Posted in appetizers/snacks, Food, Gardening, Salad, salads, Sauces

Old Fashioned Thousand Island Dressing

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When we lived in Chicago, there was a local neighborhood restaurant that served the most delicious salad with greens, cucumbers, chicken breast, croutons and thousand island dressing. Every Sunday we would treat ourselves to their delightful salad along with one of their tasty pizzas.
When I tried to duplicate the salad at home, bottled thousand island dressing just didn’t make the grade. In those days, the Internet was not as extensive as it is now so I scoured my collection of cookbooks for a basic dressing recipe. My old Betty Crocker Cookbook (fifth printing,1988) had the perfect recipe because I had all of the ingredients on hand and could make the dressing with little effort. While I have altered the original recipe a bit, this Old Fashioned Thousand Island Dressing recipe has become a favorite in my house.

Old Fashioned Thousand Island Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon finely chopped onion
1 hard boiled egg, chopped

Mix all ingredients; cover and refrigerate before serving.

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Food, Gardening, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box

Chewy Oat and Jam Cookie Bars

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What to do with all of this delicious homemade jam? …Make Oat and Jam cookie bars!
Last week, we canned loads of Concord grapes and tucked the jars away for a year’s worth of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Thumbprint Cookies, and Chewy Oat and Jam Cookie Bars. Yesterday, I made a small pan of the delicious bars and they were gone in a flash. As we start the new school week, I am going to double the recipe, individually wrap the bars, and tuck them in the fridge so they can easily be packed in the lunchbox.
Starting this week, my children will be adding a morning swim practice to their already long school day so they will leave before 5:30 am and won’t return until after 6:00 pm. This means packing breakfast, lunch, and after-school swim snack into the lunchbox. I usually stock the fridge and pantry with homemade peanut butter, lots of fruits and veggies, eggs, cheese, milk, whole grain bread, yogurt, snacks, and oat cereal so there is plenty to choose from. This recipe is quick and easy to assemble. Use any flavor jam to suit your family’s taste. M has suggested we make a peanut butter glaze to spread over the warm bars…haven’t tried it yet but sounds like a scrumptious idea!

Chewy Oat and Jam Cookie Bars

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2teaspoon baking soda
1/4teaspoon salt
1 cup Concord grape jam. (other flavors will work just as well)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8×8″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar, set aside. In a medium bowl, mix oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix dry ingredients in to the creamed mixture. Press 1 1/2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam over this layer. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press it into the jam. Lightly sprinkle chopped pecans over the bars. Bake for 25-30 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Posted in Canning, Food, Gardening, glazes, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box, Toppings

Homemade Concord Grape Jam

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We have had a very successful grape growing season and have spent most of the holiday weekend making homemade Concord grape jam.
When our children were little, we used to pick produce like strawberries, blueberries, and apples together and then can the fruit as time allowed. Now that our days are a bit busier, it seems we have little time to do some of the things we so enjoyed years ago.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, our grape vines were bursting with beautiful ripe Concord grapes so we picked them all to prepare them for canning. M was a real trooper and helped me pick and prepare the grapes on Saturday. While we still have quite a few more jars to process, we have adopted a system that seems to work quite well so we should have everything processed soon. I have made two separate recipes to satisfy different family tastes. One that is a traditional Concord Grape Jam recipe and the other is a tart Reduced Sugar Concord Grape Spread that M seems to enjoy. I will post both for those that might be interested. These recipes are found on the Sure-Jel package and are tested as safe by Sure-Jel. Always use a reputable source (USDA, Ball, Sure-Jel, etc.) for recipes and follow strict food safety guidelines when home canning.

Homemade Concord Grape Jam

5-6 cups fresh grape juice (about 3 1/2 pounds of Concord grapes)
1 box of Sure-Jel pectin
7 cups sugar

First make the grape juice by washing 3 1/2 pounds of fresh Concord grapes.

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Mash grapes with a potato masher to break open the grape skins.

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Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 10 minutes. The cooking time starts only after the mixture has come to a boil.

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Strain to squeeze out all the juice with a sieve.

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In a large pan, put 5 cups of the juice. Add the fruit pectin to the juice; mix well. On high heat, bring to a full rolling boil, and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar all at once, and bring back to a full rolling boil, again boil hard for 1 minute stirring constantly. At this time, you can add 1 or 2 teaspoons of butter to help keep the foam down.

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Remove from heat, skim off foam and pour into hot jars; put on hot lids.
Process in hot water bath for 5 minutes.

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Reduced Sugar Concord Grape Spread

5 cups Concord Grape Juice
1 box of Ball (No Sugar or Reduced Sugar) pectin
1 cup sugar

Follow the directions as listed above. This makes a very tart, but slightly sweet version of Concord Grape jelly. You will notice that it is more of a spread than a jelly because of the reduced sugar content.

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Posted in Canning, Food, Gardening

It’s Pickin’ Time

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It’s Pickin’ Time!
Several years ago, we planted a few grape plants on a fence that divides our property from our neighbors. This is actually the first year that we have had success in growing a sizable crop of Concord grapes. In the past, as the late summer heat would coax the grapes to ripen, the deer would wait for the opportune time to mosey over to the vines and demolish the crop in one short evening. M and I would get giddy over the dark purple grapes that were just about ready to be picked and the very next day, they would be completely gone…ripped from the vines by the much more experienced deer.
As my husband was out mowing the lawn this weekend, he noticed that the majority of our grapes were just about ready to be harvested. M and I grabbed all of the available baskets and headed outdoors to pick our crop. We were delighted with the over abundance of fruit. My hubby even joined in knowing that we only had a small window of time to pick the fruit before the deer would come along and swallow up the lot.
This long holiday weekend will bring lots of late summer heat but I am anxious to get my grapes prepared to make batches of Concord grape jelly. While I have been canning for years, I have never tried processing seeded grapes to make jelly. I always rely on the Ball Blue Book to carefully and safely process canned goods. Since this is the first year that we have had a sizable crop, I have searched for recipes all over the Internet. I think I have settled on one or two that I will try. If any of you have a great grape jelly recipe or a few tips that you would like to share…please do so in the comments section of this post. I am hoping to successfully report back in a future post, news about the products of my labor.

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Posted in Food, Gardening, Grilling, side dishes

Grilled Corn on the Cob

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Ok…it’s grilling season and the Indiana corn is ripe for the picking. As blueberry season winds down…fresh vegetables are truly showing off their colors. This year, we planted plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, herbs, peppers, cauliflower and squash. Our property seems to be surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful golden corn. Farmers in the area often put a table out at the end of their driveway with a load of fresh picked corn. Next to the corn sits a coffee can where neighbors and others passing by can leave their money to pay for their corn purchase.
This recipe is surprisingly tasty. The corn in Indiana is super sweet so the flavorful herbs contrast the sweetness quite well. While I often steam or boil corn on the cob…this recipe is a nice change of pace.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

6 ears of corn, husked and cleaned
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup butter, softened

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. In a medium bowl, mix together the chili powder, oregano, onion powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix the softened butter into the dry ingredients. Brush this mixture on each ear of corn. Wrap each ear tightly in aluminum foil so melted butter does not leak out during cooking.
Place wrapped corn on the preheated grill. Grill for 20 to 30 minutes turning corn several times during cooking.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Food, Gardening, Homemade Mixes, Kids in the Kitchen, No-Bake

Fresh Garden Vegetable Dip

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Lately, the local farmer ‘s market is filled with a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Broccoli, carrots, and celery, are all quite inexpensive and take little effort to prepare for a quick summer snack. My own garden is coming along well but not quite ready to harvest. Looking over my plants, I see that the cucumbers, squash, celery, and tomatoes are all doing well but have a long way to go before they will be ready for picking. Thanks to soft, plentiful rain showers and lots of sunshine, this year’s garden looks strong and healthy. Although, last year’s garden was a complete flop. The drought in my area caused many gardeners to give up on the garden all together. I pulled out this recipe today as I am sure we will be reaping the benefits of our labor soon. I really enjoy the taste of this dip compared to that of the store bought powdered mix. All of the ingredients are common pantry items and the dip can be thrown together with little effort. It’s smooth, creamy, and flavorful and can be used on salads, for chips, or as a vegetable dip.

Garden Fresh Vegetable Dip

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cover and chill for 1 hour before serving. Great for chips and vegetables.

Posted in Gardening

Planting Tips…The Round, Spiky, Fluffy Rule

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I have been so pleased with my flower garden this summer. We have had plenty of rain and sunshine so things have been progressing well with very little effort on my part. I just love sitting outdoors in the late afternoon with a glass of lemonade and gazing over the flowers while the butterflies and bees do their thing. I’ve posted some of my round, spiky, and fluffy garden favorites that will soon fade while others will begin to bloom.

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I was recently watching a local morning news program and was interested in a spotlight feature on container gardening. An interesting idea was presented; using the “Round, Spiky, Fluffy” rule as a means to successful container gardening.
This looked like a great idea to me…to find round, fluffy, and spiky looking plants to combine in a container for the perfect aesthetic. Daisies, and pansies are good examples of round flowering plants. Begonias might be categorized as fluffy. And, salvia would be a great example of a spiky flowering plant. Try not to shade out any plants in the container as they will continue to grow. Make sure your containers includes something filling, spilling and thrilling in order to spotlight the beauty of the season!