the ketchup, mustard, mayo combo, while other meows enjoy that secret sauce, or thousand island type of crazy sauce. All of these options add depth and flavor to the burgers without taking away from the flavor of the meat. They should enhance the flavor, not cover it. And that’s all I have to say about that… ๐Ÿ˜›

Sides, Sides, Everywhere There’s Sides!! 

Give me some lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and I am good to go! A happy meow indeed! French fries? Onion Rings? Sweet Potato Fries? Tater Tots? Cole Slaw? BACON???? Baby it is ALL GOOD!!

And now we’re ready to feast on these succulent burgers of love! I hope this helps you create the ultimate classic cheeseburger and perhaps see them and taste them a whole new way. By changing little things here and there, it makes something as simple as a burger become one hell of a mystic meal and transforms itself into another kitchen staple to be enjoyed all year round. Thanks for stopping by, dear reader! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Images courtesy of Google ๐Ÿ˜‰

Manilla Clams with Spicy Charred Tomatoes and Pancetta

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I really do love seafood. Heck. I just love food! And I love to eat… and cook, of course! ๐Ÿ˜› I especially enjoy clams. Not too big on eating them raw, I must admit, but I can get down on a bowl of some yummy linguine with clams, stuffed clams, clam chowder. I think you get my drift.

When I’m setting out to create these recipe blogs, I’m never really quite sure what I’m going to make until I take a look at what I have in terms of ingredients, and basically work around that. I haven’t had clams in a while, and it’s another one of those dishes that remind me of Summer on the East Coast.

So I set my devilish cooking plan into motion, bought some beautiful Manilla Clams and a bunch of Mother Earth’s bounty from the farmers market, including some freshly baked Ciabatta bread that I used in this recipe. I suppose this dish is a fusion of Italian and Spanish flavors, but also wanted to keep the ingredients fairly simple and easy to prepare. As with any recipe, you can adjust and play around with different ingredients.

One thing’s for sure. The end result is just delicious. The following recipe made enough for about 2 entree portions or enough for 4 people to share as an appetizer. Enjoy!

Manilla Clams with Spicy Charred Tomatoes and Pancetta

3 pounds of Manilla Clams, cleaned and washed

1 pint of ripe cherry or grape tomatoes

4 oz of small diced pancetta ( or 4 slices of bacon)

1/2 medium size yellow onion, sliced thin

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

1/4 cup of chopped parsley

1 cup of chicken stock, white wine, or water

1 small red chili pepper

1. In a non stick skillet, put the tomatoes in the pan with no oil over medium heat and begin to char the tomatoes, gently shaking the pan to get a nice hard sear on them. They should look like this :

2. Once the tomatoes are charred, reduce the heat a bit and add the diced pancetta or bacon. The pork fat will render out and will help to further cook the tomatoes. Cook until the bacon is nice and crispy. Leave the pork fat in the pan, as it will become part of the sauce itself.

3. Add in the onions, garlic, a few slices of the red chili and saute until the onions just start to wilt. At this point you can smoosh the tomatoes with a fork to start to create the pan sauce.

4. Add in the clams and deglaze the pan with the 1 cup of water, stock, or wine, and cover the pan to allow the clams to open and release their juices. Some of the clams might take a bit longer to open. Discard any dead clams ( you’ll be able to smell which ones) and make sure not to reduce the sauce too much. Add more liquid if you need to.

5. Once all of the clams are open, sprinkle in the parsley, and taste the sauce for salt, pepper, and heat from the chili’s. Add more sliced chili peppers if you like it spicy!

For the bread, I stuck with the stove top, melted some butter and pan toasted the bread slices. I made sure not to burn the bread, but also wanted a nice char on them. Over all I was going for layers of smokiness that lent itself well to this dish.

Put those clams in a bowl, pour the sauce all over them, drizzle with olive oil, slice the bread and add them in with the clams to soak up all the yumminess and go eat!! Mussels would also be fabulous with this sauce as well, but I enjoyed the chewiness of the clams.

I hope you give this one a try sometime. It’s a really nice mystic meal to make for yourself or share with family and friends. Until we eat again, dear reader… Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Spicy Sambal Lobster Salad

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

With Spring upon us and Summer approaching at a rapid pace, ( it’s already almost mid April! ), the abundance of the rainbow colors of fruits and vegetables in our local markets are quite inspiring. Everything just looks so… Fresh!

Even the fish and seafood are impeccably tempting and inviting. With the weather warming up I always find that my tastes change and my desire to cook and create different dishes kicks into high gear. And I start to crave those flavors that remind me of summer and the sea.

On a recent food shopping excursion I was captivated by some incredible looking lobster tails at a great price that I couldn’t resist. Along with some gorgeous brioche bread and herbs, my chefs brain immediately started going through the inventory of what I had both in the pantry and the fridge, and I knew exactly what I was going to make.

So here is the recipe for Spicy Sambal Lobster Salad, which can be put on your favorite bread or toast, lettuce, crackers, or raw veggie chips like jicama, fresh beets, or radishes. Even rice paper for a healthier version of a lobster roll without the bread! That’s what I love most about recipes… You can always change things to make them your own! Enjoy!

Spicy Sambal Lobster Salad

1 pound cooked lobster meat, diced into medium sized pieces

1 piece of green onion, thinly sliced

1/4 c. chives, chopped

1/2. cup of mayonnaise

2 Tbls. Sambal Oelek ( you can find this in the Asian section at the supermarket ) use more or less to taste. I like mine a bit spicy.

2 tsp. Sriracha or a dash of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and adjust the amount of Sambal, mayo, salt and pepper to suit your palate and set in the fridge for about 10 to 15 minutes for the flavors to marry together. Serve on top of your favorite toasted bread or lettuces. ๐Ÿฆž

I made this for lunch and I used brioche and toasted the bread in a skillet with some butter to brown the sides. I like the sweet butteriness of brioche with lobster. The added heat gave it a nice kick that I really enjoyed and I hope you will too! I was feeling extra fancy and made Garlic Parmesan Fries to go with it, cause… why not? ๐Ÿ˜› Until next time, dear reader… Happy Cooking!!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•

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