Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam | Kitchen in the Hills

If there’s one food item to look forward to in the summer, it’s the baskets of farm-fresh, ultra-ripe, extra sweet fruit at the farmers’ market. I’ve waiting for strawberries all season, and finally picked up a gorgeous basketful at the North Berkeley Farmers’ Market. I like using strawberries to fill and decorate cakes, or cooking them into pies of all kinds.

But there’s an even simpler preparation that yields great rewards. Jam.

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam | Kitchen in the Hills

This method works with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, stone fruits… Just about any summer fruit works here. But I like strawberries the best, for their fresh flavor and texture.

The simplest and easiest quick jams are just fruit and a little sugar, simmered together until done. You always can fancy-up your jams with all kinds of juices, spices, and flavorings. I chose to add lemon and thyme to my strawberry jam. (Strawberries + thyme are an unexpected flavor combo, but they’re total winners to me!)

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Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

Challah has long been one of my favorite breads. I first tried it after baking a loaf with a good friend several years ago. It was soft, springy, eggy, tender, and sweet.

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

This loaf is from Kamren Siddiqui’s Hand Made Baking. It’s a little less sweet, and a little more sturdy than your typical loaf of challah. It’s wonderful served plain with butter, but you can also toast it up and top it with an avocado or fried egg.

My current favorite topping is nutella. Can we talk about how freakin’ adorable these mini nutella cups are?

Also, can we talk about how delightful Kamren’s writing is? I read his book cover-to-cover for the recipe descriptions and stories alone. Kamren effortlessly links food to memories, stories and emotions. You can read some of his writing on his blog, Sophisticated Gourmet. He’s a skilled baker, but he also has a knack for compelling storytelling. Go check it out.

On to the challah!

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Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

I’m always looking for interesting ways to add whole grains to my diet, and for filling dishes that feature raw vegetables. I love make-ahead meals for their ease and simplicity. And light lunches I can eat straight out of my fridge are the absolute best. I’ve been cooking big batches of grains lately, adding them to different meals throughout the week. When I finally realized that I could make tabbouleh with quinoa, I knew it would make it into my regular lunch rotation.

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern herb salad, traditionally made with parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, and cooked bulgur wheat, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. This version goes a little lighter on the herbs, skips the mint, adds in cucumber, and replaces bulgur with quinoa. Perhaps inauthentic, but delicious nonetheless. It’s still a parsley-heavy grain salad, and makes for a light summertime meal.

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

It’s hard for me to say “no” to any meal that involves fresh, bright summer vegetables.

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How to Cook Quinoa

Cooking quinoa should be pretty simple, right? Well, it is.

Quinoa is simple to prepare if you know how. It’s cooked like most other whole grains, in a pot of lightly salted water, with a 1:2 ratio of grain to water.

But it took me a surprisingly long time to figure out how to make quinoa at home. The first few times, I skipped the rinsing step, thinking I was saving time. Turns out, quinoa is really bitter if it isn’t rinsed. You can also end up with bits of gravel or rock in your pot if you don’t rinse thoroughly. It’s also important to use just the right amount of water, and avoid under- or over-cooking.

After I figured those things out, I could make a pot of quinoa pretty easily, without even thinking about it.

This post is a how-to for those of you who maybe haven’t made quinoa at home yet, and would like to avoid the mistakes I made. Here’s a primer on how to cook quinoa the right way.

There will also be a recipe later this week featuring quinoa, so now is a good time to learn to cook it!

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Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies | Kitchen in the Hills

So. I promised you a blog post on Sunday, and here it is five days later. Not the greatest. I go through ups and downs with this blog, and while I love posting regularly, there are definitely more weeks than I like where it seems I’m just too busy or too stressed to make a post. This last week wasn’t bad, but I definitely didn’t put in the hours to make, photograph, write and edit a full recipe post.

This isn’t a full blog post, really. It’s more of an update, with recipe attached. A recipe that was too good not to share. I was reading smitten kitchen last week, and Deb mentioned a chocolate chip cookie that she made and liked. Specifically, this salted chocolate chunk cookie from Ashley Rodriguez’s Date Night In cookbook.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies | Kitchen in the Hills

The book, which features a bunch of simple, make-it-in-an-evening meals for two, had been on my cookbook wishlist for weeks. (You’ve got to check out Ashley’s website, Not Without Salt. Amazing.) I knew when I saw the cookie recipe that I had to make it. I made a batch for a dinner with friends.

These cookies far exceeded my expectations. They were better than good. There are a lot of good cookie recipes out there, but this one made for big, crispy-edged, soft-centered packages of goodness. Not too sweet, but not too salty, either. These cookies were the first salted chocolate chip cookies that I actually liked— not bland, not too heavily salted, and definitely chocolate-forward. These are probably my second favorite chocolate chip cookies of all time, with ATK’s cookies taking first place.

You should totally make these cookies this weekend. They are so good. 

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