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Pleasant Hill Grain Blog

Helping you achieve your culinary dreams.

A Sweet Breakfast for Your Dear Mother

There’s something magical about making jam at home with ingredients that you planted and harvested yourself. For me it brings back memories of my childhood. We didn’t have sweets readily available at the store yea-round. Thus, my mother preserved berries for the cold and snowy winter days. It was bliss to have the fresh berries in syrup over homemade crepes for breakfast! As a mother myself I use different and unique recipes every year for my children. There are always various sweet pleasures in a jar stored in my pantry, such as strawberry with chocolate mint, sour cherry jam, pears with vanilla beans and apricot with lavender among others. In the fall I even make jams from different varieties of pumpkin. 

Sweet and fragrant, a strawberry in syrup nourishes the soul as well as the body. It’s ideal for relaxed weekend mornings when the family wanders in for breakfast. Just serve over crispy waffles or fluffy pancakes with rich cream and your favorite cup of coffee.

– Yelena Strokin (recipe & photography)

 

Posted: April 27, 2018
Recipe by: Yelena Strokin
Source: Cooking Melangery
This recipe is different from your everyday strawberry jam. Here the crystallized strawberries have stayed whole, you can see their pretty shapes in the syrup, and you can bite into each one, sending shockwaves of strawberry flavor mixed with cardamom and aromatic rose water to your jubilating palate.
Active Time
1 hour
Total Time
5 hours
Serves
6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. fresh strawberries (preferably organic)
  • 3/4 lb. sugar
  • lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • 5-6 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 tsp. rose water

Directions:

  1. 1. Rinse the strawberries quickly under cold water. Dry with a kitchen towel, and cut off their stems. Do not cut strawberries into halves, leave them whole.
  2. 2. Put the strawberries together with the sugar and the lemon juice in a porcelain/glass deep bowl.
  3. 3. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper, and let macerate for about 3-4 hours or overnight.
  4. 4. The next day, put the strawberry mixture in a large saucepan (copper pan or stainless steel pan), and bring just to a simmer. Add the cardamom seeds. Simmer for about 3 minutes. Take off from the heat. Cover with parchment paper, and let rest for few hours.
  5. 5. Repeat this process 2 more times. At the end add the rose water and take the strawberries off the heat.
  6. 6. Pour the strawberries with syrup into sterilized jars until they are full, wipe carefully if there was any spillage and close the lids tightly.
  7. 7. Let cool to room temperature upside-down on the counter, then store in a cool and dark place for a few months.

Author's Notes:

Note: The jarring method (boiling the jars then closing them tightly and letting them cool upside down) is one that's been commonly practiced in Russia and France for generations and generations. I use this method all the time for my jams and preserves.

Images:

Strawberries in Syrup With Cardamom & Rose Water
Strawberries in Syrup With Cardamom & Rose Water
Strawberries in Syrup With Cardamom & Rose Water
Strawberries in Syrup With Cardamom & Rose Water
Strawberries in Syrup With Cardamom & Rose Water

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Yelena Strokin

Originally from Russia, Yelena traveled the world as a journalist, experiencing other cultures and capturing their essence through photography and cooking. Yelena's food blog "Cooking Melangery" is a medley of her favorites pastimes – cooking, photography and finding inspiration from nature and her life experiences.

Apple Bacon Poppers

These tasty apple bacon poppers are easy to make and fun to eat!

Apple Bacon Poppers
Posted: December 2, 2016
Recipe by: Granny Smith
Poppers are always a crowd pleaser. These little snacks are quick to make and fun to eat. Many people make jalapeno poppers, but some people don't like the spiciness of jalapenos. These apple poppers will be a hit at any gathering.
Active Time
15 minutes
Total Time
20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 apples
  • 24 slices of bacon
  • 24 slivers of cheese (I recommend cheddar)
  • Rosemary (for garnish) (optional)

Directions:

  1. 1. Rinse and core the apples, then slice into 8 slices each
  2. 2. Slice up 24 slices of your favorite cheese.
  3. 3. Wrap cheese and apple in bacon and secure with a toothpick.
  4. 4. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  5. 5. Bake at 400°F for 3 minutes.
  6. 6. Serve cool or hot with rosemary garnish

Author's Notes:

You can also use Prosciutto Ham or Serrano in place of bacon.

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Spring is Here!

This winter has been so long with a lot of snow and cold nasty winds. Sometimes snow turned into rain which froze and turned back into snow. I don’t mind winter and I love snow days when fluffs are falling that covers trees and the roofs of our houses. Snow days mean no school for kids and many cups of hot cocoa by the fireplace. But this winter was too cold and too unpleasant and I am tired of it. I need spring badly and I miss long walks in the park with my lovely daughter. Where are those yellow flowers you can see in April? Where are the green leaves?

Today was the first day of nice warm weather. I was walking around without my winter jacket and the birds were singing, welcoming the first sunshine. I had a lovely Smoothie Bowl with Beets, Avocado and Berries on my patio in the morning and I thought soon, very soon the earth will be waking up from a long sleep.

Posted: April 13, 2018
Recipe by: Yelena Strokin
Source: Cooking Melangery
If you love beets as much as I do that this recipe is definitely for you. It's a healthy Paleo + Vegan breakfast or snack, made with only a few ingredients. With strawberries, blackberries, banana, avocado, beets and chia seeds this smoothie bowl is just what you need to power up for the day.
Active Time
10 minutes
Total Time
10 minutes
Serves
2-3

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 c. strawberries + for the topping
  • 1 c. blackberries + for the topping
  • 1 small beet (cubed)
  • 1/2 avocado + for the topping
  • 1 c. non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, pine)
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds + for the topping
  • pine nuts (optional) for the topping

Directions:

  1. 1. Combine the banana, strawberries, blackberries, beets, avocado, and non-dairy milk in a blender (I used my Vitamix)
  2. 2. Puree until completely smooth - the mixture should be thick.
  3. 3. Add a touch more liquid if necessary to get a completely smooth texture.
  4. 4. Transfer to a bowl and add toppings as desired. Enjoy!

Author's Notes:

You can add whichever toppings your heart desires to customize to your tastes!

Images:

Smoothie Bowl with Beets, Avocado and Berries
Smoothie Bowl with Beets, Avocado and Berries
Smoothie Bowl with Beets, Avocado and Berries
Smoothie Bowl with Beets, Avocado and Berries

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Yelena Strokin

Originally from Russia, Yelena traveled the world as a journalist, experiencing other cultures and capturing their essence through photography and cooking. Yelena's food blog "Cooking Melangery" is a medley of her favorites pastimes – cooking, photography and finding inspiration from nature and her life experiences.

Interview with Yelena Strokin

Interview with Yelena Strokin featured image

We’re excited to introduce Yelena Strokin, the newest contributor to the Pleasant Hill Grain blog! Yelena’s food blog, Cooking Melangery, shows her unique perspective on the artistic quality of good food. You could spend hours immersed in her writing, jotting lists of recipes to prepare, and admiring her photography… we speak from experience.

Originally from Russia, Yelena traveled the world as a journalist, experiencing other cultures and capturing their essence through photography and cooking. Yelena explains that her blog, inspired from the word “mélange” is “a medley of my favorite pastimes – cooking, taking pictures and constantly looking for new inspiration from nature and my experiences.”

We asked Yelena a little about herself to help you get to know her. At the end of the interview you’ll find links to a few of her delicious recipes.

As a family run business, we’d love to hear about how your family relates to your cooking and adventures. Will you tell us a little bit about your family and background?

“Since I was a little girl I loved spending time in the kitchen. Our kitchen was the heart of our home. It was a very small place but somehow, we had enough space for everything and everyone. Drinking tea at the kitchen table with family and friends could take hours during long dark winter evenings but always brought meaningful conversations. Tea was served with homemade sweets, sandwiches and wine. My mother was a very good cook. She also loved to bake. On my blog, I have many Russian recipes from my childhood time. Also, we used to can a lot of food, it is something you had to do in Russia if you wanted to have a sweet winter. Summers were a good time to make jams and fruit preserves, time to gather mushrooms and dry them. Fermented cabbage came later in September, as well as apples and other fruits and vegetables.”

On her family and Cooking Melangery: 

I live in historic Bucks County, PA in a beautiful house, with my darling husband, two kids and, of course, the cat :). I  started my blog about 5 years ago, and I have cooked and photographed approximately 500 recipes since then.”

How did you learn to cook? Was it growing up? Self-taught? Or did you have any formal training in cooking? 

“When I graduated from high school I decided to go to Culinary Academy for four years. It was very natural for me, to learn how to cook and style the food on plates. When I moved to America I worked for a few years for different restaurants but I really got into cooking and recipes when I got my own family.”

Your Facebook page shows many family travel photos; what are some of the main things you look for in a travel destination?

My family loves to travel, we do it about 4-5 times per year. Every place has different culinary culture and we are trying to learn and experience new food on every trip. Also, my heart belongs to the art, I am fine art photographer as well as a food stylist.”

What about nature and travel is most inspiring to you? How does this combined inspiration captured in photography translate to your cooking?

“I truly enjoy works of the old masters, I can spend hours in museums observing, feeling, wondering. Like the great Flemish painters, I am fascinated with sunlight pouring into a room from a window and touching the objects and space inside. Telling stories about everyday life with a warm heart is what inspires me to create my art photography. I do it because I cannot live any other way. I like to think that I am creating a connection to the soul.

We are blessed with our neighbors because we have a community garden with berry bushes, fruit trees and vegetables. Fresh flowers are a must, no table should be set up without lilies or wild roses. I love to make flower arrangements, you can see many different styles in my photography.”


Do you see your cooking and photography projects growing or evolving in any particular direction?

In the future I would like to travel more with my workshops, meet and teach new people how to make delicious food. Cooking together unites people, it opens their hearts and brings out the best in everyone. “

We’re looking forward to all of the talent Yelena will share through our blog and we hope you’ll keep your eye out for her posts! In the meantime, check out her blog for a plethora of recipes… below are a few we think you’ll enjoy.

Walnut Bread with Cherries
Walnut Bread with Cherries, photo by Yelena Strokin

We hope Yelena’s recipes and photography will inspire you to savor life’s many beautiful moments in new ways!

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Almond Butter Balls with Dried Fruit

Whether you’re looking for a healthy fruit dessert or a tasty gluten-free snack, you’ve got to try these!

Almond Butter Balls with Dried Fruit
Posted: October 31, 2016
Recipe by: Granny Smith
Total Time
10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. peanut butter or almond butter
  • 2-1/2 tbsp. nonfat dried milk
  • 2 tbsp. dried fruit (we use dried cranberries, raisins, and dried sweet cherries)
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar or honey
  • 1/4 c. coconut
  • Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. 1. Combine peanut or almond butter, dried milk, dried fruit, agave or honey, and coconut in a bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  2. 2. Shape into balls.
  3. 3. Roll in sesame seeds.
  4. 4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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