Beginner Infinity Scarf

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Grocery shopping on Saturday is never fun but as I worked my way through a local super store this past weekend, I was stopped in my tracks when I came to the craft isle and spied a load of beautifully crafted yarns and fabrics. I had just received a call from M asking if I could send some warmer clothes to campus as the early morning walk to class had become quite chilly. She asked for her scarves and gloves along with long sleeved fleece jackets. The selection of yarn inspired me to rummage through the colors to find a combination that would match M’s fair complexion and silver/gray winter jacket. I quickly snapped a few pictures of the skeins that I had selected and sent the pics on the M so that she could make the final selection. She decided on the soft blue/green combination and I quickly scooped up her favorite and threw it in the cart.
When I returned home, I made my way to the IPad where I watched a beginner crochet video to refresh my limited crochet skills. I watched the video several times and began my project. The basic rectangular shape took about 1 1/2 hours to craft. I can’t wait for M to open her care package to find this stylish infinity scarf, that I hope will keep her warm as she makes her way across campus this winter.

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Triple Berry and Oat Muffins

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Lately, I have been sending quite a few care packages to the Purdue University campus as my three children have all decided to become Boilermakers while they work to complete their undergraduate degrees. I have been dehydrating fresh fruit and baking up a storm to send cookies, muffins, and snacks by way of UPS.
Last week, I sent these muffins to my daughters (my son is not a fan). I received rave reviews from both.
The muffins are filled with triple berry goodness. The oat topping makes for a moist and tasty center with a sweet and crunchy finish. …Absolutely delicious!

Triple Berry and Oat Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 pounds fresh berries, sliced (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries)

Topping
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line with paper liners, two muffin pans. Mix flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, eggs, milk, and extract; stir into flour mixture until just moistened. Carefully fold in berries. Scoop into prepared muffin pans. Mix together topping ingredients and sprinkle over the muffins.
Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Copy Cat Marshall Field’s Chicken Salad

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I grew up in a northwest suburb of Chicago. When I was young, there was a bus that would travel from the center of my small town to a local shopping mall that housed the famous Marshall Field’s & Company. During the summer months, my best friend and I would board the bus and head to the mall. The bus was never crowded and the air conditioned environment was a welcome sensation as we had to ride our bikes to the bus stop in the summer heat. The first stop at this enormous shopping mall was the Marshall Field’s entrance. We would hop off the bus and head to our favorite restaurant destinations housed within the centrally located food court. After lunch, we made our way through all of the “young girl” stores that displayed an array of cheap jewelry, poorly constructed clothing, and inexpensive footwear.
As we grew older, we found the bus trip to the mall to be a great way to save on gas money, forget about the hassle of finding a parking spot, and catch up with friends while the bus driver brought us to our desired destination.
Marshall Field’s had a cafe style lunch area that became our new, more mature, lunch hangout. I would always order the Chicken Salad. Their recipe included sweet grapes, crunchy nuts, and moist chicken bits, in a smooth creamy dressing.
Over the years, I’ve tried to mimic the recipe to the best of my recollection. I’ve seen other copycat recipes that include sour cream and Dijon mustard, but this is the way I like to remember the salad. I often substitute the grapes with pineapple for a more tropical twist… And I sometimes serve the chicken salad in a pineapple boat for a dramatic summer presentation. Every time I assemble this recipe, I think about my carefree summer days riding the bus and enjoying the wonderful memories of Marshall Field’s & Company.

Copy Cat Marshall Field’s Chicken Salad

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cups boneless skinless chicken breasts, fully cooked and chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup thompson seedless grapes, halved (optional)
lettuce leaf or plum tomatoes, for serving (optional)

Mix first 4 ingredients together in large bowl.
Add chicken, onion, celery, pecans, and optional grapes. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Key Lime and Blueberry Muffins

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Well, it seems the last of the blueberries have made their way to the farmer’s market as the fall season begins and apples, peaches, and pears showcase their beauty and flavor in the weeks to come.
As I peered into the fridge this morning, I noticed a pint of blueberries and a few containers of key lime Greek yogurt on the shelf. I remembered using this combination of flavors some years ago in a blueberry yogurt muffin recipe that I had in my kitchen file. I rummaged through the worn folder to find what I was looking for and was delighted to see I hadn’t misplaced it. The combination of key lime and blueberry is quite similar to that of lemon and blueberry except for the added punch that key lime lends to the recipe. Give this one a try, I think you’ll like it.

Key Lime and Blueberry Muffins

1 cup flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup key lime flavored Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Note: This recipe makes 6 regular-sized muffins.

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, yogurt, vanilla, oil and milk. Stir in the dry ingredients just until moistened; fold in the blueberries.
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Lightly sprinkle with crumble topping, optional. (See recipe below)

Crumble Topping
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. butter
Combine flour, sugar. Cut in butter. Sprinkle over muffins before baking. Store any leftovers in the fridge for future baking.

Bake muffins at 350° for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the
center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Continue cooling on a wired rack.

Preserved Apple Slices

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This week I had the opportunity to attend a series of Master Home Food Preservation classes in central Indiana. I can’t even express my excitement over the valuable information that was shared during the week long certification class. We learned of techniques for freezing, water bath canning, drying, pickling, and pressure canning through PowerPoint slides and hands-on lab time.
It was a long, sometimes exhausting, week where I spent time with other classmates testing various techniques for preserving the best of the season. One important point that I would like to make about home food preservation is one that focuses on food safety…Never use a recipe that has not been tested by a reputable entity such as the USDA or Ball Canning. Use recipes that have been developed no earlier than 1995 as food science and technology specialists have shared new information that focuses on current food safety practices. The USDA is one of the only sources I use for my canning recipes. Here is the link for the National Center for Home Food Preservation/USDA canning recipe book.
You can download the whole book for free. The recipe for apple slices is on page 7. I can’t stress how important it is to use a laboratory tested recipe. It’s a matter of life and death! Botulism is no laughing matter so it’s important that you follow tested recipes exactly as they are written. Do not alter ingredients or quantities. Process as directed. I recommend using recipes as advised and then after you have opened a jar to serve the contents, make your adjustments to spice things up to favor your preference. Then, refrigerate and use up the quantity as directed.
For more information about home food preservation, visit the National Center’s website at http://nchfp.uga.edu.

Garden Fresh Focaccia Bread with Tomatoes and Basil

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Last week, M called my cell phone to ask if I had a quick pizza crust recipe. She and K had gathered lots of fresh basil and a few ripe Roma tomatoes from the garden and wanted to make a crusty bread base for the garden fresh toppings.
I asked her to search the pantry shelves for a pouch of Betty Crocker pre-mixed pizza crust ingredients that I often buy when I see the pouches on sale. Both girls looked though the pantry shelves and came up empty. I suggested they find my recipe for focaccia bread in the kitchen file. It’s a great recipe as it always turns out perfect and the mix, rise and bake time is pretty reasonable for a quick meal. When I returned home from work, the smell of Italian bread filled the air and the half eaten focaccia sat on the counter. It seems no one could resist the incredible aroma and tummies were filled straight away. The girls had chopped tomatoes and basil while the bread was baking and sprinkled the chopped toppings on the bread as soon as it was removed from the oven. A pinch of course kosher salt added to the flavor.
I usually serve this crispy, flavorful crust with a lite salad and we are never disappointed.

Garden Fresh Focaccia Bread

2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1teaspoon dried basil
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella

In a large mixing bowl, combine the first nine (dry) ingredients. Mix in the vegetable oil and water.
Pull dough together and turn out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Punch down dough and place on greased baking/cookie sheet. Pat into a 1/4 to 1/2″ thick rectangle. Brush top with olive oil.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, top with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Continue to bake for more 5 minutes until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown. Optional: After removing from the oven, top with sliced tomatoes and basil.

Perfect Peach Freezer Jam

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While I have always been a traditional jam and jelly maker, I’m thrilled to find so many new products on the market that are meant to make jelly making so much easier and less time consuming. One such product is the instant pectin that Ball has developed specifically for freezer jam. I’ve made several jars in as little as 30 minutes. Those of you with young children can let them take a bigger role in the jelly making as there is no cooking involved. And the process is quick and simple. I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for home made goodness that is quick and simple.
I have included several screen shots of the peach freezer jam recipe calculator from the Ball/Fresh Preserving website so that you can see just how easy this is.
First, go to the Fresh Preserving website…
Here you will find a pectin calculator for your chosen jam or jelly flavor.
Now, find the fruit that you wish to use for your jam or jelly.

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Once you have chosen a fruit, choose whether you would like to make jam or jelly.

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Next, choose the type of pectin you will be using.

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The calculator will then calculate a recipe for you to follow. Super simple!

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Remember, you’ll want to use Instant Pectin…

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Also, this process is only meant for freezer jam. Store these jars in the freezer until you are ready to use them. Store them in the fridge after opening.