Jammin!

So I decided to do the battle of the jams. I have been going through my new cookbook “Food in Jars” and I found a lovely peach jam that I really wanted to try. My mother just gave me a whole bunch of ripe peaches from her last excursion to the fruit stand, and I think I have enough to do both types of jams that I have recipes for.

1) Freezer Jam

My mothers grandmother got this freezer jam recipe from a neighbor in New Kensington, which is on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Both my parents grew up there. We mostly use it to make strawberry jam. Many people have told me that her jam could be used as a currency in lieu of cash, and I’m pretty sure this jam is what got me on my in-laws good side the first time I went there for dinner. I brought a jar of the jam with me, and my now father-in-law sent it back to my now husband a week later with a note that said “Needs refilled.” I’ve also had friends who were shocked when their toddler licked the jam off his plate, but I also noticed his father do it later when he thought no one was looking! In any event, I am going to compare these two jams and see what happens!

I grew up with my mother’s freezer jam, and I had never canned jam before getting my new book.

Now- this recipe is very sweet. Most people don’t realize how much sugar goes into it. For the strawberries, this seems to work. However, I just tried it with peaches and I think that I need to increase the amount of fruit. My husband has also requested that I increase the amount of pectin so that it can be thicker.

Freezer Jam

5 cups sugar
3 cups fruit (peaches in this case, same amount for strawberries) cut and squished
1/3 cup Pectin (Dutch Gel)
7/8 Cup of water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Mix the fruit & sugar together and let sit for 20 minutes, stirring 3 times.

Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring water and lemon juice to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in Pectin. Pour Pectin mixture into fruit mixture and refrigerate overnight. Freeze! (We use peanut butter jars.)

I will post the results tomorrow!

2) Peach Jam!!

Food in Jars Blog Recipe

This is the recipe I followed when I canned my jam. I did alter it in one way, which was to add a pinch of the spice Mace while I was mixing up the peaches. While it tasted really awesome, it put me in mind more of peach pie filling with the spices. I was really hoping for a more simple, solid peach flavor for those dreary winter days. It had a great consistency compared to my freezer jam attempt.

1) For the freezer jam, next time I believe I am going to add more fruit, increase the lemon juice, and see how that affects the taste and consistency. The recipe seems fine for strawberries, but feels like it could use less sugar/more fruit for peaches.

2) For the canned jam recipe- I think I will try the authors suggestion of vanilla next, or maybe omit the spices entirely!

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Chicken Orzo Soup

So todays lunch started with a leftover roaster chicken. We had been going nuts with family visits and baptisms and ball games, so we decided to have a nice dinner at home. It was suppose to be Sunday, but due to life, it ended up being Monday. We cooked a 3 lb. roasting chicken and I had saved the carcass for later (see How Many Meals from one chicken post) and now, what do I do with it?

Today was the first picking, so I can still get lots more meat and broth off of it before I cook it for chicken stock. I picked off a few pieces and chopped them, enough for a small batch of soup, about 4 cups.

I fried some purple onions and mushrooms. I did toss in a few red peppers chunks, but I am not thrilled with how they turned out, even though they were a nice texture crunch when I tried my soup. I added a squeeze of garlic, about 2 Tablespoons, and fried them until soft. I added chicken broth as well as the leftover gravy from the Chicken dinner night. I then added a dash of Marsala wine (to get the tasty bits off the bottom of the pan) and then added about 2 cups chicken stock.

In another pot, I cooked about 1 cup of Orzo according to package directions. When this was done, I added this to the soup.

I tossed in Salt, pepper, and rosemary, and brought to a boil.

I’m not sure what wild cooking imp made me do the next step, but I took a good spoonful of some Chive & onion reduced fat cream cheese spread I had in the fridge and stirred that in. I’ve had luck with cream cheese thickening stuff in the past. I turned off the burner as soon as the cream cheese had dissolved, stirring the whole time.

What came out of the pot was not bad. Bland enough to be comforting and easy on the tummy, but still had enough flavor to keep me from thinking I was eating hospital food. The rosemary and the chive/onion cream cheese gave a background flavor without overpowering the chicken taste in the broth.

My favorite part was the mushrooms! Having never really tried other mushroom varieties other than white and Bella, I think this would go wonderful with some smaller mushrooms, possibly fried by themselves in some butter before being added to the soup.

Sun Dried Tomato Spread Bread

So I bought a jar of something that looked interesting from Giant. It was Sun dried Tomato spread. Having led a sheltered childhood as my husband says, I had no idea this had existed before seeing it. I tend to meander through grocery stores looking for something to strike my fancy while my husband tends to go up and down every aisle while following his lists.

Anyhoodles, I decided to use this as a tomato substitute for some bruschetta. In a microwave safe bowl, I combined margarine, minced garlic to taste (I love garlic, so my bowl had about 2 tablespoons in it or two good squeezes of the bottle(garlic in a squeeze bottle, another epic invention!)) as well as a dash of spice. I melted this for about two 10 second rounds (stop in between and check that stuff is melting lest you set your mixture on fire in the microwave).

I spread this on some sliced Parmesean Pepper bread that we had picked up from the store spread some of the Sun dried Tomato spread on the bread, and then finished it off with a dash of Oregano. I then popped it in the oven (375 F for about 15-20 minutes). What came out was nummy! Even my husband (who hates tomatoes by the way) like this stuff!

You get the roasted tomato-y goodness on crusty bread as a nice snack! Heck, stack some fresh tomatoes on top of that for fun! A friend stopped by and her middle-school aged son ate her whole piece of bread, so you might be able to pass this off to some picky eaters as well!

If you try it, enjoy!

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Fried Green Beans and Crunchy Onion Chicken

I said I would post one of my favorite dishes, and here it is! My mother-in-law introduced me to this dish before I even married into the family. It’s her fall-back and I have to say, I love it! She makes these in a non-stick pan and used butter. I only have stainless steel, which does tend to stick more, but we also use Olive Oil to feel a bit healthier sometimes. I cook these around medium heat, and you have to watch them or they will burn and smoke quickly.

Melt two tablespoons of butter (the real stuff) on medium heat in a non-stick skillet.

I use green beans that we can or get from other family members. I drain the jar, but still let a little bit of liquid in the bottom. Dump the beans into a mixing bowl. To this, add flour enough to coat. I tend to use anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup depending on how dry they are and how long I am letting them sit. Sometimes, the coating sticks better if the beans sit a bit.

To this mixture, I add salt and pepper to taste. I also add Old Bay and minced garlic and I stir until everything is evenly coated. Don’t worry if the coating looks a bit wet or gummy, that just means it will be a bit more crunchy later on!

When the pan is hot, dumb the beans in all at once and spread them out in a layer. Now this is the important part, and the one I have the most trouble with…Leave them be! Do not stir them right away. These beans crisp when they are left alone, so wait a few minutes (like 3-5) before using a spatula to flip them over. Once they start crisping, then you can start stirring more. Eat when you reach the preferred level of doneness.

I ate these with my version of French’s crunchy onion chicken. I love French’s onions. I eat them straight out of the container. I’ve tried off brands, but I do not like them as much. I also love the original onion flavors, the cheddar ones made me gag, but my husband loved them.

I like to marinate my chicken in a sauce before coating it in breading. I do this all the time now, and without it, the chicken doesn’t seem as moist or flavorful. I coat my chicken in Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue sauce (my husband introduced me to this and we use no other sauce in the house). I will sometimes use a meat hammer on it first. I dump the chicken breasts in a plastic bag (Gallon works best).

In another gallon bag, I combine roughly 1/2 to 1 cup crunchy onions, about a tablespoon of flour, and some seasoned bread crumbs if I have them. The onions never seem to cover much, and I’d have to use a whole box on two chicken breasts to get the kind of coating I can get with a shake of the bread crumb container. So I combine. The breadcrumbs evenly coat while the onions give flavor.

After I mix everything in the bag, I seal it, and then run my marble rolling pin over it a few times. This does wonders for crushing the onions. Remove chicken from barbecue bag, stick in coating bag, and pat and roll it around until you get the coating you want. Put on a sprayed or non-stick cookie sheet and cook around 375 F for about 20 minutes, depending on how thick your chicken breasts are. I sometimes flip the thicker breasts half-way through to make sure I get an even coating.

Eat when all sign of pinkness is gone from the breast and they are fully cooked (I always have to cut into mine to check).

Use a spatula to remove breasts from sheet as the coating can stick if you don’t spray it enough.

Bleu Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

So once again, I was left to my own devices nearing towards dinner time as my hubby went out to inspect a tractor he was debating on purchasing from a friend’s father. I was hoping to relax tonight through cooking, since I have off tomorrow and today (this whole week rather. Heck, lets call it the whole month) has been a bit stressful. As I have mentioned before, the more I stress, the more I tend to stress cook. Sure I stress eat with the best of them, but I tend to cook more elaborately when I am trying to relieve pressure. Unfortunately, I also can get frustrated easily if a recipe doesn’t go right.

Drink!

Tonight, I decided to take it easy. I mixed up 1 of the small shots (hubby says maybe 3/4 oz) of Whipped Cream Vodka from Pinnacle, and two of the smaller shots of Peach Schnapps, and then added a whole can of coke and stirred. This tends to be my favorite drink, and it helps me relax when I am cooking to relax. (Note, I don’t do this on a regular basis, please don’t think I am a lush!)

I decided to make my comfort food plate. This is the standard fall-back whenever I am feeling a little blue.

Basically, fried green beans, crunchy onion chicken, and some other side, along with some baked tomato spread bread.

Fried Green beans I will post next with the Crunchy onion chicken. I decided to do tonights side as Bleu Cheese stuffed mushrooms after realizing that my mushrooms would go bad within the next two days. I didn’t start with a recipe, so this is my first attempt and I rather just threw many things into a bowl.

I picked out 6 of my biggest mushrooms, and chopped about 3 of their stems into little pieces and threw them into the bowl. To this I added about 4 oz. of cream cheese and about 1/8-1/4 cup of bleu cheese, mostly some of the bigger chunks in the bowl I had from the store salad aisle. I added also about 1/4 cup seasoned italian bread crumbs, and then threw in some beef broth that I had that needed used up until it was moist. Then I started to stir. If I do this again, I am using my mixture. Since I hadn’t let the cream cheese warm, it was a little harder to mix with a fork. I seasoned the mixture with sea salt, pepper, minced garlic (about 1/2 teaspoon) and a dash of some of my favorite spices. Mostly only a bit of Emeril’s (sp?) and a dash of Oregano. As I was mixing, I would toss in more broth if the mixture got dry.

I stuffed as much as I could into each mushroom, popped them in a high-sided greased baking dish and tossed them in the 375 F oven with the chicken. I hadn’t defrosted my chicken as much as I should have and I wanted it crunch, so everything was in there for about 40 mins. I took the mushrooms out a little before when the cheese got bubbly.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture before my husband started devouring them, but he assured me that the mushrooms were really good. I take this in good faith as he usually doesn’t like bleu cheese on his salad or much of anything. They had the lovely bleu flavor without being overwhelming.

Battle Canning!

This is from my new ordinary day blog that doesn’t always focus on cooking.

The Crafty Imp

So I have discovered a new book I absolutely adore! It’s called “Food In Jars” by Marisa McClellan. We found the book at Cracker Barrel and I won it by right of my sister couldn’t fit it in her luggage to go back to New Zealand. Any hoodles, I am already planning to use several recipes as money-savings Christmas presents! My husband and I can’t afford many presents, so we usually do cookies and scones. Problem is, so does the rest of his family. His grandmother alone usually makes more than seven dozen cookies and distributes them to the masses. All I can usually have time for is snicker doodles and chocolate chip. She does blossoms, snow balls, jam prints, chocolate chip, etc. You get the point. We still had a plate from her alone several months later in our freezer, but I digress.

Food in Jars is nice in…

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