Thursday, December 6, 2012

{Swapper Spotlight} - Abi Douglass

I can't quite remember exactly how Abi and became friends. We used to work together.  We sat two cubicles away from each other, but never really spoke.  I'd bring in baked goods.  She'd bring in baked goods.  Her's were always more adventurous than mine (Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, anyone?).  Then one day we started emailing each other about food; restaurants, recipes, blogs to check out, Pinterest...and we've been friends ever since!

Abi has been supporting me in this new swap hobby from Day 1.  She hasn't missed a swap yet.  But more than just showing up to swap, she REALLY SHOWS UP, as in totally blows us all away with the quality of her items.  I overheard someone say to her at our Saturday December 1st swap, "Oh you always have the best stuff!"

Now keep in mind, Abi is pregnant.

Like due-any-day-now pregnant.

And she shows up with 9 different items!

Hot buttered yum chex mix
Romesco sauce
Turkey Stock
Peppermint Oreo Truffles
Earl Grey Macarons with Biscoff
Pumpkin Pie Spice Lara Bars
Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake Pops
Bacon Caramel Whiskey Bark
Apple Cider Caramel Cookies

Maybe she's just nesting. Or maybe she's just.that.awesome.  And that's why she's our featured swapper!

Abi with her sweet daughter Raegan

What's your food swap resume like? 
I attended the first swap at The Sweet Life Bakery—and I haven’t missed one since. It felt like Christmas—we had only a few swappers, so almost everything was swapped one-for-one with everyone else, which made it feel exciting and like we really “made out well”. It was very eye-opening for the following swaps, since you got the idea that we bakers and cooks certainly like to “show off” our skills and bring things that increase in complexity and creativity. It’s led to a Pinterest board specifically for me to keep tabs on ideas I have for future swaps.

How did you hear about us? 
I am friends with Lauren Vitagliano, who started the whole South Jersey Swapping movement. I was interested from the beginning, and have really enjoyed supporting her endeavors to bring food swapping to our area.

Do you have any swapping specialties we can look forward to?
I made salted caramel for the first swap, and it has become a staple in our household. It’s easy and something that I like to think people enjoying getting from me. I also have made macarons a few times, and really enjoy the challenge and guesswork of bringing them, since they can be so finicky. I have not really made the same thing twice for any swap, so it’s usually a new experience each time.

Salted Caramel and Macarons

Why do you love food swapping? 
I think swapping is a fun way to build your culinary skill set, make new friends based on the common ground of a love for food, and a chance to try new things. Often, we come home with an exchange of something that we either haven’t had before or made on our own. I’m personally intimidated by canning, and if someone (like Lauren!) brings canned items to a swap, I do my best to make sure I get some!

Lara Bars, Spice Rubs, Produce Spray, Marshmallows

Do you have any advice for first-time swappers?
So many times, we invite people (anyone!) to come to a swap, and they say: “oh I don’t know how to make something to swap”. That’s not true! There are so many things we make and don’t think are “swapper material”. One of my favorite things I’ve gotten was a frozen roll of sugar cookie dough that came with a cardamom-espresso “crust” to add before baking the cookies. Not too difficult, but oh, so tasty! Don’t sell yourself short and miss out on the swapping fun because you don’t think you make anything “fancy”. I brought a type of Chex® mix to the last one, for heaven’s sake. There are so many things you can make that require very little culinary talent; just a Google or Pinterest search can lead you to homemade vanilla (2 ingredients!!) and other simple-to-make DIY, swap-worthy masterpieces. Come join us!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Philly Food Swap

Earlier this month, Abi and I ventured into Philly to participate in the Philly Swappers October Food Swap.  Tickets sold out and it was only 2 days before that I was confirmed off the wait list.  I'm not sure exactly how many swappers were there, but I'm going to guess about 35? The venue was the incredible Greensgrow Farm - an urban farm in Kensington.  I recommend everyone check them out!


We were really excited as the Philly Swappers are very well represented and have a lot of unique people who wait patiently for their events.  Abi and I looked over the Eventbrite preview list of what everyone was making.  I asked her what she was going to bring and she replies, "Er, humble pie?"  The Philly Swappers are that good.  There were things there that I had never seen before, and I finally got to try Kombucha, a sweet yet tart fermented drink with tons of health benefits.

We ended up bringing canned tomatoes, fresh pizza dough, concentrated vegetable stock, produce spray, granola, and spice rubs.  The hosts, Marisa from Food in Jars and Amanda from @forkspoonknife, made a few announcements of how the night would go and reminded everyone to be nice.  And another important reminder, you can say no to a swap - something I need to get better at.


Sample time was insane.  There were so many great items.  Something to remember for next time...I need to write down who, what and where something is that I REALLY want.  Because come swap time, I didn't know anyone and it was kinda hard to navigate the masses in search of name tags.  Also, during the course of sampling I should have periodically looked back at my swap sheets just to get an idea of who I may be looking for come swap time.  I'm so used to only having 12 or so swappers, so coming to an event this big you definitely need a game plan.

Abi and I both did really well.  I went home with: Fig & Blackberry Jam, Caramel Apple Bread, Apple Cider Bread, Fall Sugar Cookies, Skeeter Pee (adult lemonade), Bacon Jam, Granola, Tomato Jam, Caramelized Spiced Pear Butter, Irish Soda Cake, Apple Jie Jam, Pumpkin Gnocchi, Caramel Spread, Cream of Zucchini Soup and more!  Abi went home with a ton of goodies too.

It was nice being a real swapper, as in not being a host and worrying about everyone else.  I learned so much, met some great people and look forward to future swaps with the Philly folks soon!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

{Swapper Spotlight} - Stefanie Modri

I'm starting a new regular post called Swapper Spotlight.  After each swap I'll choose someone to feature so we can all learn a little more about each other.  Our first Swapper Spotlight is with Stefanie Hawk Modri.  Stefanie came to her first swap with a variety of goodies and even brought three other swappers with her!

Stefanie and her husband Ryan with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms

You just attended your first swap. What’d you think?
I loved it! It felt like a Pinterest Party, which I just made up. Seriously, it's everything you can learn to do or make from Pinterest. There are lots of good things about the swap--there is no money exchanged, it feels like everything you come home with is bonus, you are surrounded by others who appreciate handmade and homemade items and there was no limit on what I could show up with to the swap. Well, maybe not my old bike. Overall, it was very stress-free and fun--both the prep and being there.

Stefanie's take-home loot

How did you hear about us? I read about it in one of my favorite magazines, Edible Jersey.

Do you have any swapping specialties we can look forward to?
I can make yogurt from soy milk or cow's milk so I'm thinking about making some next time in beautiful large Ball jars. I may make the soaps with loofah again, too. I can also make homemade German noodles called spaetzle. I can come with several bags of frozen spaetzle but swappers would need to come with a cooler because you don't want them to thaw before you are really ready to cook them.

Why do you love swapping?
Well, I started swapping last summer when I grew 100 lbs of butternut squash by accident. Really. I ended up trading them for eggs, peaches, vegetables and even some house cleaning services. It was one of the most fun things I had ever done and it made my summer really fun, too. I felt like the squash was my "cash crop" and I could trade it like cash. Plus, it seemed like everyone showed up with their best to offer at the swap and I liked that.

Stefanie's garden

Do you have any advice for first-time swappers?
I would recommend making something that can last in the fridge for at least 1-2 weeks or can go in the freezer. While I came home with delicious cookies and breads, I like to spread my enjoyment of my loot over a week or more. The maple pecan butter, roasted red pepper and eggplant dip and the strawberry applesauce felt very special. Bring something that is unique and made with love.

Friday, October 5, 2012

{Recipe Rewind} September: Kacie's Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip

Kacie and I met in 2002 at college in Anchorage, Alaska.  Almost immediately, we became friends - there weren't too many other (cool) girls in the aviation program :)  I spent a lot of time with Kacie and her family while I was in Alaska, and I'm so glad we kept in touch over the years.  Now living in Las Vegas, Kacie came to visit NJ and I timed it so she could experience a food swap.  

Thanks, Kacie for sharing this recipe with us - it was a bit hit!  We enjoyed your other treats at the swap too (hmmm, maple pecan butter).  It's so simple to make, just a bit to prepare the veggies.  And I was really surprised the red pepper skins didn't have to be removed.  

Kate and Kelli enjoying the dip


1 medium Italian eggplant, or 2 medium Chinese eggplants, skin peeled off with a vegetable peeler 
2 red bell peppers, washed well, and seeded
1 red onion
2-4 cloves minced garlic 
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp tomato paste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Chopping the eggplant, red pepper, and red onion into roughly 1-inch sized pieces.  Put them in a large bowl, and toss with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread them out in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet, then roast them for 45 minutes, tossing the vegetables once during roasting.  

Cool the vegetables slightly, then dump in a food processor.  Pulse the vegetables a few times to break them up, then add the tomato paste and pulse until well-blended and mostly smooth.  Serve at room temperature with chips or bread, or store refrigerated for a few days.   

Recipe from The Cilantropist (adapted from Ina Garten) 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

{Swap Sketch} - September 2012

This was our 4th swap.  Twelve swappers gathered on a Friday night at the Bellview Winery.  The winery has been such a perfect place to swap with their smaller-sized tables, wine tastings and a nice outdoor area for kids to explore.

This was also the first swap in which we incorporated crafts.  Although the food swapables were still the main focus, we had some neat crafty items such as wine bottle tiki torches, crocheted apple cozies, homemade modge podge, hair jewels, homemade soap and strands of paper cranes.

The food items included:
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Sweet Bread
  • Lara Bars (Coconut Cream and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip)
  • Maple Pecan Butter
  • Irish Soda Bread
  • Homemade Breads: Banana Chocolate Chip, Pear, and Blueberry Zucchini 
  • Dried Hydrangea
  • Candied Pecans and Almonds
  • Spinach and Basil Pesto
  • Homegrown produce
  • Farm-fresh eggs
  • Pollinator Garden Plants
  • Oil-free salad dressing
  • Flax Snax
  • Granola
And a really neat idea from April, a first-time swapper, who featured the "Seasons of Swapping".  April brought Low Sugar Strawberry Applesauce (Summer), Homemade Play Dough (Spring), Pumpkin Bread (Fall) and Peppermint Bark (my fav! Winter).

April's "Seasons of Swapping"

We even had mini swappers and a 4-legged visitor!

Please Read:

I know we had a lot of new swappers this past time.  And maybe it's my fault for not doing a better job of explaining how the swap works, BUT I need everyone to abide by the 1-for-1 rule.  This saves everyone a lot of hassle and awkward moments.  Remember this - if you write your name down for an item, it means you are comfortable taking that one item (given it's size and portion) for your one item.  There shouldn't be any signing up for and then negotiating later.  Thank you :)

The next event will be spaced out a little more.  I have a feeling our events were too frequent for some to attend every one.  I'm looking at the first weekend in December.  There's a poll on Facebook to vote for the day/time. Head over there and let me know what works best for you!

{Recipe Rewind} August: Kate's Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Better late than never, right! Here's Kate's recipe for her Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding.  BUT, according her she totally winged it - no recipe used!  Now we're really impressed.  But she provided me with one that looks similar. 

If you're wondering what chia seeds are, here's the scoop.  They are tiny bean-shaped seeds, black and white in color.  When they absorb liquids they become very gelatinous and take on the flavor of whatever they're in.  The health benefits are why these little gems are getting so much attention lately.  They are packed with Omega-3 oils and anti-oxidants, are one of nature's highest plant-based sources of protein, contain lots of soluble fiber and keep you fuller longer! So what are you waiting for?  Make the pudding already!


1 1/2 c coconut milk
4 T maple syrup or honey
2 T cocoa powder
1 T vanilla
1/2 t almond extract (optional)
1/3 c chia seeds


Whisk coconut milk, syrup/honey, cocoa powder and extracts until smooth. Stir in chia seeds. Divide mixture between 4 glasses. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Serve or cover tightly and refrigerate.  Serves 4.

(Recipe from Deliciously Organic)

Friday, August 24, 2012

{Swap Sketch} - August 2012

We didn't have as many swappers, only 9 this time (maybe due to the mid-week scheduling?), but that didn't stop us from sharing some really great treats.

Here's a run-down of what was featured:
  • Jalapeno Cornbread Mini Loaves
  • Jalapeno Jelly
  • Bags of fresh produce
  • Farm-fresh eggs
  • Sunday Morning Birdseed Pancake Mix
  • Dark Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
  • Jersey Tomato Cake
  • Chocolate Cherry Pound Cake
  • Raisinette Pecan Cookies
  • Souper Veggie Stock
  • Fresh NJ Chunky Salsa
  • Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
  • Rhubarb Boozy
  • Homemade Lara Bars (3 varieties)
  • Rustic Spice Rubs
  • Produce Cleaner
  • Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
  • Tomato Magnets
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes
  • Tomato Basil Flax Snacks
  • Fresh Flowers
  • Fresh Herbs
  • and, tons of fresh produce!

And let's not forget Connie's Watermelon Keg!

Check out the South Jersey Swappers Facebook page for more photos!

Our next event will be Friday September 21st, 7-9PM, at the Bellview Winery (outside and kid-friendly).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Some media and blogger love

I did an interview for The Daily Journal of Vineland awhile back, and it finally made last Wednesday's paper.  Click here to read the article.  And keep in mind, Amy is Jennifer and Jennifer is Amy :)

Also, Jennifer of the blog Down Home South Jersey featured me on her reader spotlight.  I had a great time answering Jennifer's questions, and she did a fantastic job writing.  Click here to check that out.

I'm going to start doing a Swapper Profile piece where we'll feature a new swapper each event and get to know them (and their goodies) a little better.

Friday, July 20, 2012

{Swap Sketch} - June 2012

First, let me apologize for the tardiness of this post - it's long overdue.  I'm just getting into the swing of normalcy after a rough month.  Anyway, our second swap was 15 participants strong, and was a huge success!

Thank you to the Bellview Winery for volunteering their space and time and wine tastings too!  I had originally hoped we'd be outside amongst the vines, but it was 120 degrees that night. Go figure. Maybe next time... 

I really think each swap is going to be better than the one before it.  Again, I was blown away by the level of professionalism, effort and craft that went into each item.  I'm going to attempt to list what we had, but I know I'm missing some. I actually thought I'd be able to remember everything.  I will do a better job next time and take notes!

Key lime curd, coconut banana bread, pretzel bread, soft pretzels with honey mustard, blueberry pie filling, cherry pie filling, salsa verdi, chocolate cherry sea salt cookies, cardamom slice and bake cookies, farm-fresh eggs, zucchini bread, banana bread, blueberry lemon jam, pina colada jam, mojito marmalade, basil-watermelon liqueur, granola, homegrown zucchini/cucumbers/garlic/fresh herbs/cabbage/pickling cucumbers, peach and peach pepper jam, dried oregano, homegrown mint tea, petite blueberry pies, peach mango jam, edible flowers with mache and radish 'shrooms, organic raw cinnamon flax applesauce, coleslaw, homemade wine, kale chips, coffee body scrub, peach BBQ sauce, homemade Kahlua, lemon poppy seed loaves, strawberry lemonade concentrate, wet walnuts, homemade hot fudge sauce, blueberry sauce, and MUCH MORE!

This girl knows good food :)

Start planning for the next one!

Next Swap!
Where: Bellview Winery
When: August 7th, 7-9PM

Register here -

Sunday, July 15, 2012

{Recipe Rewind} June: One Flew Over Farm's Kale Chips and Amy's Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

Like I've already said, I never imagined these would be so good.  These chips were addicting. Thank you, Connie for a super-cool snack I can feel good about eating. 

1.  Tear fresh, clean, spun/patted dry kale from stems and any thicker veins into small but not tiny pieces. 
2.  Drizzle good quality olive oil onto a sheet pan, then grind on (or use flaked) sea salt and/or the seasoning(s) of your choice. (Connie used Bragg's Organic Nutritional Yeast)
3.  Rub handfuls of the kale into the seasoned oil and then spread them out, flattening them a bit without overlapping, onto the pan.
4.  Set oven to 325, which should crisp the chips in about 10 minutes. Watch closely, though. If they burn, they're nasty :(
5.  Store in a brown bag and just recrisp in the oven if they soften in this humidity.

Also featured is Amy's Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate.  This was so refreshing!  Thanks for sharing!


6 cups strawberries, cleaned and hulled
4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cups sugar


1. In a food processor, blender or bullet, puree strawberries in batches.
2. Transfer strawberry puree to a stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat. DO NOT BOIL. Add lemon juice and sugar and stir to combine.
3. Using a thermometer, heat to 190 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Because this recipe has sugar it will get to temperature rather quickly so keep your eye on the thermometer. Remove from heat. 4. Ladle mixture into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim, add hot lids and tighten rings just finger tight. Process in water bath canner at a boil for 15 minutes.
5. To reconstitute, mix one part concentrate with one part water, tonic water or ginger ale. Adjust concentrate to suit your tastes.

Makes 6-8 pints or 3 quarts. If you do not want to process the jars, you can freeze the concentrate in 1-2 cup portions.

Friday, June 29, 2012

SJS Featured in The Press of Atlantic City

Thank you Felicia from The Press of Atlantic City for a great article!  Click here to read.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

{Recipe Rewind} May: Abi's Vanilla Macarons with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream

Here's the recipe Abi used for her macaroons! Taken from Secrets of Macarons by Jose Marechal

Plain Macarons
·       200g ground almonds
·       200g icing sugar
·       75ml water
·       200g caster sugar
·       2 x 80g egg whites
·       1x vanilla bean
·       white coloring (optional)

note: the vanilla bean and white coloring can be replaced depending on the flavor you wish to make them

1.    Process then carefully sift the ground almonds and icing sugar (this is called the tant pour tant). Set aside.
2.   In a saucepan, bring the water and caster sugar to the boil. Without stirring, make sure the temperature of the resulting syrup doesn’t go above 115 degrees Celsius.
3.   Gently beat 80g egg whites to soft peaks, then increase the speed of the beater when the temperature of the syrup passes 105 degrees Celsius. When the syrup reaches 115 degrees Celsius, remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the syrup in a thin stream into the beaten egg whites. Continue to beat the meringue for about 10 minutes, so that it cools. 
4.   Combine the tant pour tant and the remaining unbeaten egg whites, making a smooth almond paste.
5.    Scrape the vanilla bean and incorporate a few vanilla seeds into the almond paste, then add the coloring (if desired)
6.   Using a flexible spatula, incorporate about a third of the meringue into the almond paste to loosen the mixture a little, then add the rest of the meringue, working the batter carefully. 
7.   Fill a piping bag fitted with an 8mm nozzle with batter. Attach a sheet of baking paper to each baking tray, placing small dots of batter in each corner. Pipe out small, regular and well-spaced rounds, each about the size of a walnut. Lightly tap the bottom of the trays and allow the macarons to form a crust at room temperature for 30 minutes.
8.   Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
9.   Bake in the oven for 14 minutes. When you take them out, carefully place the baking paper on a dampened benchtop: the shells will be easier to remove.

For the filling Abi made a buttercream made of powered sugar and butter and cut fresh strawberries until the mixture was a buttercream paste. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June Food Swap Announced

Here are the details of our second food swap:

When: Friday June 29, 2012
Where: Bellview Winery, 150 Atlantic St.,  Landisville, NJ
Time: 7-9pm

Please register if you plan to attend by clicking on the Eventbrite button. 

Remember, you can bring as much or as little as you like. It can be all the same item or a few different ones (which seems to work best).  And bring SAMPLES :) people will be more likely to swap with you if they know how tasty your item is. 

See everyone soon!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

{Swap Sketch} - May 2012

First I want to thank each person who participated in our first swap.  Thank you for your time and lovely homemade treasures - each one was true art and craft.  I also appreciate your understanding and patience as we all figured out the swap thing together.  Didn't I tell you it would work itself out? Haha. Now, we're all pros!

And thank you to The Sweet Life Bakery owners Stephen and Jill and staff for hosting us.  What a perfect and appropriate place for our first swap! 

Thanks for the awesome chalkboard design, Kylee!

Here's a recap of the swap items present:  Almond Pound Cake, Lavender Rosemary Garden Scrub, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, Canned Jersey Tomatoes, Canned Jersey Peaches, Rhubarb Boozy, Strawberry Honey Butter, Thyme Plants, Strawberry Rhubarb Mint Butter, Olive Oil Pizza Dough, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Macarons With Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ganache, Vanilla Macarons with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream, Red White & Blue Granola, Fresh Herbs, Apricot Orange Biscotti, Lemon Rosemary Biscotti, Fresh Organic Tomato Sauce,  Granola, Farm-Fresh Eggs, Salted Caramel Cookies, and Green Olive Bread!

Marlise and Terry sampling Lauren's Rhubarb Boozy


The Sweet Life Bakery owner Jill with Terry's little guys.

Notes for next time:

  • I learned that it's probably best to have more than one type of item.  For example, someone with 3 different items may only want to swap once with someone that brought only one item.  Having a variety gives you more leverage.  And options.  
  • Also, maybe a week or so before the swap, people should start posting their items on the SJS Facebook page just to get a quick idea as to what else will be at the swap. 
  • Another good idea would be to let everyone know exactly how many people will be at the swap so they can plan accordingly. 

Amy making an offer

Jennifer sampling Abi's Olive Oil Pizza Dough

I'll start working on planning the next one.  Everyone else: keep sharing your experience, spreading the word, posting pics, tagging, tweeting, poking, mentioning, and however else you communicate these days :)

A quick funny story: The morning of the swap, Amy and I went to Sparacio's to pick more strawberries.  The next row over I noticed these two adorable old ladies going to town picking.  They had a wagon full of containers full to the brim with berries.  I immediately had a vision of them in aprons, baking pies and canning jam.  I thought for sure they'd share a secret recipe with me if I only asked.  So I did.             

"Wow, that's a lot of berries you have there. What are you going to do with them?" 
She replies, "I sell 'em."

Check out our Facebook Page for the rest of the photos!  See everyone again soon.