Cucumber Finger Sandwiches

My daughter recently called to ask if I could share an easy appetizer recipe as she needed to assemble a quick item for a coworker’s going-away party. She had already looked through the recipes on my blog and couldn’t find one that she could easily make ahead of time and store in the fridge. My mind quickly turned to a simple recipe that I used to make when our children were young. I made this recipe for our annual St. Patrick’s Day Party when we lived in the southwest Chicago area. The yearly parade (and party) was always a fun event for all of the Irish families living in the neighborhood. Slices of pumpernickel cocktail bread are loaded up with a spiced cream cheese mixture and a thick slice of fresh cucumber. A quick sprinkle of dill adds a layer of flavor. Drawing the tines of a fork down the side of the cucumber before slicing, adds a unique design to the appetizer.

Cucumber Finger Sandwiches

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix

1 (1 pound) loaf sliced pumpernickel party bread

2 English cucumbers

2 teaspoons dill weed or dill seed

Mix cream cheese and Italian salad dressing mix in a bowl until well blended. Draw the tines of a fork down the sides of the cucumber before slicing (Make sure to pierce the skin of each cucumber.) Spread cream cheese mixture atop pumpernickel party bread and top each slice with a cucumber slice. Sprinkle with a light dose of dill weed or dill seed.

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Honey and Oats Bread

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Several years ago, on one of my weekly visits to Goodwill, I found a brand new Williams-Sonoma Bread Machine on one of the shelves. I was delighted because I had given my old (smaller) bread machine to my brother-in-law when my kids were little.
The William Sonoma machine makes a really large loaf , has some attractive settings, and is a quality machine. I make my share of breads and scones by hand, but there is nothing like throwing all of the ingredients into the pan before going to bed and waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread.
This recipe is one of our favorites. You can use white bread flour or wheat flour…I was low on wheat flour this week so I mixed white and wheat. My kids load it up with crunchy peanut butter and homemade jam. This makes a hefty loaf that is sure to please.

Honey and Oats Bread

1 cup water, mild temp.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast

Place ingredients in the bread pan in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Select the basic or light crust setting, press start.

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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.

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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Quick Mix Oatmeal Crunchies

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A couple of months ago, I bought several boxes of instant oatmeal because I had about 10 Quaker Oatmeal coupons that I was able to stack with a great sale price, making the oatmeal nearly free! However, after using a few of the flavored oatmeal packets, my family agreed that we prefer my Hearty Crock Pot Oatmeal much better than the instant packets. Knowing that I would have to figure out a way to use up all the leftover boxes, I scoured the Internet for some recipe ideas. After experimenting with various ingredients and playing with quantities, I came up with my own recipe for Quick Mix Oatmeal Crunchies. These flavorful cookies are a snap to throw together and we absolutely love them for lunchbox treats and afternoon snacks.

Quick Mix Oatmeal Crunchies

6 packets of flavored instant oatmeal, any variety you prefer (I use a mixture of cinnamon, raisin and apple packets.)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 tsp milk
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the flour and oatmeal packets; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add in the flour and oatmeal mixture; combine thoroughly.
Roll dough into 1 1/2″ balls and drop on to lightly greased cookie sheets, about 2″ apart. Pat the dough ball to flatten.
Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool briefly on cookie sheet, then finish cooling on wire rack.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies