Well, it’s that time of year again! Ready for the picking are clusters of deep purple grapes hanging off of the vines in my back yard. While the last couple of years have brought bumper crops to our lot, this year’s pickings have been a bit slim. This didn’t stop me from making a few of our family favorites…flavorful grape juice and grape jam.
There’s no greater satisfaction than to grow and process your own produce. Several years ago I planted two Concord grape pods and they have grown to cover a large open area with a plentiful bounty of fruit. Fresh air, rain and sunshine nourish the plants throughout the summer months until the gorgeous fruit are ready for picking. I don’t water, fertilize, trim or fuss. This is my kind of gardening! The reward for leaving the plant to do what it naturally does; lots and lots of grape jam and juice that will last throughout the year.
Above is the recipe from the Ball Blue Book published by Alltrista Corporation.
Here is another method that produces similar results…
Homemade Concord Grape Juice
TO EACH STERILIZED QUART JAR
2 cups washed and cleaned concord grapes
1/2 cup sugar
In sterilized jar place 2 cups grapes.
Add 1/2 cup sugar.
Fill with boiling water leaving 1/2″ headspace.
Seal jars at once with 2 piece lids. Process in water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove from canner and let sit for 24 hours. Remove metal lid-bands, and label with date and contents. Let juice stand 3 to 4 weeks before using. (The longer you let it sit, the greater the concentration.) Strain juice from grapes and use juice. Refrigerate after opening.
For a great tasting homemade Grape Jam, try this Ball Blue Book recipe…
We were recently invited out for a daylong boat ride during this year’s Air and Water Show in Chicago. Everyone contributed drinks, appetizers, desserts, and other munchies. As I prepared for the outing, I realized that our hosts would be bringing along their dog, Piper. I quickly searched on-line sites for an appropriate recipe to make dog biscuits for our four-legged friend. I remembered the owners mentioning that their dog liked peanut butter so I looked for recipes that focused on this crunchy treat. Here are a few of the recipes that I found…
I decided to make the easiest of the bunch, Gus’ Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits. (I called them Piper’s Peanut Butter Biscuits.) The recipe includes whole wheat, peanut butter, milk, and an egg. I laughed as I shared the recipe with the owners and said that these ingredients could make a healthy snack for both dogs and humans! For added effect, I baked the treats and placed them in a cute container with a bit of ribbon and a cookie cutter. This way, the owners could make another batch if Piper enjoyed them. While we didn’t feed her any of the treats on the boat ride, I’m told she found them to be absolutely delicious once she returned home.
What any easy way to provide your dog with a great snack from your own kitchen…
Over the years I’ve baked lots of tasty loaves for friends and co-workers to celebrate the holiday season. This week is no exception for I’ll be pulling out all of my favorite baking pans and an array of Christmas wrapping paper to start my traditional holiday bake. I usually make an assortment of flavorful loaves… a cinnamon swirl loaf, a poppyseed bread loaf, an applesauce nut loaf, and a sweet zucchini breakfast loaf. Some of which are made from the carefully shredded and frozen excess garden produce that I tucked away during the late fall months.
This year I have added a simple, delicious recipe to the mix. This Sweet Almond Pound Cake is moist, dense and full of flavor. While the directions would have you bake the cake in a bundt pan, you can use the same recipe to make this delicious treat in a basic 9×5″ loaf pan. Sprinkle this baby with a bit of confectioners’ sugar or frost with a drizzle of cream cheese frosting before serving or wrapping. A sprinkle of red and green candies makes for a festive addition. Give this loaf to those that you would like to recognize during this gift-giving season or place it on the holiday table for family and friends to enjoy.
…Sending along a wish for the best of health and happiness in the coming year! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Simply Made Kitchen and Crafts!
Sweet Almond Pound Cake
1 package white cake mix
1 (3.4 oz.) package vanilla instant pudding and pie filling (the coconut flavor works well too!)
4 large eggs
1 cup water
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp. almond extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 10″ Bundt pan. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and extract in large bowl. Beat for approximately 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake for 10-15 minutes. Carefully remove from pan and cool completely. Dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar or frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.
By popular demand, I am posting one of my all-time favorite snack mix recipes. It never fails, whenever I make this mix, I am always asked for the details of the recipe. During the holidays, I usually pack this lip-smackin’ snack into decorative jars to pass along as a homemade gift from the kitchen. Light, buttery, and full of that scrumptious honey flavor, this sweet treat is a winner. Make a big batch and keep a watchful eye as it cools on the kitchen counter. The mix has a tendency to disappear as the minutes tick by … Irresistible!
Honey Nut Snack Mix
6 cups Chex or Crispix cereal
1 1/4 cups mini pretzels
1 cup nuts (peanuts, lightly chopped pecans, or lightly chopped walnuts)
1/3 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Coat a 13×9″ pan with cooking spray. Add cereal, pretzels, and nuts; set aside.
In a large saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and honey. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil and continue to boil for 5 minutes, DO NOT STIR. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Carefully pour the hot syrup over the cereal mixture, stirring until well coated.
Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour; gently stirring every 15 minutes to distribute the syrup evenly over the mix. Let cool on cookie sheets lined with parchment or wax paper. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe adapted from “The Family Table” by Brenda Hyde
Our family loves the taste of homemade jam. In fact, store bought jam or jelly products just don’t cut it in our household anymore. While it might seem a chore to cook and carefully process the product, new tools and techniques have truly made canning your own food quite easy. Making freezer jam is also a great option for those wanting to assemble their own recipe in far less time.
While I’d love to tell you that this is a secret family recipe, home food preservation involves a careful balance of ingredients and it’s something that I never fool around with. I always choose and carefully follow a reputable recipe when I’m canning foods for my family. The reason…these recipes have been well tested for food safety. Processing times, ingredient quantity, and acidity levels have all been checked and rechecked to eliminate the possibility of food borne illness in the products we hope to safely store on our shelves.
Our favorite way to enjoy this scrumptious treat would be to have the jam slathered all over a great big slice of Irish Soda Bread. While I’m fond of butter and jam, others in the family love the peanut butter and jam combination. You can find the recipes for my Irish Soda Bread/Scones here and here.
Getting back to the homemade jam, this delicious recipe is one that was carefully tested by Sure Jell, which is a fruit pectin company that makes a product to be used to thicken jams or jellies. You can find the recipe here.
I’ve always had great success with this low sugar recipe and the large fruit pieces in the jam make for a lovely texture and add to the delicious fresh flavor of the product.
Years ago, as I was rummaging through the craft section of a local area garage sale, I stumbled upon a box of beads, sequins, golden threads, and patterns. I scooped it up and asked the owner how much was needed for the treasure. To my delight, she said $1.00 would fit the bill. I gathered up a few more crafting trinkets (some sewing and embroidery supplies) along with the box of sequined treasures, paid the kind lady, and I was on my way.
Shortly after arriving home, I took out a heart shaped cookie cutter and traced several small hearts on a light gray felt square. I carefully cut the heart shapes out and stitched on enough sequins and beads to cover the entire surface of one heart shape. On another heart shaped felt piece, I secured a pin back so that eventually, my project would become a pin. I then used a tiny blanket stitch (gray thread or monofilament) to sew the two felt heart shapes, wrong sides together, leaving a small opening to stuff in a bit of batting. After closing up the opening, I would plump up the heart shape by using my fingers to evenly distribute the batting tucked inside. Voila, the pin is complete!
I then used printable business cards to create a message, printed a sheet and punched two holes in each card to secure the pin back. I used small cellophane bags to envelope the pin/card and tied a bow for a sweet finish.
I have given these pins out at weddings, for Valentine’s Day, and for Mother’s Day. They are quick and simple and require very few supplies. Happy Valentine’s Day!
In our house, Saturday is baking day. The warmth of the kitchen and the sweet smell of cinnamon and nutmeg baking seem to make the cold winter months a bit more bearable. This loaf is quite easy to assemble and most of the ingredients are usually kept on hand (if your needing a quick treat that can be whipped up in no time). The addition of orange juice makes for an interesting twist. If you have an orange on hand, zest a teaspoon or two into the batter for a lovely burst of extra citrus flavor. On occasion , I’ve added a half cup of finely chopped dates to the batter for added moisture and flavor. Using smaller loaf pans, I often make several loaves to give away as gifts. Friends and family always enjoy a special homemade treat for the kitchen.
Moist Pumpkin Tea Loaf
1/2 cup margarine
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray, with cooking spray, a 9×5″ loaf pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs. Mix in pumpkin and orange juice. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nuts. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients stirring just until completely moistened. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 55-60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until an toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove loaf and cool completely on wire rack.
Black and gold are the collegiate colors of Purdue University. In my family, the Boilermaker logo is near and dear to our hearts. Currently, we have three children attending the University. Whenever possible, we proudly wear the Boiler colors. Our closets and drawers are filled with black and gold sweatshirts, pants, jackets, and tops. Our cabinets are filled with Boilermaker plates, glasses, mugs, and platters. Over the years, we’ve purchased Purdue fleece blankets, sheets, and soft plush pillows to decorate dorm rooms.
While shopping last week, I spotted some great beads in the craft section of our local discount store and I thought it might be fun to glitz up my jewelry selection with a few black and gold bracelets for our next team event. I am certainly not a skilled jewelry maker so this project is incredibly quick and easy and you can use any combination of colors to tailor the bracelet to satisfy your needs. Elastic cord is used to assemble the bracelet so very few supplies are needed.
This is quite a simple and inexpensive project so next time you’re in the craft aisle, take a look at the bead selection. You might be quite pleased and surprised at the unique variety of colored beads you can assemble on a clear cord to recognize and celebrate your favorite team.
I’m lovin’ that black and gold… BOILER UP!
BOILER UP Bracelet
7″ clear stretch cord ( measure your wrist for a more exact measurement + 1″)
Assortment of colored beads (lots of shapes and sizes)
Clear gel Tacky Glue
Measure and cut a 7″ piece of clear stretch cord. Fold a piece of tape across one end of the cord (to keep beads from falling while assembling). Arrange beads, as desired and string them onto the clear cord. Test the length around your wrist so that beads are evenly dispersed and the cord is completely filled when stretched around wrist. Carefully, tie the bracelet with a double knot, securing beads. Place a small dot of tacky glue on the knot, covering knot completely, let dry. Tuck the knot under a bead to keep it hidden.
Over the years, it’s been a holiday tradition in my family to prepare lots of holiday loaves to be given away throughout the season. This year we chose the Cinnamon Swirl Loaf to pass on to others. It’s the perfect loaf for the busy holiday season. Most years, I spend hours in the kitchen rolling out a cinnamon yeast loaf that is delicious but a bit time consuming. This year, to save time in the kitchen, I made a semi-homemade loaf that uses a cake mix for the base. If you love fresh baked cinnamon rolls, then this loaf is for you! As a bonus, the recipe makes two loaves at once. This really speeds up the baking process helping to make more loaves to give away for the holidays!
Wishing you the very best this holiday season. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Cinnamon Swirl Loaf
1-15 oz box yellow cake mix
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two loaf pans with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine first five ingredients. Pour half of the batter into both loaf pans. Thoroughly combine the cinnamon and sugar, sprinkle half of the dry mixture over the batter in the loaf pan. Pour the remaining batter into each pan, carefully spreading evenly into the corners. Finish by sprinkling the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture over the batter. With a butter knife, swirl the cinnamon mixture throughout the batter making large swirls with the knife. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting.
Last week I posted a picture and link for a beginner infinity scarf that I found on the web. As I had mentioned in the post, I am at the very bottom of the ability scale when it comes to my yarn, needlework and craftsmanship abilities. I stick with basic techniques and have to rely heavily on video tutorials (played over and over again) to grasp basic construction concepts. I have been so pleased with my new found skill for crafting the beginner infinity scarf that I have taken to making several different scarves with yarns of various weight and color for my family and friends. Honestly, these scarves are so quick and easy to make, it literally takes about 1 1/2 hours to construct this trendy accessory.
This week, I wanted to post another of my creations crafted with a different type of yarn but crocheted with the very same stitch as the blue patterned scarf that I posted last week. I wanted you to see what a difference yarn choice can make in the look and feel of the garment or accessory. Again, you can find the video here. This is a great little scarf as we move into the cold weather months in the Midwest. Don’t forget that this would be a fantastic Christmas present for teens, moms, teachers, and co-workers. Look for yarn colors to match college, high school or professional sports teams. Or, look for chunky yarns to match the trendy look of current retail scarves found in all the stores.
Here is the yarn that I used for this project. I also used an 11 mm crochet hook.
… Hand made, totally inexpensive and a thoughtful gift… Happy crocheting!