Pocket Sandwiches

pita pocket (640x424)This is a favorite of my sons. They like more “kick” so add sliced jalapeno peppers on top of the finished product. If you buy Italian sausage in links, slice open the casing to remove the meat and use a spatula to break into small pieces as you brown the meat.

Pocket Sandwiches

1 pound Italian sausage

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)

1 cup diced green peppers

1/2 cup diced celery

1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

1. Saute sausage until brown, drain. Add onions, garlic, mushrooms, green pepper, celery and saute until tender.

2. Cut pita bread in half. Stuff with warm filling. Sprinkle with cheese

3. Place upright (cut side up) – I use a loaf pan and line with aluminum foil for easy clean-up

4. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

 

 

Blackberry Jam

blackberry jam (640x409)The blackberries are large and sweet this year and are great when made into jam (Jam has the seeds where jelly only uses the juice). If you have blackberries in your area – use some of them for a sweet, flavorful jam. Enjoy!

For detailed directions on canning procedures, check with your local cooperative extension service or use the Ball Blue Book.

Blackberry Jam

9 cups of crushed blackberries

6 cups sugar

1. Prepare jars by cleaning and heating in boiling water. Heat jar lids in water but do not boil.

2. Combine prepared fruit and sugar in a large saucepan or pot. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, stirring frequently.

3. Add liquid pectin, immediately squeezing entire content from pouch. Return to a boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

5. Ladel hot jam into prepared jars. Wipe rim, Center lid on jar. Screw on band.

6. Process jars in boiling water container for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours Lid should nt flex up and down when center is pressed. Makes approximately 6 (8 oz) half pint jars.

7. Admire the beautiful jelly and enjoy the sweetness of summer!

 

Raspberrry and Currant Jelly

raspberry currant jelly (640x399)My mother-in-law grew red raspberries and red currants. She would combine them for a wonderful jelly that had both the tartness of the currants and sweetness of the raspberries. For years, I have remembered how great her raspberry currant jelly was but although red raspberries are abundant at the local orchard, I did not have a source for red currants. Then last year, we decided to plant six red currant bushes. This year I had enough currants to make the jelly and it is as wonderful as I remembered. If you have red currants and raspberries in your area, make sure you use some of them for a exquisite jelly.

For detailed directions on canning procedures, check with your local cooperative extension service or use the Ball Blue Book.

Raspberry and Currant Jelly

4 cups red currants, washed and stemmed

3/4 cup water

4 cups red raspberries

6 cups granulated sugar

1 3-oz pouch liquid pectin

1.  Use a potato masher, crush currants in a large pot. Add water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

2. Add mashed raspberries and boil gently for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Place mixture in a dampened jelly bag and let drip undisturbed for at least two hours. Do not squeeze the bag as that may cause cloudy jelly. You should have 4 cups of prepared juice. If you need more juice add some water to the mixture in jelly bag and allow to drip.

2. Prepare jars by cleaning and heating in boiling water. Heat jar lids in water but do not boil.

3. Combine prepared juice and sugar in a large pot. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, stirring frequently.

4. Add pectin, immediately squeezing entire contents from pouch. Continue hard boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

5. Ladel hot jelly into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim, Center lid on jar. Screw on band.

6. Process jars in boiling water container for 5 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours Lid should nt flex up and down when center is pressed. Makes approximately 6 (8 oz) half pint jars.

7. Admire the beautiful jelly and enjoy the sweetness of summer!

 

Plum Cake

plum cake (640x424)The first plums to ripen in our area are small, juicy plums called sugar plums. I went a little crazy at the u-pick orchard and ended up with 19 pounds of sugar plums. The weekend was spent making jelly, jam and here is a new recipe for plum cake. It is a nice combination of the plum tartness with a buttery crust and strudel topping.

Plum Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 teaspoon salt

3 cups sliced fresh plums

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup cold butter

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts (chopped)

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well.

2. Spread in a greased 9-inch square baking dish. Top with plums. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over plums.

3. For topping combine flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in walnuts if desired. Sprinkle over top.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until topping is golden brown and plums are tender (I baked a little longer as my plums were very juicy). Cool on a wire rack.

 

 

Sugar Plum Jam

plum jam (640x424)It is jelly/jam making season with an abundance of fresh fruit. After going crazy picking plums, plum jam was definitely on the list of things to do. Our first plum to ripen is a small juicy plum which is called sugar plum. Sugar plums are great plum for jam or jelly or anything where you need a juicy plum. Enjoy!

Sugar Plum Jam

6 cups prepared fruit

1/2 cup water

1 box powdered pectin

8 cups sugar

1.  Pit plums. Do not peel. Finely chop or grind fruit. Place fruit in saucepan; add water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 5 minutes. Measure exactly 6 cups prepared fruit into a large saucepan/pot.

2. Stir pectin into fruit in sauce pot. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

3. Ladel hot jelly into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim, Center lid on jar. Screw on band.

4. Process jars in boiling water container for 5 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed. Makes approximately 6 (8 oz) half pint jars.

5. Admire the beautiful jelly and enjoy the sweetness of summer!

 

Rustic Blueberry Tart

blueberry tart (640x419)The blueberries are fresh and abundant at area stands and markets. At the local u-pick, the bushes are loaded with berries and it seems like you can fill a bucket on a single bush. I was looking for a new dessert to make with the berries and combined two recipes I found online. Makes a delightful blueberry dessert – it would be good also with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. Enjoy!

Rustic Blueberry Tart

!/2 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1/4 cup half and half or light cream

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

4 cups fresh blueberries

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 large egg white

1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Pastry

1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the egg and beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Gradually beat half and half on low speed. Stir in flour and 1/4 cup sugar until well combined. Remove dough from bowl; flatten dough into a 6 inch disc. Wrap dough with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Unwrap and place dough on a sheet of parchment paper. Roll dough into a 15 inch circle. Place dough and parchment on a baking sheet.

4. To prepare filling, combine berries, 1/2 cup sugar, flour and lemon juice; toss gently to coat. Arrange berry mixture in center of dough, leaving a 1 inch border. Fold edges of dough toward center, pressing gently to seal (dough will only partially cover berry mixture).

5. Combine milk and egg white in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Brush dough with milk mixture; sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over dough.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until pastry is golden brown. Let stand 30 minutes cut into wedges.

 

Raspberry Jelly

raspberry jelly (640x424)Raspberries and more raspberries – what a great time of the year when fresh berries are plentiful. Red raspberries make the most beautiful jelly – not to mention how good it tastes. If you have a source for fresh raspberries, save the flavor of summer by using some of them for a wonderful jelly.

For detailed directions on canning procedures, check with your local cooperative extension service or use the Ball Blue Book.

Red Raspberry Jelly

4 cups prepared raspberry juice (about 5 pounds)

7 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 3-oz pouch liquid pectin

1. Prepare jars by cleaning and heating in boiling water. Heat jar lids in water but do not boil.

2. Using a potato masher, crush raspberries one layer at at time. You can heat slightly to help the juice flow.

3. Place mixture in a dampened jelly bag and let drip undisturbed for at least two hours. Do not squeeze the bag as that may cause cloudy jelly. You should have 4 cups of prepared juice.

4. Combine prepared juice and sugar in a large pot. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, stirring frequently.

5. Add pectin, immediately squeezing entire contents from pouch. Continue hard boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

5. Ladel hot jelly into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim, Center lid on jar. Screw on band.

6. Process jars in boiling water container for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours Lid should nt flex up and down when center is pressed. Makes approximately 6 (8 oz) half pint jars.

7. Admire the beautiful jelly and enjoy the sweetness of summer!

 

Using Our Gifts

hummingbird moth 4 (640x424)“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”

~1 Peter 4:10-11 (NLT)

Goop!

goop 7 (640x424)As I mentioned in previous post, the grandchildren were here for a visit. One of our projects focused on making slime - another project (a standard for Pre-K teachers) was goop or oobleck. This is another great sensory experience for young children.

Like slime, it is easy to make but a little messy so cover your table or work surface to help in the clean-up.

Goop (Oobleck)

Cornstarch

Water

Liquid water color (Optional)

There are no proportions, that is part of the experience. Pour some cornstarch into a mixing container. Then gradually add water and mix. The cornstarch and water makes a substance that is solid in the dish but turns to a fluid when you pick it up. Again, lots of good messy fun for young children.

Pour cornstarch in container and gradually add water

goop 2 (640x424)

Start mixing

goop 3 (640x424)

Lots of stuff to do with mixture

goop 4 (640x424)

For color, use liquid water colors (available at arts and craft stores)

goop 6 (640x424)

Lots of concentration!

goop 8 (640x399)Have fun!

Black Raspberry Jelly

black raspberry jelly (640x419)It is berry season in our area so lots of opportunities for u-pick at the local orchard. The black raspberries do not last very long but they are wonderful while available. I enjoy making jelly and jam for gifts so this year I used some of the extra black raspberries for jelly. So good!

For detailed directions on canning procedures, check with your local cooperative extension service or use the Ball Blue Book.

Black Raspberry Jelly

3 cups prepared berry juice (about 5 pints)

1/4 cup lemon juice

5 cups sugar

1 3-oz pouch liquid pectin

1. Prepare the black raspberries by crushing one layer at a time with a potato masher. You can heat slightly to help get the juice flowing. Place mixture in a dampened jelly bag and let drip undisturbed for at least two hours. Do not squeeze the bag as that may cause cloudy jelly.

2. Prepare jars by cleaning and heating in boiling water. Heat jar lids in water but do not boil.

3. Combine prepared juice with lemon juice and sugar in a large pot. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, stirring frequently.

4. Add pectin, immediately squeezing entire contents from pouch. Continue hard boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

5. Ladel hot jelly into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim, Center lid on jar. Screw on band.

6. Process jars in boiling water container for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed. Makes approximately 6 (8 oz) half pint jars.

7. Admire the beautiful jelly and enjoy the sweetness of summer!

 

Fresh Raspberry Almond Tart

raspberry almond tart (640x424)Here is a  great dessert using fresh raspberries. You make a buttery crust in a spring form pan, add a filling that is similar to chess pie filling (eggs and butter), bake and top with fresh raspberries. I did not have a tart pan so used my round spring form pan. A very nice summery dessert!

Fresh Raspberry Almond Tart

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup sugar, divided

1 cup cold butter, divided

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup raspberry jam

1/3 cup sliced almonds

1 cup fresh raspberries

1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and 1/3 cup sugar; cut in 1/2 cup butter until crumbly. Beat 1 egg; add to flour mixture, tossing with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Spread jam over dough and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

2. Cream remaining butter and sugar until light and fluffy; stir in almond extract. Add remaining eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; spoon filling over jam/almonds. Place tart pan on a baking sheet (I was very glad I had a cookie sheet under my pan as butter came out the bottom of my spring form pan and would have been a mess without the baking sheet to catch the drips.)

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until set. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Carefully remove sides from pan. Place fresh raspberries on top and sprinkle with a small amount of sugar.

Enjoy!

Making Slime!

slime 5 (640x482)This past week our children and grandchildren came for a visit. The granddaughters are three and six years old – wonderful ages especially for an early childhood educator. For this visit, I pulled out some of the sensory experiences that the Pre-K students always loved. The first project was making slime. Just the name is a big hit with the younger set!

For easier clean-up, cover your table or work surface with an old tablecloth or papers. The recipe for slime is easy:

Slime

Equal parts of:

White School Glue

Liquid Starch

Liquid Water Colors or Food Coloring

Pour the glue into some type of container for mixing. Then add an equal amount of liquid starch. Mix with hands and enjoy the slimy experience! For color you can add liquid water colors (available at arts and craft stores) or food coloring.

Great sensory fun and opportunities for vocabulary development.

Here are a couple of photos of the fun. Start with the glue – look for white school glue (not Elmer’s Glue)

slime 1 (640x424)

Add equal parts starch and mix

slime 2 (640x424)

For added color, use liquid water colors

slime 3 (640x424)

Then have some slimey fun!

slime 4 (640x424)

slime 6 (640x424)

 

Strawberry Jelly

strawberry jelly (640x424)Berry season has started and the first local berry each year is the strawberry. Drive around on any of the country roads and in front of each farm is usually a card table with baskets of berries and a coffee can or Cool Whip container for the money. I still had jam left over from last year so this year I decided to use some extra berries for some strawberry jelly. For detailed directions on canning, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service or use the Ball Blue Book. Pick some berries and enjoy the wonderful sound of the canning lids popping as they seal!

Strawberry Jelly

4 cups strawberry juice (takes about three or four quarts of berries)

7 1/2 cups sugar

2 pouches of liquid pectin (total of 6 ounces)

1. Sort and wash fully ripe berries, remove any stems or caps. Crush the berries and extract juice (I use a potato masher). You can also heat slightly to help the juice to flow from the berries.

2. Measure juice into a large pot. Stir in the sugar. Place on high heat and stirring constantly, bring quickly to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the pectin and heat again to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute.

3. Remove from heat; skim off foam quickly. Pour jelly immediately into sterilized hot jars, wipe the tops to jars to remove any jelly that will prevent a tight seal. Place seals on jars and seal.

4. Place jars in boiling water bath and process for 5 minutes.

5. Remove jars and cool. Lids will seal as the jars cook.

Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing

Spinach salad (640x424)Fresh spinach paired with bacon grease! Can’t say it is low fat but it is a great salad in spring when spinach is abundant.

Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing

1 pound fresh spinach

4 green onions and tops, sliced

Coarsely ground black pepper

5 slices bacon, diced (I used 3 slices of thick sliced bacon)

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 coarsely chopped hard-cooked egg

1. Wash spinach, discarding stems. Pat dry on paper towels, then tear in bite-size pieces in bowl. Add onions and sprinkle with pepper. Chill.

2. At serving time, slowly fry bacon bits until crisp-cooked. Remove from burner and add vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and salt.

3. Add spinach (or pour over spinach); toss just till leaved are coated and wilted slightly. Sprinkle with chopped egg.

Easy Cheesecake

cheesecake (640x424)When we lived in South Korea and I shopped the Korean markets, it was very difficult to find dairy items. A Danish company had started marketing fresh milk (known as Denmark Milk) but other than yogurt milk, butter and very limited cheese, that was about the extent of dairy products. If I wanted something like cream cheese, I would have to head to the local “black market” shop and pay an exorbitant price. Since cheesecake was the favorite dessert of my oldest son, I looked for a simple recipe that did not take the traditional 5 packages of cream cheese. This is a recipe I have used many times over the years and is easy, quick to prepare and does not require a lot of ingredients. It is always good served with fresh berries.

Easy Cheesecake

1 cup graham cracker crumbs, fine

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Fresh berries

1. Press on bottom and sides of 9″ pie pan the first three ingredients. Chill until needed.

2. Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add unbeaten eggs and sugar and beat until smooth. Add milk and vanilla, a little at a time, beating until smooth each time.

3. Pour mixture into crumb crust and bake in 300 degree oven for 50 – 60 minutes.

4. Cool at room temperature. Pie settles as it cools. Add fresh fruit on top. Serve chilled.

Apple Cinnamon No Knead Bread

apple loaf (640x424)Combine the smell of bread baking and apples baking and you have Apple-Cinnamon No-Knead Bread. Here is a version of the no-knead bread baked in cast iron that includes chopped dried apples, cinnamon and apple cider. More variations on the No-Knead theme can be found here.

apple sliced (640x424)Apple Cinnamon No-Knead Bread

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup chopped dried apples (cutting with kitchen scissors works well)

1 cup apple cider

1/2 cup water

Whisk the flour, salt and yeast together. Add the cinnamon, sugar chopped apple and mix together. Add cider and water and mix into a moist dough.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours

Heat oven to 450 degrees. When oven has reached 450, place cast iron pot and lid in oven for 30 minutes. While the pot and lid are heating, remove the dough from the bowl onto a well-floured surface and form into a ball and cover with plastic wrap.

(Tip: use a sheet of floured parchment paper and turn dough out on the parchment paper, form into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. When you are ready to cook, you can pick up with parchment with the dough on it and place in the hot pot. Use scissors to cut away excess paper or fold down to make sure you still have a tight fit with the pot lid.)

After heating for 30 minutes, remove the hot pot from oven and place dough in pot (Be careful!).

Cover and place the pot in oven at 450 degrees. After baking for 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven. The bread should slip out of the pot and then cool on a rack.

cutting apples (640x424)Using scissors to chop the dried apples

mixing apple (640x424)Mix the dough and then let set 12-18 hours

apple ball 2 (640x422)After setting for 12- 18 hours form into a ball and let set 30 minutes while pot and lid heat

apple sliced (640x424)Bake, slice and enjoy!

Backyard Bird Count

bluebird 2 (640x509)This weekend is your chance to be a citizen scientist and participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Take as little as fifteen minutes to observe the birds in your backyard and then report on the web site at http://gbbc.birdcount.org. The information from bird watchers across the United States and Canada provides important data for scientists as they study migration and population distributions.

Our deep snowfall in the northeast this winter has provided lots of birds at the feeders. In a few minutes looking out my window this morning, I saw:

bluebirdEastern Bluebird

white throatWhite Throat Sparrow

juncoDark Eye Junco

The junco and white-throat sparrow are winter time visitors to our area. They are two birds that you can mark the change of seasons when they appear in the fall and leave in the spring.

titmouseTufted Titmouse

wrenCarolina Wren (probably wising it was still in Carolina)

doveMourning Dove

song sparrowSong Sparrow

cardinalCardinal

We also had an assortment of woodpeckers (downy, hairy and red-bellied)

bird bathRemember if you feed the birds to provide a source of fresh water. Currently the snow is higher than our bird bath. but the heater keeps the water thawed.  Enjoy the birds today and all year long!

Blueberry Pound Cake

blueberry pound (640x424)The best thing to do during cold weather is bake something good. Sunday afternoon was one of those days and I wanted to do use some of my frozen blueberries from last summer’s days of picking. This recipe uses blueberries with a traditional pound cake yielding a rich buttery blueberry cake. I thawed the frozen blueberries and drained the extra juice or you can use fresh blueberries. A great recipe for dessert or to take to a pot-luck dinner and will add some sweetness to a cold winter day.

Blueberry Pound Cake

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups flour (2 cups in batter, 1 cup to dredge blueberries)

2 cups blueberries

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix in baking powder, salt and 2 cups of flour. Fold in blueberries that have been dredged in 1 cup flour

Pour into 10 inch tube pan which has been buttered and sprinkled with sugar.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes and then turn out of pan.

Enjoy!