Friday, October 3, 2014

Small Batch Pineapple Jam

Ladies, lets talk about something men just don't understand - the clearance section.  I know I'm not alone in my love for a deal!  I still talk about the time I got $40 shoes for $3 (gold sandals at JCPenney's, by the way).  My best friend knows that if we're Target, we are going to go see the endcaps to see what steals and deals they have.  I tell my husband all the time that if we ever get separated in a store, he can always find me in the clearance section.  Now, one of the surprising places to find a deal is the produce section of your grocery store.  Did you know that sometimes they will put produce that's maybe not quite as pretty as it once was on clearance?  Me neither - at least until a few months ago.  Now I love pineapple whether its in juice form or chunks - I love it all.  But pineapples can be expensive.  My local grocery store usually has them for $4.99 each.  Which, for folks on a budget, spending $5 on a pineapple sometimes doesn't make the final list.  So when I came across a pineapple wrapped up in the cling film that was marked $.69?  Yeah, that was going in my cart!  No it wouldn't be winning any special awards for appearance and it wasn't going to last long on the counter either.  No, this needed something to make it last MUCH longer...

Enter Pomona's Pectin.  I LOVE this stuff!  Pomona's Pectin allows the at-home canner to make jams and jellies (and lots of other things, according to their website) using much less sugar than your traditional pectin.  For example: strawberry jam using traditional pectin requires THREE CUPS of sugar. THREE! Using Pomona's Pectin, I use ONE CUP for the exact same amount of fruit. Talk about a big difference!  And I don't know about you but I find a lot of fresh fruits don't actually need that much sugar so it's great to see a product that will allow me to have much more control over the sugars rather than letting the sugar control me.  The insert that comes with the packets of pectin have plenty of jam and jelly ideas for you to try.  The pineapple jam had always intrigued me but, as you can guess, pineapple never stuck around long enough in my house to ever be made into jam.  But now, I had a pineapple that was just begging to made into jam.

Also, as a side note... as many of my readers know, I like to steer clear of preservatives and keep things as natural as possible.  Now, I will occasionally use tradition pectin because - well, sometimes a tradition is a tradition for a reason.  But have you looked on the side of a traditional Ball Fruit Pectin jar? It's dextrose (which is a type of sugar), fruit pectin, and citric acid.  Not exactly something I wanted to see.  But Pomona's Pectin?  From their website: "Pomona's Universal Pectin contains only 100% pure citrus pectin, which is vegan, gluten free, and GMO free.  There are no additives, preservatives, sugar, or dextrose.  There are no corn or apple by-products."  Now that sounds like a product I can get behind!  (side note:  I didn't get any compensation from Pomona's Pectin - I bought this product and I use it with quite a bit of regularity.)

So for the next question:  where can you find this wonderful product?  I found mine at my local Williams-Sonoma but you can also find it at Whole Foods Markets.  You can also order from Amazon (Prime eligible).  On their website, they do have a Store Locator to help you find it at a store near you.

Pineapple Jam
recipe from insert in Pomona's Pectin

2 c. Pineapple, mashed (one pineapple gave me the full amount)
1 c. Sugar
1 tsp. Pectin Powder (included in Pomona's Pectin)
1 tsp. Calcium Water (included in Pomona's Pectin)

Get your jars prepared by washing them and letting them stand in a pot of hot, simmering water (making sure the water is at least one inch higher than the top of the jars).
In a separate bowl, measure your sugar and mix in the pectin powder.
Pour the mashed fruit into a pan (DO NOT USE CAST IRON!) and stir in the calcium water.
Bring the fruit to a boil.
Add in your sugar and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes until the pectin and sugar dissolves.
Bring the fruit mixture back up to a boil.
Remove from the heat.
Remove your warm jars from the water and turn up the heat, letting your water come to a boil.
Fill your warm jars to 1/4" from the top and wipe the rims clean.
Screw on your two piece, screwing them just "finger tight" (until you can't tighten anymore just using your fingers).
Return your jars into the boiling water.
Boil for 10 minutes (if you're above sea level, add 1 minute to each 1000 feet above sea level).
Remove from the water and let the jars cool with a towel draped over them.
The jars are sealed when you hear a loud pop as they cool.  (Unsealed jars should be eaten within three weeks and kept in the fridge.)

Makes two half pints.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quick and Easy Banana Bread

Don't you just love it when some things in life just come together so perfectly?  I'd gone through a string of not-so-great recipes and then I got super busy so there was minimal posting on my blog (as you may have noticed).  Last week, I wanted some bananas.  I love raw bananas - the greener, the better.  Yes, I'm weird, I know.  My husband doesn't like bananas.  Which, of course, means my husband is even weirder than me!  So I ate the bananas I wanted and I ended up having three sitting on my counter.  They'd started to turn black and since I'm a firm believer of "waste not, want not", I HAD to make something out of these bananas.  Knowing the husband wasn't going to be eating anything, I decided to make banana bread.  While I may not be the biggest fan (I'll eat it if I feel like it), my mom and best friend love banana bread.  I wanted to try out a somewhat simple recipe since it had been SO long since I'd made it.  Luckily, this turned out REALLY good (although not as good as my best friend's banana bread, who currently owns the title of "Best Banana Bread" in our families).  It's super simple and I'd bet you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry right now.

Quick and Easy Banana Bread
adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour

1/4 c. Canola Oil
3/4 c. Brown Sugar, packed (light or dark)
3 Eggs
1 1/2 Bananas, mashed (about 3)
2 1/4 Baking Mix (I used this but Bisquick will work just fine)
1/2 tsp. Ground Allspice
1/2 c. Chopped Pecans (or walnuts)

Preheat your oven to 350.
Spray a 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan with cooking spray with flour.
In a large bowl, whisk your oil and sugar until combined.
Add in the eggs and keep whisking til it all comes together.
Add in your mashed bananas, baking mix, and allspice and mix until blended.
Stir in the nuts until its evenly distributed.
Pour into your loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes, laying a piece aluminum foil over the top after 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning.
You'll know its done when a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.
Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan so it can cool completely on a wire rack.
Eat and enjoy :)


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - Chicken Tamale Casserole

Have you ever had one of those days where you just go, "I don't know if I have the strength to make dinner?"  It's just been a terrible day at work, the kids are begging for attention, the dog is barking (or the cat keeps trying to trip you), and you just want to reach for the take-out menu or call the nearest pizza place that offers delivery.  I've been there so I know you have.  And I have a solution!  Chicken Tamale Casserole.  I know, I know.  I'd already done something similar to this on my blog before.  But this is completely different from the Tamale Pie I posted a few months ago.  That used hamburger, this uses chicken; that had lots of veggies, this has none.  This is absolutely one of me and my husband's favorite meals.  It's quick and easy to put together and talk about leftovers!  A 9x13 casserole makes leftovers galore!  This recipe is so simple to put together and its one that allows your kids to help you.  They could help pull the chicken off the bones for this casserole or let them poke lots of holes with a fork after the corn muffin mix cooks.  (After all, getting your kids in the kitchen is a great way to teach them about how to make fresh food and where their food comes from.)

Chicken Tamale Casserole
adapted slightly from Cooking Light

1 c. Mexican Cheese Blend, divided
1/3 c. Skim Milk
1 Egg
1 tsp. Ground Cumin
1 (14.75 oz.) can of Cream-Style Corn
1 (8.5 oz.) box Corn Muffin Mix (I used Jiffy Mix)
1 (4 oz.) can Diced Green Chiles, drained
1 (10 oz.) can Red Enchilada Sauce
2 c. Shredded Chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken that I bought at the grocery store)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
Combine 1/4 cup of cheese, milk, egg, cumin, can of cream-style corn, and the box of corn muffin mix, stirring until just moist.
Pour the mixture into your 9x13 pan.
Bake for 15 minutes or until set.
Now take a fork and poke holes all over the corn muffins!
Pour the can of enchilada sauce over the corn muffins.
Top with chicken and sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup of cheese over the top (feel free to add more cheese if you're so inclined).
Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes before serving.
Eat and enjoy!



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pineapple Pie

Have you ever had a time where you plan and plan and everything just goes the complete opposite of what you were intending?  And yet, somehow, inexplicably, it turns out better than you had ever realized?  Yeah?  So its not just me.  Good to know.

The husband and I were invited to a cookout at my friend's house.  She was recently engaged and wanted to throw a cookout to celebrate.  (Well, technically she had planned the cookout before she got engaged and since the proposal was a surprise, she didn't know that at the time she was planning both a cookout and an engagement party.  Again - you plan something and it changes and ends up being better than you first thought.)  I wanted to make a dessert.  Gee.  I wonder why...  What I had planned on making was this really cool thing called fruit pizza. The base is a sugar cookie dough with a sweetened cream cheese frosting that you top with fresh fruit.  I was so excited!  Everything was going great - I had made the giant sugar cookie in a pizza pan and the cream cheese frosting tasted very yummy.  Until... I went to cut the sugar cookie and it stuck to the pan. (Nonstick my foot.)  Then it cracked and crumbled.  My pizza was no longer looking like a pizza.  Knowing I had NO time to prepare a new sugar cookie pizza "crust", I just changed things up.  I cut out the sugar cookie into two bite portions and somehow managed to save the day.

After this cookout, the husband and I were planning a little cookout of our own the next day (this was back during Memorial Day weekend) and I had planned on making a lemon dessert.  Then I couldn't find my recipe.  So I had to find another one and, as usual, I never had all of the ingredients.  So I decided to go in a totally different direction!  To top my fruit pizza, I had purchased loads of fresh strawberries, fresh blueberries, and a fresh pineapple.  Since I was expecting to use much more fruit than I actually ended up using, I had plenty of fruit leftover - especially the pineapple.  I knew I wanted to make a pie so I went in search of a pineapple pie.  Just to see if such a thing existed.  And, lo and behold, it was!! Except pretty much every recipe used canned pineapple.  But I had a fresh one! So I continued to search.  And finally, my search proved, well, fruitful (pun intended... hehe)!  This pie is fresh, delicious, simple, and a wonderful way to show off the natural sweetness of the pineapple.

Pineapple Pie
adapted from Lottie + Doof

4 Eggs
3/4 c. Sugar
Juice of one Lime
1/4 t. Salt
1/4 c. All Purpose Flour
1/4 c. Butter, melted
2 c. Fresh Pineapple, chopped
Deep Dish Pie Crust (uncooked)

Preheat your oven AND a baking sheet to 450.
In a large bowl, mix your eggs, sugar, lime juice, and salt.
In a smaller bowl, combine the flour and melted butter.
Whisk a small amount of your flour and butter mixture into your eggs to temper them... then you can add in the rest of the butter and flour.  (We don't want scrambled eggs in our pie, now do we?)
Stir in the pineapple.
Pour everything into your unbaked pie shell.
Take your preheated baking sheet out of the oven, gently place your pie onto it.  (Why?  If you preheat your baking sheet, it helps the bottom crust cook more evenly.)
Gently cover with foil, doing your best to keep the foil from touching the pineapple filling (otherwise it'll stick to the foil as it cooks.)
Bake for 20 minutes, rotating it in the oven after 10 minutes (more even cooking goodness).
Lower the oven temp to 350 and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes.
The pie will be done when the center doesn't jiggle when you shake it.
Cool completely and my husband recommends that you serve (slightly warmed) with ice cream.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - Goulash

Have you ever noticed how comfort foods are always southern foods?  You don't see someone asking for lobster rolls or clam chowder or some sort of salad with green goddess dressing.  No.  They want fried chicken, chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, or your grandma's vegetable soup.  My definition of comfort food is my mom's spaghetti and my late grandmother's boiled potatoes.  I know it sounds strange to say some plain boiled potatoes are a comfort food.  But I'll tell you, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, could make boiled potatoes like my grandma. When I was little and we would visit my mom's parents on Sundays, we always had a big spread of food and it was pretty much a rule that my grandma would make boiled potatoes.  They were my favorite things EVER.  It didn't matter what else was on the table, I was diving in to the potatoes.  And they had usually just come out of the ground only a matter of hours beforehand.  I can plainly remember walking out to the garden with my grandpa, saying "hello" to his dog, Prince, and pulling potatoes straight from the ground for lunch.  My grandmother has since passed away, and with her, the way to make those potatoes.  My mom and my aunt have tried to replicate her recipe but they've never come close.  So, grandma, if you're reading this, I expect a giant pot of boiled potatoes waiting for me whenever I pass through those Pearly Gates!!

To me, this recipe is one of those foods that can be considered a comfort food - tomatoes, beef, and noodles all coming together in a large pot.  Top it with cheese and you've got yourself a meal that will make you feel good when you're sick or better when you've had a bad day.  The other nice thing about this?  If you are a family of two (like me and the husband), this recipe will last you for a dinner and a couple of lunches too.  Its easily doubled for a family of four!

Note:  Because the beef is cooked and not drained, I really recommend that you use 93/7 ground beef so that you can keep the grease to a minimum.

Goulash
adapted slightly from Y'all Come Eat

1 1/2 lb. Ground Beef (93/7 preferred)
1 Large Onion, finely chopped
14.5 oz. can Petite Diced Tomatoes
15 oz. can Tomato Sauce
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 c. Elbow Macaroni

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, cook your onion and ground beef together over medium-high heat until the beef is no longer pink and the onions are soft.
DO NOT DRAIN.
Add in all of your other ingredients except for the macaroni.
Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Stir in the macaroni and cook for an additional 20 minutes.
Let the goulash stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
(We like to top it with some cheddar cheese!)




Thursday, May 8, 2014

Strawberry Icebox Dessert

Let's talk about strawberries for a moment.  Just a minute.  Could there possibly be anything bad about a strawberry?  They are sweet no matter how you eat them.  They're special - the only fruit to have its seeds on the outside.  (Didn't know that, did ya?)  Dogs can eat them.  Speaking of dogs.....

This is Bella.  She belongs to my best friend.  And she loves fruit better than any dog I have ever seen.  So when I was cutting up the strawberries for this dessert, this is the look I got.
If anyone has a Dachshund, you will understand what this stare is.  It's constant and unblinking (almost).  You feel the tingles along the back of your neck and you know, you just KNOW, that when you turn around, those big brown eyes are going to be on you.  The entire time I was cutting up those strawberries for this dessert, I felt her eyes on me.  The ENTIRE time.  And Bella knows I'm a pushover when it comes to dogs.  Always have been, always will be.  If you're a pushover for a dog, they will know it and they will exploit it.  So it should come as no surprise to anyone that this dog totally got to be the taste tester for the strawberries we had.

This recipe is absolutely PERFECT for a summertime get-together.  There is no baking involved so no need to make your kitchen even hotter in the summertime. The combination of the cold whipped cream cheese with the fresh strawberries is utter perfection.  However, that being said, this recipe only lasts for around two days in the fridge before the graham crackers start becoming... well, not-so-good. They turn to mush and that's just not appealing to anyone.  So if you're having a picnic or family reunion and want to show off a dessert that looks and tastes like you put a lot more effort into it than you actual did, this is the recipe for you!

Strawberry Icebox Dessert
adapted slightly from Taste of the South magazine

8 oz. block Cream Cheese, softened (full fat
3/4 c. Powdered/Confectioners' Sugar
2 1/2 c. Heavy Whipping Cream
1 tsp. Vanilla
15 sheets Honey Graham Crackers
4 c. Fresh Strawberries, sliced

Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth.
Add in your cream and vanilla.
Beat a high speed until stiff peaks form.  (What are stiff peaks?  Stiff peaks happen when you lift your mixer's beaters out of the cream mixture and it forms a peak that doesn't fall over.  Need a visual?  Here ya go.)
In the bottom of an 11x7 inch baking dish, spread 1/2 cup of the whipping cream blend.
Place 5 of the graham cracker sheets along the bottom of the baking dish (you'll have four go the long way and then you'll break up the final one to fit along the tops).
Take one-third of the REMAINING cream mixture and spread along the graham crackers.
Top with 1 1/3 c. strawberries.
Repeat with the final two layers of graham crackers - whipped cream - strawberries.
NOTE:  Press gently after placing the graham crackers on the strawberries.  It will help fit the whole thing in your 11x7 pan because you won't believe three layers will fit!
Refrigerate for one to six hours.
Eat and enjoy!


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - Easy Cottage Pie

It's been quite some time since I've posted on this blog :(  Bad Jamie.  Things on the homefront got a bit stressful and chaotic since my last post and I just couldn't get around to it.  I'll try to do better in the future.

I'm a big fan of pretty much anything British.  I love British television (it's just so much better quality - I mean, have you SEEN Downton Abbey?) and I love, LOVE British accents.  (I've always told my husband that he'd never have a problem with me staying married to him unless we went to England because the accents would probably make me want to run off with the first British bloke I came across... or Scottish.  I have a soft spot for David Tennant a.k.a. the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who.)  I also love their history and sense of duty.  Their countryside is to die for.  And let's not forget about the Royal Family.  (Prince George is just too adorable for words.)

One of the things I also have a love for is recipes from other countries.  I have a British bread baking book and I love exploring food blogs where they talk about how this recipe came from their Danish grandmother or how a food helped a family make it through the Great Depression.  Food history is just amazing to me!  So needless to say, me finding some British recipes to try at home was not a big stretch.  This recipe is often referred to as Shepherd's Pie because it is traditionally made using lamb.  Well, anyone who knows me knows that I don't eat lamb (or veal for that matter) so I make mine using hamburger.  According to the Brits, what I make has a name - Cottage Pie.  And this recipe?  You can bet its a staple in Hoad Cottage :)

Cottage Pie
adapted from Kraft Food and Family

1 lb. Ground Beef (I use 93/7)
2 c. Mashed Potatoes*
1/2 c. Cheddar Cheese
Frozen Vegetables (I use corn and green peas but feel free to use a preselect frozen vegetable mixture.  If using a mixture with carrots, thaw first.)
12 oz. jar Beef Gravy (I use Heinz)

* - I usually whip up a 4 portion serving of mashed potatoes using instant potato flakes in my microwave.  It makes the perfect amount for the topping.

Preheat the oven to 375.
Brown and drain the hamburger.
Make the mashed potatoes in your microwave, according the package directions.
Wipe out the remaining grease from your pan and return your drained beef to it.
Add in your frozen vegetables - use as much or as little as you like but don't exceed four cups of veggies!
Now mix in the gravy.
Pour the beef mixture into an 8x8 pan.
Cover the beef with mashed potatoes.  (Don't worry about making it look pretty.  Rustic is good!)
Top your potatoes with shredded cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes.


okay, it's not pretty but it sure does taste good!